Through good luck and good management, Geelong have played finals in 12 of the past 13 seasons. It’s a ridiculous run of excellence that includes three flags from four grand final appearances.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the effect of the bye this year and it’s been a season of two halves with regard to its influence. Second-placed Geelong, coming off the bye last weekend, bucked the trend when they lost at Skilled Stadium for the first time in four years, to Sydney.
Indeed, the Cats became just the second top-eight side in the second half of the year to lose after the bye.
In the first half of the year that kind of occurrence was quite the norm.
There’s no doubt the effect of the bye has been an interesting talking point throughout 2011.
Opinion had previously been divided on whether playing a side coming off the bye was an advantage or a disadvantage.
However, early in the season it seemed an advantage to face a side coming off the bye.
Incredibly, 14 out of 18 sides who had the bye in the first 13 rounds lost the following week. Among them were premiership favourites Collingwood and top eight clubs Carlton, Essendon and Sydney.
And that statistic could read a lot worse if it weren’t for the fact on two separate occasions two teams coming off the bye played each other, meaning one of them had to win.
However, the second half of the season has been quite different.
Prior to Geelong’s shock loss to Sydney last weekend, seven of the last 13 sides coming off a bye had been victorious the following round. That’s some turnaround.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why the effect of the bye has changed so much in 2011.
However, sports science theories of the advantages and disadvantages of the bye point to something significant.
There’s a point of view that the bye disrupts momentum. Basically, it breaks up the routine and training schedule of players.
That disruption can throw out and test a side’s preparations and have players below their peak come gameday on the corresponding weekend. That’s why it’s a disadvantage.
On the other hand, there’s the viewpoint it’s an opportunity for a side to refresh.
Both viewpoints have some weight, however the latter is obviously more beneficial later in a season when a group of players may be feeling fatigued or battered.
Finals-bound Essendon have the final bye of the season this weekend and their coach James Hird said it was perfect timing for his side, making the point after a “massive year” it was what they needed.
“I think it’s absolutely perfect. I think our boys are tired. I think they’ve had a massive year and I think that a week off will do them a lot of good. It would give us a chance to rest some guys who need some rest and have some niggling injuries,” Hird said on Sunday.
However, whatever the benefits and reasons behind it, 2011 certainly provides evidence to suggest having byes later in the season is an advantage.
That’ll be an interesting reference point when it comes to fixturing for the 2012 season with the AFL already having hinted each side will have two byes in next year’s 18-team competition.