Football is a game of opportunities. How did your team use theirs in 2017?

Adam Ritchie Roar Rookie

By Adam Ritchie, Adam Ritchie is a Roar Rookie New author!

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20 Have your say

    Sometimes you become acutely aware that something you are doing is objectively odd.

    Once I went through the checkout at Woollies with several blocks of chocolate and potato chips and little else. The cashier looked upon my haul and remarked I must’ve been having a party. I laughed in agreement.

    I was not having a party.

    I’ve had a similar feeling over the past few weeks as I wondered when it was safe to start talking about the football again, and by ‘safe’ I mean socially acceptable to people who don’t devote a single second of their time to wondering when it is safe to talk about football again.

    Pondering this is odd. Perhaps I was tired of contemplating this when I arbitrarily decided there was no better time than now. The annual AFL trade period hope-a-palooza has long passed and the AFLW season remains weeks away. Why not smack bang in the middle of the turgid AFL offseason?

    Armed with my flimsy justification and acute footballing withdrawal, I thought I would spend some of the holiday season trying to decipher what exactly football is.

    Now I’m no David King. I possess no stats lab. I’ve not calculated a premiership trapezoid for you. But I have attempted to distil Aussie Rules football into a very basic idea – one I hope will prove insightful, though I’d settle for moderately interesting.

    I posit that football is a game of opportunities and execution. How many opportunities did a team create? How many did they give their opposition? Did they execute once they created an opportunity? Do they let opponents maximise their opportunities?

    If we accept this premise, then we can reasonably easily compare teams across these measures. An opportunity can broadly be defined as any time you enter your attacking 50 – after all, this is where most of the scoring is done. How often you hit the scoreboard shows how efficient you are at executing those opportunities, and that efficiency can be refined even further if we measure how often a scoring shot amounted to six points. The same is true of defence.

    These measures make for interesting reading for season 2017. I’ve noted some observations that stood out to me, and hopefully you might find others of interest to you.

    (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)


    Attack (higher is better) How many opportunities did they create? How often did their opportunities turn into scores? How often did they maximise their opportunities?
    Team Games Total Inside 50s Earned # per game Rank Total Scoring Shots % of inside 50s = scoring shots Rank Total Goals % of inside 50s = goals Rank % of scoring shots = goals Rank
    (1) Adelaide 25 1437 57.48 2nd 720 50.10 2nd 395 27.49 1st 54.86 4th
    (2) Geelong 25 1324 52.96 8th 632 47.73 6th 343 25.91 7th 54.27 8th
    (3) Richmond 25 1396 55.84 3rd 639 45.77 14th 331 23.71 12th 51.80 13th
    (4) GWS 25 1359 54.36 7th 641 47.17 7th 336 24.72 10th 52.42 12th
    (5) Port Adelaide 23 1363 59.26 1st 629 46.15 12th 323 23.70 13th 51.35 14th
    (6) Sydney 24 1263 52.63 11th 608 48.14 5th 329 26.05 5th 54.11 9th
    (7) Essendon 23 1182 51.39 12th 596 50.42 1st 319 26.99 3rd 53.52 10th
    (8) West Coast 24 1189 49.54 13th 555 46.68 9th 309 25.99 6th 55.68 2nd
    (9) Melbourne 22 1206 54.82 4th 525 43.53 16th 319 26.45 4th 60.76 1st
    (10) Western Bulldogs 22 1203 54.68 5th 557 46.30 10th 260 21.61 18th 46.68 18th
    (11) St Kilda 22 1160 52.73 10th 570 49.14 3rd 271 23.36 14th 47.54 17th
    (12) Hawthorn 22 1064 48.36 14th 499 46.90 8th 273 25.66 8th 54.71 5th
    (13) Collingwood 22 1197 54.41 6th 554 46.28 11th 278 23.22 15th 50.18 16th
    (14) Fremantle 22 1044 47.45 16th 452 43.30 17th 231 22.13 17th 51.11 15th
    (15) North Melbourne 22 1163 52.86 9th 533 45.83 13th 290 24.94 9th 54.41 7th
    (16) Carlton 22 1026 46.64 17th 434 42.30 18th 232 22.61 16th 53.46 11th
    (17) Gold Coast 22 1062 48.27 15th 471 44.35 15th 257 24.20 11th 54.56 6th
    (18) Brisbane 22 1012 46 18th 497 49.11 4th 276 27.27 2nd 55.53 3rd

    Adelaide were an elite offence and nobody else was particularly close. They were the only side to rank top four in each category. They got the ball into attacking positions often, and when they did they tended to score, and what they scored were goals. They, along with the Bombers, were the only sides to score from more than 50 per cent of their forward entries, though the Crows broke the forward-50 barrier six more times a game on average.

    Port Adelaide moved the ball inside 50 more than anyone else, but they were very inefficient once they did, finishing well below average in each of those measures. Premiers Richmond were similar.

    The real surprise here is Brisbane – they are in the inverse of the premiers. They created the fewest opportunities each game, but when they did manage to create them, they were very efficient. It will be interesting to see if this holds in season 2018.

    The Western Bulldogs’ campaign was extremely wasteful, almost in the top bracket for total opportunities but dead last in converting for goals. Collingwood followed a similar pattern.

    Fremantle are the only side in the bottom bracket for all four categories. Carlton’s slightly better accuracy in front of goal spares them from the same fate.

    Essendon were below average in terms of creating opportunities but converted them into scores at a better rate than any other team. They were slightly below average in terms of accuracy, though.

    Melbourne produced a very odd mix. They got forward often (4th), but were extremely poor at turning their entries into scores (16th). When they did manage to score, they were the most accurate side in the competition.

    The Giants were decidedly middle of the range in the attacking facets of the game.

    (Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)


    Defence (lower is better) How many opportunities did they concede? How often did their opponents turn opportunities into scores? How often did their opponents maximise their opportunities?
    Team Games Inside 50s given up # per game Rank Scoring shots given up % of inside 50s given up = scoring shots Rank Total goals given up % of inside 50s given up = goals Rank % of scoring shots given up = goals Rank
    (1) Adelaide 25 1258 50.32 5th 547 43.48 3rd 292 23.21 6th 53.38 10th
    (2) Geelong 25 1270 50.8 7th 589 46.38 8th 299 23.54 7th 50.76 3rd
    (3) Richmond 25 1263 50.52 6th 531 42.04 1st 264 20.90 1st 49.72 1st
    (4) GWS 25 1295 51.8 10th 567 43.78 4th 298 23.01 5th 52.56 8th
    (5) Port Adelaide 23 1125 48.91 1st 494 43.91 5th 251 22.31 3rd 50.81 4th
    (6) Sydney 24 1197 49.88 3rd 505 42.19 2nd 260 21.72 2nd 51.49 5th
    (7) Essendon 23 1240 53.91 15th 590 47.58 12th 307 24.76 8th 52.03 6th
    (8) West Coast 24 1292 53.83 14th 584 45.20 6th 295 22.83 4th 50.51 2nd
    (9) Melbourne 22 1125 51.14 8th 534 47.47 10th 280 24.89 9th 52.43 7th
    (10) Western Bulldogs 22 1091 49.59 2nd 518 47.48 11th 279 25.57 11th 53.86 12th
    (11) St Kilda 22 1146 52.09 11th 531 46.34 7th 291 25.39 10th 54.80 16th
    (12) Hawthorn 22 1126 51.18 9th 550 48.85 14th 301 26.73 14th 54.73 15th
    (13) Collingwood 22 1107 50.32 4th 528 47.70 13th 287 25.93 13th 54.36 14th
    (14) Fremantle 22 1163 52.86 12th 575 49.44 15th 317 27.26 16th 55.13 18th
    (15) North Melbourne 22 1215 55.23 16th 609 50.12 16th 331 27.24 15th 54.35 13th
    (16) Carlton 22 1165 52.95 13th 543 46.61 9th 299 25.67 12th 55.06 17th
    (17) Gold Coast 22 1233 56.05 17th 626 50.77 17th 337 27.33 17th 53.83 11th
    (18) Brisbane 22 1339 60.86 18th 691 51.61 18th 367 27.41 18th 53.11 9th

    Richmond were the clear standouts on defence. They prevented their opponents from entering the attacking 50 at a good but not elite rate (6th), but they top the rankings across the board in snuffing those opportunities out. Their opponents’ entries turned into scores less often than any other side, and when they did score they were behinds. Richmond was the only team in the league to concede fewer goals than behinds in 2017.

    Sydney are the next best defensive outfit, ranking top four in three different categories and only just missing out on the opponent accuracy measure. Their defensive efforts in the middle of the park appear superior to Richmond’s in that they let their opposition inside 50 less often, and they weren’t far behind Richmond in the other groupings.

    Port Adelaide also excelled in this facet of the game. Their midfield deserves a lot of credit for their showing in 2017. Nobody controlled field position better. They got the ball into their opponents’ defensive 50 at a better rate than anyone else and also conceded the fewest entries into their own.

    The Western Bulldogs’ attacking inefficiencies are replicated in defence. They were very good at preventing their opponents from getting forward, but once they did break through they often conceded. Like Port Adelaide, they controlled field position reasonably well in 2017 but were very inefficient at both ends of the ground.

    West Coast’s midfield owes their defenders a drink. They were almost in the bottom tier when it came to preventing their opponents from getting forward but elite at preventing those entries becoming goals.

    Brisbane and Gold Coast reside in their own defensive pits of despair. They can both be grateful their opposition wasn’t more accurate in front of goal.

    David Swallow Gold Coast Suns AFL 2017

    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Final observations

    Geelong had a good but not great season and were a picture of stability. Across both attack and defence, they ranked between fifth and eighth in all but one category.

    Essendon and West Coast fit similar profiles – quite good and often elite in facets of the game at either end of the ground but quite poor in the middle of the park. Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs are the inverse in that they’re strong in the middle but inefficient at both ends of the ground.

    Fremantle didn’t finish higher than 12th in any of the measures. Yikes.

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • Roar Guru

      January 5th 2018 @ 9:34am
      AdelaideDocker said | January 5th 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      Your first paragraph is frighteningly relatable to me, yikes.

      It’s a fantastic, and very interesting, article though, Adam. It’s an excellent look at the teams performance through the year, and there’s more than a few surprises.

      I’m pleasantly surprised by Brisbane’s offensive prowess – almost 50% of the time they’re inside 50 they’re going for a score, and 55% of the time they’re getting one. That’ll be pleasing news to them.

      The offensive performance of both Port and the Bulldogs doesn’t surprise me, though. It was obvious that consistency and their attack were major issues for them, and it shows here. Collingwood and Richmond, as well.

      I recall mentioning in my GF live blog that it’ll be Richmond’s defence versus the Crows’ offence, and here’s some statistical proof.

    • Roar Guru

      January 5th 2018 @ 10:08am
      Cat said | January 5th 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

      I find your tables and narrative don’t match up. For example, you mention Richmond as the best defence and Sydney as next bet but in the table they are ranked 3rd and 6th respectively. I appreciate all the work that went into collating the numbers just a bit confused.

      • Roar Guru

        January 5th 2018 @ 10:23am
        AdelaideDocker said | January 5th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

        They’re third and sixth for conceding inside 50s, but they’re very good (first and second) at limiting the amount of goals and scores that result from their opponents inside 50s.

        Whereas you have Port and the Bulldogs – who conceded the least amount of inside 50s – but have comparatively terrible stats for the amount of times teams are regularly scoring when they get inside inside 50s.

        So, you’re right on that Richmond and Sydney aren’t as good at limiting how many their conceding, they’re good at limiting scoring opportunities from their concessions, and Port and the Bulldogs are excellent at limiting how much they concede, but not how much they limit scores from inside 50s.

        If that makes sense?

        • Roar Guru

          January 5th 2018 @ 10:35am
          Rick Disnick said | January 5th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          An interesting hypothesis there, AD, but I think you’ll find a much simpler answer. It’s their respective ladder positions at the end of the H&A season.

          No idea why the tables have been collated like this though.

          • Roar Guru

            January 5th 2018 @ 10:43am
            Rick Disnick said | January 5th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

            Scrub that last comment. I see what Cat is getting at. The table is difficult to follow.

          • Roar Guru

            January 5th 2018 @ 10:43am
            AdelaideDocker said | January 5th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

            That makes me feel a bit dumb.

            To be fair, though: everything I say still makes sense. Sydney is ranked third for least inside 50s conceded, and Richmond is sixth (so, coincidentally the same numbers, but just swapped). That’s what I assumed Cat was talking about, my bad!

            • Roar Guru

              January 5th 2018 @ 10:58am
              Rick Disnick said | January 5th 2018 @ 10:58am | ! Report

              To be honest, I have no idea either.

              I thought Cat was talking about Richmond and Sydney’s respective ranking of 3rd and 6th defensively, which is actually their ladder positions at the end of the H&A season.

              However, Sydney finished 3rd in ‘opportunities conceded’, whilst Richmond finished 6th, which I later thought Cat might have been referring to, but unfortunately this makes even less sense since it’s the reverse.

              Oh well, I’ve had zero sleep over the past 36 hours – time for a nap.

              • January 5th 2018 @ 12:16pm
                Adam Ritchie said | January 5th 2018 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

                Sorry for the confusion here folks – the tables in my working document were colour coded, which I suspect makes reading the table much easier.

                AdelaideDocker is on the money with his reading though. Richmond are ranked sixth for inside 50s conceded, but 1st in the other three defensive measures (rate at which opponent scored with those inside 50s, rate at which they scored goals with those inside 50s, and their opponents were the least accurate in front of goal)

                Hope that helps

    • January 5th 2018 @ 10:48am
      The Original Buzz said | January 5th 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      Interesting read, Adam. If Brisbane can create more opportunities and tighten up their defence, they will be the team to watch.

      Going by these stats, the Blues need to tighten up across the entire field. As much a worry as Freo.

      Interesting to see the defence stats are very similar to ladder position.

    • Roar Guru

      January 5th 2018 @ 11:07am
      TomC said | January 5th 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

      Interesting read Adam. I like that you hold back from drawing too many sweeping conclusions.

      My suspicion is that my Lions look like they’re quite efficient in turning inside 50s into goals because they tend to score most on the counterattack, when there’s space in the forward area. That they have by far the most inside 50s conceded supports that theory. West Coast are probably up there largely due to the quality of their forwards. Melbourne’s accuracy really stands out as driving their forward efficiency. It’ll be interesting to see if that continues to hold.

      It’s easy to look at these numbers and reinforce one’s own existing views so I’ll try to avoid that. The thing that surprised me a little was that Richmond are the most defensively efficient team. It strengthens a view I’ve always been sceptical of; that they were the best organised and structured team in 2017 and that’s why they won the flag.

      I’m also a bit surprised how poor the Saints look. Their midfield would be the strongest area of the ground but I didn’t think they were quite that reliant on it.

      • Roar Guru

        January 5th 2018 @ 11:17am
        AdelaideDocker said | January 5th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

        Interesting thoughts, Tom.

        I can’t tell if it’s a good thing that the Lions regularly score on the counterattack. I mean, it’s poor in the sense that they’re getting themselves into that position so regularly given their terrible inside-50 conceded numbers, but i guess it’s a quirky testament to their defence + midfield that they can get it the other end quite well to get themselves into scoring positions? Or am I thinking about this wrong?

        Also, the thing that strikes me the most with the Saints is their horrifyingly poor accuracy. It shows, somewhat, here: they’re decisively midrange in their forward-50 entry numbers, pretty decent in converting them into scores (49%), but awful at converting them into goals (less than half).

        • January 5th 2018 @ 5:10pm
          Kangajets said | January 5th 2018 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

          A d

          I checked in here the other day and aligee was going all political. It’s got back to Aussie rules talk now . Has he been red carded ??

          Bring back the gee …

    • Roar Guru

      January 5th 2018 @ 11:25am
      TomC said | January 5th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

      It’s possible that that’s F agan long term strategy but that’s yet to play out.

      From memory the Saints had a number of stinkers in front of goal in 2017. I’m not sure what drives it but it suggests if they can fix that part of the game they might find the extra couple of wins they need to play finals.

      On the other hand, I’m doubtful they can continue to rely so heavily on a fairly shallow midfield.

    • January 5th 2018 @ 12:38pm
      Chris said | January 5th 2018 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

      I am pleased with the fact that Collingwood is hardly mentioned, if at all. What that means to us Maggies that there is room for improvement across the board and we couldn’t have been any worse. That augers well for this year because I am absolutelyconvinced that all the KPIs that you have brandished above will be put to the sword.

      • Roar Guru

        January 5th 2018 @ 2:00pm
        Cat said | January 5th 2018 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

        I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth repeating now; the Pies were mid table or better in almost all the measured stats, but their ladder finish was worse. That points to very poor coaching. Buckley simply does not use the players to his advantage. He wants the team to play his way rather than tailoring a game plan to suit the players he has.

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