After the Bulldogs and Demons dispatched the Power and Cats respectively last week- and maybe even by half time in those respective games- eyes were looking towards this Saturday’s Grand Final.

What I wanted to know was whether or not there’s anything to be learned from history. You hear often about how teams rebound after a bad loss, but how do teams press on after a big win? That’s something that you hear less about.

The last time two teams faced each other where both were coming off 60+ point wins was round 23, 2019, which might as well be forever ago. West Coast had beaten GWS by 61, whilst Hawthorn had beaten the Gold Coast by 70. The teams were fifth and (equal) first at the time, the game was in Perth… need I say more?

Anyway, it’s going to happen again next weekend for just the 25th time in the last 20 years. Games where teams win by 60+ points aren’t rare, per se- 17% of the 3840 games in that time frame have had that kind of margin, but games between those teams… not so much. It’s just a bit more than half a percent, give or take, but is there anything that you can learn by analysing the results of how teams play after they’ve just thumped someone? What about when the team they’re about to face has done the same?

(By the way, the team in fifth won that game in 2019. Take of that what you will.)

As for methodology- and for the sake of transparency- this is the result of looking back over the results of every game since Round 2 2002, when the longest serving AFL player (Shaun Burgoyne, albeit only technically) made his debut. All the 60+ point wins were charted, as were the results the following weeks, with allowances made for byes – either in the season or in the finals. I chose 60+ because 10 goals felt like a good low end for a thumping.

For any interested parties, the AFL’s biggest year for thumpings was 2012, where just under a quarter of every game played was 60+ points – which might be a result of it being GWS’ debut, and Gold Coast’s second season. There aren’t many quirks in the data, but that’s one of them.

The standout stat is that over the last 20 years, the average margin in those 24 games coming off a thumping is 41.4 points. The biggest win in those 24 games is 70 points (Sydney over St. Kilda, Round 21 2016) and the smallest is 1 (Sydney over West Coast in the 2006 qualifying final). The biggest margin overturned from the previous week was in R18 2006 – St. Kilda coming off 103-point win and losing to West Coast by 39.

What this means for the upcoming Grand Final is that literally any result is still in play, which feels like (and would be) shithouse statistical analysis, so here are the most interesting insights once you’ve got the basics down.

In two of the games between Hawthorn and Geelong in 2014, both teams were coming off 60+ point wins. In Round 4, Geelong had beaten West Coast by 75, Geelong had beaten Gold Coast by 99, and in their Round 5 match up Geelong prevailed by 19. In their Qualifying Final game, Geelong coming off a 65 point win over Collingwood, Hawthorn coming off a 62 point win over Brisbane, this time Hawthorn got up by 36 – then, they played a Sydney team who’d won THEIR prelim by 71 points, and beat them by 63. What does that say? Hawthorn stood up when it counted, and did so against an (at the time) white-hot Sydney team.

The average margin in these 10+ goal win games is 80 points, but the average margin the following week is a 13 point win – which would suggest that teams, maybe, take their foot off the pedal the following week. However, it is important to remember that the margin in games where both teams won by 10+ goals is 41. Does that mean that we’re looking at an irresistible force versus immovable object situation? If so, this might be an extremely combustible game ahead of us.

I’d be remiss to not mention the scenario both teams are dreading – and, as a neutral, it’s not a jinx to bring it up- 2007. For those who don’t remember, or, to bring it up for the hell of it, Port won their Prelim by 87 and lost the Grand Final by 119. If you don’t have a calculator handy, that’s a 206-point difference between the win and the loss. No games, in fact, have even come close to that swing in the last 20 years, only West Coast’s 180-point swing gets near it- and that was in 2003. The biggest swing since then was in 2015, when the Bulldogs (huh…) beat the Demons (HUH!!!) by 98, and then lost to West Coast by 77 – in Perth, of all places.

I’m not going to say it’s fate and I’m not going to say it’s not that two of the most recent significant thumpings have happened in circumstances remarkably similar to the ones soon to unfold at Optus Stadium.

To zero in on the upcoming game, in the last five years Melbourne’s average result after a thumping is a 40 point win, including a run where they won by 69, 109 and 91 in successive weeks back in 2018. The Bulldogs average a 23 point win after a thumping, but just this season they beat St. Kilda by 111 and followed it up with a 28 point loss to Melbourne.

In summary, such as it is, games like this are a coin toss. It’s clear that games between teams who’ve both thumped someone have a higher margin than teams who’ve thumped someone and go onto play someone who hasn’t just done the same. There’s historical precedent that it could get a bit weird, and just this season the Bulldogs have thumped someone, played Melbourne, and lost. There’s a bit of weird juju in the numbers, and I think it leaves the game as a coin toss at the start, but whoever gets an early run on is likely to hold on to it and pile some points on.

Win the first quarter, win the day? Maybe.

 

FULL TABLE OF THE DOUBLE THUMPINGS

 

  • R5 2002- Geelong coming off 122-point win, Fremantle 66-point win. Geelong by 62
  • R8 2006- Bulldogs coming off 76-point win, Sydney 118-point win. Sydney by 26
  • R13 2007- Adelaide coming off 63-point win, Geelong 66-point win. Adelaide by 92
  • R18 2006- St. Kilda coming off 103-point win, West Coast 82-point win. West Coast by 39
  • QF 2006- West Coast coming off 88-point win, Sydney 92-point win. Sydney by 1
  • R8 2008- Hawthorn coming off 65-point win, Port Adelaide 64-point win. Hawthorn by 15
  • QF 2008- Geelong coming off 99-point win, St. Kilda 108-point win. Geelong by 58
  • R14 2009- Essendon coming off 69-point win, Collingwood 84-point win. Collingwood by 35
  • R20 2010- Carlton coming off 89-point win, Geelong coming off 101-point win. Geelong by 42
  • PF 2010- Collingwood coming off 62-point win (and the bye), Geelong coming off 69-point win. Collingwood by 41
  • R16 2011- Bulldogs coming off 64-point win, Carlton coming off 103-point win. Bulldogs by 27
  • R15 2012- Sydney coming off 94-point win, Brisbane coming off 61-point win. Sydney by 47
  • R22 2012- Sydney coming off 82-point win, hawthorn coming off 64-point win. Hawthorn by 7
  • R13 2013- Sydney coming off 77-point win (and the bye), Port Adelaide 75-point win. Port by 18
  • R15 2013-North Melbourne coming off 64-point win, Richmond off 64-point win. North Melbourne by 62
  • R5 2014- Geelong coming off 75-point win, Hawthorn coming off 99-point win. Geelong by 19
  • QF 2014- Hawthorn coming off 62-point win, Geelong coming off 62-point win. Hawthorn by 36
  • R19 2015- Port Adelaide coming off 63-point win, Bulldogs coming off 87-point win. Bulldogs by 64
  • R22 2015- Adelaide coming off 87-point win, West Coast coming off 77-point win. Adelaide by 57
  • R7 2016- Geelong coming off 120-point win, West Coast coming off 62-point win. Geelong by 44
  • R20 2016- Port Adelaide coming off 94-point win, Sydney coming off 90-point win. Sydney by 67
  • R21 2016- Sydney coming off 67-point win, St. Kilda coming off 71-point win. Sydney by 70
  • R5 2018- North Melbourne coming off 86-point win, Hawthorn coming off 67-point win. North Melbourne by 28
  • R23 2019- West Coast coming off 61-point win, Hawthorn coming off 70-point win. Hawthorn by 38