Dropping 50 – An AFL Stats Everest

Any Monty Python fans amongst the Mongrels that read this? I sure hope so, or I hope that you’ve at least watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail at some point, otherwise the next line will be totally lost on you.

“50 shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be 50.”

No, I’m not going to request you throw the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch at a killer rabbit. Nevertheless, 50 is a number of great importance to this article.

How so?

Well, I am always in search of ways to accurately rate the individual games of the players who seem to dominate, and listening to a podcast recently I heard someone talking about a simplistic way of assessing the value of an individual on a game of basketball. They used the number 42 as a cumulative measure of accumulated stats that indicates whether a player had a significant influence on a game. The higher the number, the more influence on the game that player has had.

It’s a relatively simple equation in a sporting landscape that tend to over-complicate matters at every turn. Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks = the total score of an individual player. If you’re tracking at 42 points or over, you’re performing well. If you’re under, you’re probably playing a role and not a genuine star of the game.

Sound fair? There are probably holes in it all over the place, but for simplicity’s sake, I genuinely liked it.

I got to thinking how I could apply a principle so simplistic to our beloved game, and whether there’d be any merit in it.

This is not meant to be some sort of revolutionary idea – more thought usually goes into ideas of that nature. It’s just a novelty kind of stat that may be of interest to some. Save the “you’re Americanising our game” stuff, please. If you don’t like the little more outside the box stats, you may as well stop reading.

However, if you’re still here, congrats. You’re not a knob.

In regard to getting a simple game score for Aussie Rules Football, I started thinking that if we simply add possessions, tackles, marks and goals all together, we may get a total number representative of the offensive impact a player had on a game, or at least his standing in the game as compared to his peers?

I hit a couple of snags initially, as midfielders pick up a ton of possessions, and in the case of Tom Mitchell, or Matt Crouch, could have 50 points in possessions alone. Remember the start of the article?

“50 shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be 50.”

How about if we counted only effective touches?

To test this, I applied it to the most significant record-breaking effort in recent memory – Tom Mitchell’s 54-disposal clinic against Collingwood in Round One 2018.

I still thought Mitchell would make the cut in this game. He was more or less over the line before he started, with the possessions alone, but the addition of eliminating ineffective disposals had a significant impact on his total score. He scored 48 total points, falling short by two, due to inefficiency with the ball, with “only” 36 of those 54 considered effective. He also only laid two tackles for the game.

However, his second 50-disposal game of the year in 2018 gets him to the mark as a result of hitting the target with 80% of his disposals. Not only did he get to 50 points with the game that returned 40 effective disposals, nine marks and 13 tackles, he also smashed through the 60-point barrier as well.

Make no mistake; this is no Mount Buller in terms of statistics – this is an Everest. I am struggling to find those who’ve hit 50, and Mitchell notches a 62.

The 50-point game isn’t a mountain that’s meant to be easy to climb. It’s supposed to be a rarity. Some will never achieve it despite having sterling careers. Not that it means much, but you know what? I like it. I’m a bit of a numbers geek and seeing names on a list like this makes me happy. Shoot me.

Let’s take a look at Jeremy Cameron’s seven goal blast in context of achieving this number. Much was made of his 30 possession, seven-goal game against the Tigers this past weekend, but 13 of those 30 touches were deemed ineffective. As a result, his net result in this format is a score of 33. Miles off the mark. He had no tackles in the game, and while he pulled down nine marks, his inefficiency with the ball cost him.

How about Lachie Whitfield? He has had a blistering start to the year. In Round Three, he racked up 48 total points on the back of 42 touches (32 effective), 12 marks and four tackles. He was close, but the score of 50 isn’t a “near-enough is good-enough” kind of stat. You don’t get a hundred metres from the peak of Everest and turn around. If you don’t get there, you haven’t conquered it.

He had a blinder in Round Two as well, with 41 total points, but with no goals or tackles, couldn’t get near the required 50. He got two thirds of the way up Everest and had to turn back… twice.

Lachie Neale had 47 in Round Two, with 34 effective disposals, seven marks and six tackles. He followed that with a 44 point performance in Round Three, collecting 36 effective touches, four marks, three tackles and a goal.

Is it starting to hit home how hard this number of 50 is to achieve? Cameron, Whitfield and Neale have had cracking games this season, and they can’t crack it! It may also put Mitchell’s 60-point game in context? I think the magnitude of that performance was lost in what was a possession-fest of a year.

I think we may need to go historical to find some company for Mitchell.

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Lance Franklin’s “13… 13… 13!!!” game in 2012 was as big a game as you’ll find from a modern forward, but Buddy actually wasted the ball a bit that day. From the 23 touches he collected, only 16 were effective. It cost him a score of 50, as he dipped to 47 as a result of those stray disposals.

How about Wayne Carey’s 31 possession, 11 goal effort in 1996? Sadly, there are no advanced stats available for that game, but if we assume, naively, that all of Carey’s 31 touches hit a target on the day, he clocks in at 61 points. Sadly, I’m not going to count that in here, as if we can’t discount his ineffective possessions, we probably shouldn’t be deducting them for Whitfield, Mitchell and co. And I’m not here to make reaching this mark easier. You don’t install an escalator on the side of the mountain to help the old blokes, right?

The Little Master chimes in with a 50 point game, though, courtesy of his career-high 52 touches against the Pies in 2012. 37 of his 53 touches hit the mark, dropping him down from 68 points to 50 overall. He added nine marks and six tackles.

Patrick Dangerfield had a massive 58-point game in 2016 against the Pies, collecting 40 effective touches (out of 48… amazing), taking 13 marks, laying three tackles and kicking two goals to be Mitchell’s closest competitor.

Another Cat, Steve Johnson, went for 51 against the Dees in an absolute massacre in 2011. Not only did Stevie J have 31 effective disposals, seven goals, nine marks and four tackles, he did what only he has ever done, and added 10 goal assists to the stat-line as well. Unbelievable.

Tom Rockliff has a 50-pointer to his name as well, notching 54 in 2016 against Carlton. 36 of his 48 possessions were effective, and his nine tackles, eight marks and a goal put him over the top.

Over the next couple of weeks, The Mongrel will compiling a (relatively) comprehensive list of all those to hit the 50-point mark in a game, and if you wanted to make my life a little easier, you could have a bit of a search through players you think may have hit the mark. I had a look at Brian Lake’s 28-disposal, 24-mark game, but he didn’t get there, so knock that one off your list.

I look forward to hearing what you guys come up with.

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