I’m a big fan of the little intricacies in football. The little statistical anomalies may not really mean much in isolation, but when you start to see a pattern, you, as a footy fan, start to look for them.
One I genuinely like is how a team plays when any given player hits a certain number in a statistical category and if this is the causation of a result, or just correlation. Whether it is disposals, goals, score involvements, or intercepts and spoils on the defensive end. How these statistical markers influence a game of footy is something that always tickles my fancy.
And for the sake of this column, I hope it tickles yours as well.
This one took a bit of research (which I hate… I’d much rather just throw opinions out there like a Herald Sun journo and see what sticks) but it is worth it, and provides another little snippet of interest in games in 2022… as if we needed another reason to look forward to the return of footy, right?
I’ll be splitting this into two parts and in the process will make sure I get at least one for each team, and just for your reference, the timeframe I am using to gauge trends is from the 2018 season up until the end of the 2021 season.
Let’s see what we can come up with.
WHEN PENDLES GETS 30 AND HITS THE SCOREBOARD, THE PIES WIN
Just how important has Scott Pendlebury been to the Pies over the years?
Well, the argument is that it is down to Pendles and Nathan Buckley when it comes to the greatest Magpie of the modern era. He is in great company.
I initially started looking for the Pies’ record in games where Pendles topped 30 touches, and though it was positive, it pales in comparison to what occurs when he gets that thirty and adds a goal to his tally as well. From 2018 onwards, Pendles has achieved this six times. All of them have come in wins.
Whilst there is no doubt his class through the middle, and his ability to hit a target inside 50 make him the perfect player to have the footy in his hands running toward the forward line, it is when Pendles is able to sneak forward and snag a goal that things really click for the Pies.
The Pies 6-0 when he gets 30+ and a goal. Not a bad way to start.
WHEN JAKE STRINGER KICKS FOUR, THE BOMBERS WIN
It’s a pretty simple equation, this one. Jake Stringer has kicked four goals on seven occasions wearing red and black, with four of those games coming in 2021. The Bombers are 7-0 when he does this.
Whilst it is great to have Stringer pinch-hitting in the middle, a stat like this demonstrates just how important he is to the forward setup of Essendon. If he gets off the leash and is able to slot goals, it creates chaos inside fifty and causes all sorts of problems for opponents.
Compare that to his midfield output – over the same period when Stringer has 6+ clearances, the Bombers are 5-4. So, do we just admit that Stringer is of more benefit closer to goal? It’s not really that easy, is it? Particularly when you saw how effective he was at centre bounces in 2021.
For mine, a 70/30 forward/mid split is perfect for Stringer. You get the best of both worlds whilst keeping him dangerous and not running him into the ground.
WHEN NAT FYFE HAS 10+ CLEARANCES, IT’S LIGHTS OUT FOR THE OPPONENTS
Can we agree firstly that Freo doesn’t have a great record over the past four seasons? We can? Great… that makes this a hell of a lot easier.
In games where Fyfe has played from 2018-21, the Dockers have a 19-30 win/loss record, however, when Fyfe is able to control the middle and pick up double figures in clearances, their performance overall is so much better. The Dockers are 8-1 in games where Fyfe ticks over ten clearances.
Whilst expecting Fyfe to perform like that on a weekly basis is more than a little hopeful, it adds context to his 2019 Brownlow speech, where he thanked his fellow mids for allowing him the space to chase the footy and gave him coverage when he did. The team knows what Fyfe up and about means to them.
11-29 when he doesn’t hit ten clearances. 8-1 when he does. You’d give him all the space and coverage he needs.
WHEN TOM HAWKINS KICKS FOUR, THE CATS DOMINATE
With a record of 21-2 when the big fella has his kicking boots on, Geelong would like Tom Hawkins to continue to play forever. Helped by the fact he plays in a side that has been very powerful in the timeframe assessed, Hawkins’ unselfishness has probably hindered his record from being even better, often handing off goals to teammates when kicking them, himself, is on the cards.
On the flipside, the Cats are 11-14 when Hawkins is held to one goal or less, with the offence struggling to find other options. This was the reasoning behind the recruitment of Jeremy Cameron in 2021; to take the bulk of the weight off the broad shoulders of Hawkins and give him someone capable of carrying the load.
With their first full preseason together after a bit of an injury-hit 2021 effort, the Hawkins/Cameron combination is no longer being discussed in the reverent terms it was 12 months ago. It’s amazing how quickly people forget. I have a feeling there will be some sharp reminders early in 2022.
WHEN JOSH KELLY IS ALLOWED SPACE, HE MAKES YOU PAY
The Giants are 13-3, with one draw as well when Josh Kelly is permitted to work on the outside and collect 20 uncontested touches.
With silky skills and the ability to also win his own footy, Kelly picked up his second B&F award in 2021 and was rewarded with a share of the captaincy heading into 2022. The GWS midfield is stacked with talent, but none are smoother than Kelly.
In 2019/20, he was deployed to the wing at points, which really aided him in getting that uncontested ball, but his value in the middle is just too great to keep him there.
WHEN BREUST FIRES, THE HAWKS START LOOKING DANGEROUS
The Hawks’ record in games containing Luke Breust since 2018 stands at 36-41 and one draw (46% win rate), however, in games where Breust manages to snag three goals, that record jumps to 14-7-1 (63.6%).
That means, without him performing at that level, the Hawks record is 22-34, or a 39% win record.
Breust’s name was disappointingly linked to trade rumours again in 2021, which is a real shame, given the service he has given the Hawthorn footy Club. Taken at 47 in the 2009 rookie draft (one of the greatest steals in history), Breust has amassed 441 goals for the Hawks in his 239 games and remains one of the keys to their forward line performing well.
WHEN CLARRY CLEARS IT, THE DEES USUALLY WIN
I’m a big Clayton Oliver fan. And you know what, I was a big fan back when blokes like Garry Lyon were potting him for having hands that worked faster than every other bloke on the field. “Oh, he’s too eager to get rid of it” – that was the criticism at one stage, and that criticism came because the team was losing, It was an excuse that was searched for and, as always seems to be the case when AFL experts are searching for something, found.
Fast forward a couple of years, and those fast hands don’t seem to be an issue anymore, do they? Funny, that.
Those fast hands are part of what makes Oliver such a beast at clearances. There are times that as soon as he grabs the footy, he is releasing to an outside runner to the advantage of the team, and this is where he is one of the best. The Dees have a 12-3 record when Oliver tops ten clearances in a game, and it must be kept in mind that despite the glory of 2021 and the excellent 2018 year, there are two pretty ordinary seasons in the mix here for the Dees. Their record over this period with Oliver in the team is 50-38 and a draw.
That’s a win percentage of 56.1%.
However, when Oliver gets first hands on the footy and wins those clearances, the numbers jump dramatically. With Oliver grabbing 10+ clearances, the Dees sit at an 80% winning record.
Yes, Christian Petracca has been brilliant, and Big Max has become the captain people really didn’t see coming five years ago, but Clayton Oliver is the engine room of the Dees, and when he is up and running, the machine starts to really hum.
WHEN OLLIE FLORENT PRODUCES, SO DO THE SWANS
I’ve been banging on about Florent for close to two years, now. I genuinely think he has the potential to be the best wingman in the caper, but he is a little too passive for his own good at the moment, often permitting others to take the game on whilst he… well, I guess he is doing what he is told, so I cannot fault him too much.
That said, there is great benefit in Florent getting more of the footy. He uses it well, covers the ground beautifully, and makes the lives of the forwards much easier with the way he enters fifty.
This is backed up by the Swans’ record when Florent gets plenty of the footy.
From 2018 to 2021, the Swans’ record with Florent in the team was 42 wins and 42 losses. Nice and simple, right – a 50% win ratio.
However, when Florent had 20+ touches in a game over that period, the record jumps to 22-10. I’ll just get out my calculator, here…. that’s a 68.75% win record when Florent is heavily involved.
With Jordan Dawson heading off to Adelaide for the 2022 season, the Swans will likely be a little more reliant on Florent to move the footy. If he responds with a large number of 20+ disposal games (which I am hoping for), the Swans could see themselves mounting a serious challenge for the top four again.
WHEN NIC NAITANUI DOMINATES CLEARANCES, THE EAGLES ARE NOT AT THEIR BEST
This was a real turn up, as I expecting to find the exact opposite. Not a shot at Naitanui by any stretch, as he is the best pure tap ruck in the game, but there is a weird stat when he takes the game on, himself, and decides that taking the ball out of the ruck is his preferred option.
In games where Nic Nat has 10+ clearances, the Eagles are 0-5 since 2018. Four of those games came in 2021. Was it Naitanui sensing that his team just was not getting the job done at stoppages, and deciding to take the game on, himself? Is it correlation or causation? I’m not really sure, and would have to go back and look at each game individually to really understand why this is the case, but it is interesting to note that one of the great strengths of the West Coast ruckman has not translated to success.
WHEN MATT TABERNER KICKS FOUR, THE DOCKERS USUALLY WIN
With a 4-1 record in games where Matt Taberner has four majors to his name, the big Freo forward is one of the most underrated and therefore undervalued assets in the game. A big marking target with a great tank, Tabs is able to work all the way up to half-back to provide a target before doubling back to remain a threat inside fifty.
And this is where he proves his worth the Dockers.
Freo currently have a plethora of able talls. With Sean Darcy and Lloyd Meek thundering around, and Tabs combining with Josh Treacy and… I suppose Rory Lobb when he is not unhappy about something or other. Throw in Brennan Cox who can pinch-hit as a forward when the need arises, and you have a potent bunch of marking options. With Jye Amiss now in the mix, will Justin Longmuir opt to keep Taberner closer to goal? He is tough to beat one-on-one, and with a 4-1 record when he snags four goals, Freo may be looking to have him hit the scoreboard as often as possible in 2021.
WHEN BUTTERS HITS THE SCOREBOARD, PORT ARE ON FIRE
Only three seasons to work with here, but the numbers are very interesting. Connor Rozee was the talk of 2019 – he burst out of the gates and had people stating he was the best talent in the 2018 draft.
Quietly, Zak Butters worked his way through his first year, only to jump to the head of the queue in 2020 and make the AA squad of 40. His importance to the Power is evident on many levels – I am a particular fan of the way he throws his body in to clear a path for his teammates, but it is with scoreboard impact that we can see his value.
Get a load of this – in games where Butters has kicked at least one goal, Port have a record of 20-4 record. That is an 83.3% win record.
I suppose we have to balance that up against what is a pretty impressive overall record from the Power when Butters plays – they are 31-17, which is a 64.5% win rate. Still, the difference a lively Butters makes could be the difference between a flag, and another prelim.
As stated in the intro, I’ll be adding more to this. If you have any players, in particular, you’d like me to look at, I am happy to take sensible suggestions. As always, please consider becoming a member of the site if you enjoy this kind of stuff. Season previews start as soon as we tick over into the New Year and they will have a HEAP of members content.