This single stat could predict your team tumbling out of the eight

Rene Silva Roar Rookie

By Rene Silva, Rene Silva is a Roar Rookie New author!


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    Football like everything in the universe is in constant flux.

    Football sides are good, then bad, then good again, but there may be a surer way to determine if your side is about to hit the skids and plunge down the AFL ladder.

    It’s the most total games statistic, as collated by the the hallowed website.

    Presented here is each AFL club’s most experienced side to take the field and the specific round and year it was achieved.

    Let’s look at what happened to each side after they formed their most experienced side. For consistency’s sake I’ve chosen sides in the 22-man era and have ignored the expansion Suns and Giants as they have their own special circumstances.

    Finished 12th with eight wins in 2004 after five September campaigns in the preceding seven years, including two premierships.

    Missed the finals in 2005 and finished 13th in 2006 with seven wins after four grand finals in a row for three premierships.

    Received the first wooden spoon in their history in 2002 with three wins after playing finals between 1999 and 2001, including a preliminary final and a grand final.

    Have steadily declined every year since back-to-back grand finals, including a premiership in 2010.

    A bit of an outlier here, having finished midtable in 2008-09 before falling to 14th in 2010. They also weren’t successful in the two to three years prior to 2007.

    Won only four games in 2016 to finish 16th after the most sustained period of wins in the club’s history resulting in four September campaigns in a row, including a grand final in 2013.

    One of the great teams of the national competition era, Geelong got up once again to claim the 2011 flag before finishing seventh in 2012 and remaining in a holding pattern ever since.

    The other great recent modern side started to drop away in 2016 and suffered several poor results in 2017 after four grand finals in a row, including three premierships.

    After three September appearances in a row between 2004 and 2006, Melbourne went into freefall and are only just recovering now.

    North Melbourne
    After two preliminary final appearances in 2014 and 2015 and nine wins in a row to start 2016, North Melbourne now sit 17th on the ladder in 2017.

    Port Adelaide
    Missed the eight in 2006, won 68 out of 88 home-and-away matches between 2001 and 2004, including the club’s first AFL premiership.

    After their last top-four finish in 2001 the Tigers finished 14th, 13th and 16th in the next three seasons, winning only 18 home-and-away games out of 66.

    St Kilda
    After nearly pinching premierships in 2009 and 2010 the Saints won a total of only nine games across between 2013 and 2014 as well as a spoon.

    Western Bulldogs
    Didn’t win more than nine games in a season for the next four years after making three preliminary finals for the first time in their history.

    (Image: AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    What conclusions can we draw?

    Decline of a side
    It’s no real surprise why a heavily experienced side may drop off. Retirements, injuries and waning of physical powers can all contribute to loss of crucial experience within the club. It’s a known law of the universe that if you pull out enough key cogs of any structure, no matter how sound, it’s going to topple over.

    Current Affairs
    You may have noticed I left one side out of the above list – that’s because the data for the aftermaths does not exist and is yet to be determined.

    West Coast Eagles hit their most experienced side in Round 1 2017 – 16 weeks ago. The Eagles made the 2015 grand final but have underperformed in 2017 for most observers and are waiting on Adam Simpson and crew to turn it around.

    Could it be that the Eagles have in fact hit their ceiling and a decline in 2017 and 2018 is more likely rather than a flag tilt?

    Experience Matters
    In all the above cases bar Essendon, an AFL club’s most experienced side has coincided with the club’s most successful recent history. Talent is crucial, but on its own it doesn’t stand up unless games are pumped into that talent.

    Given the maximum number of games player can rack up in a season is 26, it takes anywhere between to five and sevn years before a side sufficiently gels, develops the physicality and endurance to last 25 games over a season and adapts to the coach’s game plan.

    There are exceptions to this, notably the Baby Bombers of 1993 and the Western Bulldogs of last year, but generally experience wins out.

    Final Thoughts
    While a fall is inevitable due to the natural attrition of time, the time spent out of contention varies. Some clubs bounce back within a few seasons while others can be in the doldrums for over a decade. I’m backing Alister Clarkson to be very likely to have the Hawks back in contention in fairly quick time.

    Also, as a fan in the stands, if you’re wondering where your side is on the premiership clock, if you see your side pop up on the most games table during the current season, it may be time to panic.

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • July 13th 2017 @ 10:07am
      Winston said | July 13th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

      Riiiiight, so you exclude the Suns and the Giants, but then you also exclude the Swans and the Eagles, only then to talk about the Eagles in a different section. I don’t normally comment on the quality of the writing but this one is right up there in the garbage pile.

    • July 13th 2017 @ 10:38am
      Craig Delaney said | July 13th 2017 @ 10:38am | ! Report

      Talent is what leads to getting enough games under the belt to become experienced. No talent, few games, no experience. Work ethic and team orientation are the other crucial ingredients. Experienced sides that excel tend to be talented hard-working sides.

      It is seemingly impossible to build an experienced team without locking down positions for particular players. That means the ‘depth’ don’t get the game time to become experienced, and so be ready to step into vacated boots at the same level of excellence. The first club to work this one out will be the most successful in history.

    • July 15th 2017 @ 7:42pm
      Jolly Roger said | July 15th 2017 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

      I think the most pertinent line in that article was…”so what conclusion can we draw?”….exactly.

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