At the halfway point of the AFL season, it is timely and instructive to see which coaches are under the gun and which are sailing on without a care in the world.
To do this I have created an indicator, which measures a coach’s wins and losses in season 2021 as a ratio divided by his overall career win/loss performance up to and including season 2020.
If this ratio is greater than one, it means that a coach is tracking better in season 2021 than his overall career average would suggest and the reverse is for a ratio less than one.
To be cautious, I suggest that a ratio greater than or equal to 1.1 is a coach with a green light, for an overall ratio of 0.9 to 1.1 is an amber light, and less than 0.9 is a red light warning sign.
In effect, this indicator measures whether a coach is currently tracking better or worse than what might be expected given overall career performance.
The indicators are shown in the following from green light to red light
I have identified six coaches which are in the red light or dangerous territory. They are Brett Ratten, Adam Simpson, Leon Cameron, David Teague, Nathan Buckley and Alastair Clarkson.
In many ways, these coaches under the hammer reflect the ladder positions of their teams as would be expected.
Alastair Clarkson and Nathan Buckley are at the rear with win/losses in 2021 well short of overall career performance, roughly one third as good.
It should be noted though that Clarkson’s overall strong career record (win/loss ratio of 60 per cent up to and including 2020) means that any dip is magnified.
Surprisingly, Adam Simpson appears in this category, although with a better ratio than a number of other coaches. The West Coast typically seem to fly under the radar but this season they appear to be at the crossroads.
There are five coaches whom I classify as amber to keep an eye out for. They are John Longmire, Chris Scott, Ben Rutten, David Noble and Damien Hardwick.
Clearly Damien Hardwick is not in danger so sometimes statistics do lie. However, these numbers clearly show that Richmond are not having anywhere near the season of yesteryear, while Chris Scott really does need to deliver. John Longmire’s numbers reflect the generally steady-as-you-go performance of Sydney.
There are seven green light coaches: Matthew Nicks, Simon Goodwin, Stuart Dew, Chris Fagan, Luke Beveridge, Ken Hinkley and Justin Longmuir. A number of these clubs are the top end of the ladder so the rating system works in that respect.
However, it should be noted that the performance, for example, of Matthew Nicks – who has a current win/loss ratio in 2021 twice that of his career average – is artificial to an extent because he is a relatively new coach only in his second year, and Adelaide are performing far better than last year.
A longer time frame would be ideal to make assessments. Similar sentiments apply to Stuart Dew. Most of the green light coaches, however, reflect the current strong positions on the ladder with particularly good performances by Simon Goodwin, Chris Fagan and Luke Beveridge.
Time permitting, it would be useful to disaggregate the data even further. For example, I could look at Nathan Buckley’s record if I left out the 2018 season to test whether that season was an outlier and artificially inflating his coaching performance.
Similarly, it would be interesting to assess and compare Alastair Clarkson’s performance pre and post the golden era.
While the statistics are indicative of coaching performance, clearly many other factors are in play in determining coaching longevity, including supporter sentiment, board decision making, media pressure, injuries and club morale.