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65 responses to “The era of the close grand final?”

  1. Katz

    Just eye-balling graph 1 suggests to me that the amplitude of the big margins has tended to increase over time.

    In other words, when a team has an advantage, that advantage is translated into a crushing defeat.

    A second uniformity appears to be the (curvilinear) rise and fall in average margins between the late 1970s and 2010. This pattern may be may clearer by use of a five-year moving average over the period. Historically, this effect may support the hypothesis of the rise of running football pioneered by Hawthorn in the late 1970s and the rise of the flood, the rolling zone and the press to counteract running football pioneered by the Western Bulldogs in the early noughties.

  2. 2353

    And Juila Gillard tipped it at the AFL Breakfast!

    I wonder if she is that good at politics?

  3. Savvas Tzionis

    My view is that during the 1960’s and 1970’s when the game was not as professional as it is now, in any given grand final (and I have seen them all either live or on video), the team that went ahead invariablt took its foot of the pedal slightly and the losing team put in an extra effort.

    But two events occured in the 80’s that ended the era of the clsoe grand final.

    One was the ever increasing professionalism that made it imperative that the 2 combatants in the GF could not afford anything but 100% effort. So if one team was better than the other, they would simply win by anywhere between 5 to 8 goals.

    This was accentuated by the strange occurence where 3 Grand Finals in the 1980’s (1980, 1983, 1988) included one team that reached the GF from the Sudden Death position of 4th or 5th (under the Final Five system). Each of these games produced a record winning margin.

    This trend continued until 2000. Since then the GF have been closer, as you have stated.

    My theory is that with the draft and salary cap and generally well administered competition having been in place since the mid 1980’s, the equalisation process has finally come to pass.

  4. Ben Haslem

    Why isn’t the drawn 1977 GF on your graph?

  5. Fine

    As a Saints supporter, I loved the result, as I thought they were gone at half time.

    Another statistical analysis you could do (although it would be difficult) would mapping your comparisons against the winning margins in each year’s preliminary finals. My gut feeling is that often when a team plays a gut busting lead up to the Grand Final they fall over spectacularly at the final hurdle, whereas if they have an easy lead up they win. Is there a correlation between blow out Grand Finals and the losing team having had to fight for their life in their preceding game?

  6. joe2

    I heard a repeat, on radio this morning, of the last minutes of 1977 VFL Grand Final between North and Collinwood.

    I was struck by the last gasping words of the commentator who called on MCG crowd members to “hold on to yar tickets coz yu’ll need em again next week”.

    Andrew Demetriou wouldn’t have liked to hear that.

  7. sg

    If you send me the data I could have a look at autocorrelation plots and try and pin down the time series structure in a bit more detail. Looks like a pretty weak random walk at best, though.

  8. Tyro Rex

    I was very surprised about the AFL result. They don’t have golden point? Geez at morning tea we though about a half-dozen ways to get a result on the day – four of them at least reasonable ones:

    1. extra time, then if still a draw, golden point (first score wins, for those AFL heads who pay no attention to other football code).

    2. as above, but behinds don’t count (golden goal).

    3. 50 metre shots-at-goal like a soccer penalty shoot out.

    4. whoever scores the most *goals* wins.

    but then, it just reinforces my north-of-the-border view of the VFL as an entirely farcial sport.

    the real grand final is still to be played – sunday night.

  9. Katz

    I was very surprised about the AFL result. They don’t have golden point?

    There have been three draws in VFL/AFL Grand Finals, the previous one as recently as 1977. Perhaps that news hasn’t had enough time to penetrate whatever it needs to penetrate North of the Border.

    On the two previous occasions, a draw did not end the world. Spectators turned up to watch the replay. Some left happy. Some left miserable. Life sent on.

    And despite these obvious fatal flaws in the game and its administration, AFL has struggled on to become by far the most watched sport in the country.

    Many folks just can’t understand how that could have happened.

  10. sg

    oh, can we please turn this into a League vs. AFL scrum?

    Whoever wins, Rugby will be the winner on the night…

  11. Fran Barlow

    Personally, I’d just keep them playing until someone scored. If after 5 minutes, nobody had, then each captain or player by designation nominates one opposing player to leave the ground. Play continues until result or five minutes elapsed. Repeat … until …

    Simple.

  12. sg

    I think it should be resolved in the time-honoured fashion – a huge brawl after full time.

  13. Labor Outsider

    There is a lot of random variation in grand final margins that is going to make it difficult to pick up trends using the methods you have chosen.

    Another way to go about it is to use a simple moving average (five year or ten year). That has the advantage of seeing through the enormous year to year swings (which guarantee that an AR 1 model of the type you chose wouldn’t pick up anything of interest) but at the same time picking up the shorter term cycles within the 50 year period. When you do that (but exclude the anomalous 2007 result – well, I’m a port supporter so I prefer to think of that as anomalous!) some interesting cycles emerge. The 10 year moving average shows two troughs – one in 1973 and the other in 2010 – while there is a high plateau running from the late 80s )peaking in 88) to the very early 2000s.

    From a statistical standpoint it is almost certainly the case (as sg said) that you wouldn’t be able to reject the null of the series being a random walk. However, I think the moving averages do reveal something about how the game has evolved over time (think about the increased use of flooding in the 2000s). So, you might also say that there have been a series of structural breaks that have shifted mean scoring around over time (though I haven’t tested that hypothesis).

    If you wanted, you could also filter the data in other ways – you could use something like a Hodrick-Prescott filter that would enable to you to separate the trend from the noise in the series (economists often use this when modelling potential output of the economy to see though the significant year to year variation in GDP, as well as the business cycle). The HP filter has the advantage that you can choose how much of the short-term variation to surpress.

  14. haiku

    Might also be worth looking at what the score was at three-quarter time. For example, 1989 is regarded as “close” because of the eventual 6-point margin. But for much of the match Hawthorn held a lead of 40 points or more, with only the heroics of Gary Ablett bringing the Cats close in the last quarter. Conversely, the margin in 1997 was the Crows by 31 points. But St Kilda held a two-goal lead at the half and were only ten points adrift at 3-quarter time – and the game was very much in the balance, even up to the half-way point of the last quarter.

  15. angela

    Iknow I’ve been told I have no understanding of anything to do with sport -but really what’s wrong with a draw? In the 21stC aren’t we evolved enough to say these two teams are equal best and just share time with the trophy?

  16. Nick

    “Personally, I’d just keep them playing until someone scored.”

    Nah. It’s more punk this way. I like it 😉

  17. Zorronsky

    And despite these obvious fatal flaws in the game and its administration, AFL has struggled on to become by far the most watched sport in the country.

    Sorry Katz but VFL/AFL has always seen greater attendance than the other codes.

  18. gregh

    you might also want to look at something like
    margin / total score

    ie (winner -loser)/ (winner + loser)

  19. gregh

    “the real grand final is still to be played – sunday night.”

    what’s on Sunday night? – I think Midsomer Murders finished this week.

  20. wilful

    I have no idea why people are bitching and moaning about the fact that the GF has to be replayed, or for what reason we need some extra time rule.

  21. Don Wigan

    Conversely, the margin in 1997 was the Crows by 31 points. But St Kilda held a two-goal lead at the half and were only ten points adrift at 3-quarter time – and the game was very much in the balance, even up to the half-way point of the last quarter.

    Very true, haiku. I can even pinpoint a particular moment when the Saints chances slipped out of reach. Cripps had a free or mark at half-forward. Keogh slipped into a gap on the left flank 30 metres out with nobody near him. It took Cripps a while to spot Keogh, and then his pass was a highish floating one.

    It gave an otherwise obscure Crow, Matt Connell, enough time to get to the contest. He was never going to mark it, but threw his body low in front of Keogh, which caused Keogh’s legs to tumble and spill the mark (for a certain goal). By that time the cavalry had arrived and Caven and Ellen raced away with the ball eventually setting up a chance for Jarman, who bagged 5 goals in that quarter.

    Yeah, that was tight despite the Crows eventually running away with it. And I’ve never forgotten Matty Connell’s little one-percenter.

  22. GregM

    There have been three draws in VFL/AFL Grand Finals, the previous one as recently as 1977. Perhaps that news hasn’t had enough time to penetrate whatever it needs to penetrate North of the Border.

    Um. 1977 isn’t exactly recent history. Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister then. Joh Bjelke-Petersen was Premier of Queensland Rupert Hamer in Victoria and Bill Neilson (remember him) in Tasmania. Don Dunstan was still Premier of South Australia.

    On the two previous occasions, a draw did not end the world. Spectators turned up to watch the replay. Some left happy. Some left miserable. Life sent on.

    What is important is that next week, as in 1977, it is Collingwood supporters who leave the replay miserable. I know that we can agree on this.

    And despite these obvious fatal flaws in the game and its administration, AFL has struggled on to become by far the most watched sport in the country.

    Many folks just can’t understand how that could have happened.

    Unless they have followed the history of the NRL. Makes the AFL look like model of excellence in sports development and administration.

    Still I would have thought that Little Athletics would have been the most watched sport in the country.

  23. LJS

    As a counter to all the above the GF is a great time to go shopping in Melbourne: no traffic and shop attendants pretty much all to yourself!

  24. Andrew E

    Robert, it seemed to me that every match in the home-and-away this year was a thrashing, so it is a surprise that the ‘grand final’ was different.

    [email protected]: the 2009 NRL gf outrated the AFL one, and the same will happen this year provided you don’t add the two AFL ones together. Whether or not people turn up in the cold and sleet and eat a pie while drinking lite beer is neither here nor there.

  25. sg

    Robert, I’ve put a (rather shoddy, and slightly drunk) time series analysis on my blog. Unfortunately my preferred software was broken and … stuff. But it’s there and the conclusion is that there’s no change over time. I analysed the proportionate margin (that is, winning margin divided by total victory score).

    Incidentally, the autoregressive structure of the data suggests that teams learn from the previous two years of scores, and it’s a negative score suggesting that blowouts get pushed downward in subsequent years as teams adapt tactics.

    There’s also evidence of a shift in variance and maybe mean margin in 1980, but it’s not the sort of thing I want to look into.

  26. Labor Outsider

    Robert, good point about average scores in grand finals falling, but I also graphed the 10 year moving average using the percentage difference between the two teams, not just the absolute difference, and the exact same trends are apparent. So, closer grand finals in recent years seems to be a genuine phenomenon and not just explained by lower absolute scoring in grand finals.

  27. Labor Outsider

    http://www.talkingfooty.com/tv_ratings_2010.php

    not according to the above link either andrew….

  28. Scotty Dog

    Did the rugby league grand final in 1977 also end in a draw & replay?

    It might not have been ’77 but it was St George & Parramatta.

    St George eventually thumped Parramatta the following weekend.

    I think the ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’ is extra time (half a qtr each way) & then golden goal.

  29. xulon

    #26 The 2009 NRL Grand Final never happened, so how could anyone possibly have watched it? 😉

  30. Katz

    Um. 1977 isn’t exactly recent history. Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister then. Joh Bjelke-Petersen was Premier of Queensland Rupert Hamer in Victoria and Bill Neilson (remember him) in Tasmania. Don Dunstan was still Premier of South Australia.

    Which demonstrates once again that GregM has a tin ear for euphemism.

    BTW GM, how advanced are your researches into Toyota imports into South Korea, 1960-1980?

  31. harleymc

    The problem was tht neither team had a clear majority. If the ref could’ve been offered a vice-captaincy or been paired off then I’m sure a clear result would’ve emerged.

  32. Don Wigan

    Did the rugby league grand final in 1977 also end in a draw & replay?

    T’was indeed. But it was Manly and Cronulla. Manly won the replay easily. I remember it because I was in Sydney then, and though primarily an AFL person, followed a bit of league. Manly had an amazing finals run then after initially losing their qualifying final. Had ‘come from behind’ wins in just about all their next matches until the GF replay. It coincided of course with the North-Collingwood ALF draw and replay.

    I remembered Manly’s efforts when the Crows pulled off their second premiership in 1998. They were thrashed by Melboune in the first week, but then put 3 wins together on the road.

  33. Savvas Tzionis

    Don Wigan,

    No… it was St George and Parramatta.

    FYI…. I decided to watch both drawn grand finals (NSWRL and VFL) in video recently.

    Rugby League was amateur hour, and the game was slow and boring! I was actually quite shocked at how poor it was. The VFL was, comparatively speaking, light years ahead.

    Nowadays Rugby League is a far more exciting sport. AFL has, in my opinion from an aesthetics point of view, gone backwards.

  34. Fine

    Wrong Andrew E.

    2009 AFL Grand Final: 2,878,000
    2009 Rugby League: GF: 2,528,000

    http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/gtp/wftvtopprog.html

    Check out the stats. The AFL Grand Final always outrates the NRL. But the highest rating programme for 2009 was the Masterchef final. People ike cooking more than football.

  35. Nana Levu

    Angela #16 “what’s wrong with a draw? In the 21stC aren’t we evolved enough to say these two teams are equal best and just share time with the trophy?”

    I agree with you. They don’t rerun the Melbourne Cup in the event of a dead heat, but instead have an extra cup ready.

    Football is said to be war by bloodless means. One side has to win and return home triumphant, the other gutted. But why not accept a draw as a result and celebrate that two teams play for 120 minutes and are so closely matched they tie. But that is as likely as Palestine and Israel are to laying down their arms and being content within one secular state.

    Sport could become a way of moving society forward so if a tie is accepted, then this enlightened approach can be appied in other social areas such as politics and war.

  36. Tyro Rex

    fine:

    Wrong Andrew E.

    2009 AFL Grand Final: 2,878,000
    2009 Rugby League: GF: 2,528,000

    From the site – “All people, five-city metro average, 1 January to 31 December 2009, program average.”

    The key here is “five city metro average” – which excludes regional NSW and QLD, which do not take to watching AFL on TV. Also they are two most decentralised states which together comprise about half the country’s population. When you add the regionals, NRL final gets more TV viewers.

  37. Katz

    The key here is “five city metro average” – which excludes regional NSW and QLD, which do not take to watching AFL on TV.

    Huh?

    All along the Murray and some distance into the Riverina, AFL is the only code that NSW viewers watch.

  38. bmitw

    Have to laugh at these NRL/AFL stoushes. NRL’s only purpose as far as I can see is to provide me with retail therapy once a year from winning the office footy tipping contests. And AFL have to change their rules to get any kind of “international” happening at all. 🙂

    The solution for a draw? Extra time.

  39. Katz

    And AFL have to change their rules to get any kind of “international” happening at all. 🙂

    You’re right. As it is now, AFL will never cut it in Wigan.

  40. Fine

    Tyro Rex, can you show me any figures to prove your thesis?

  41. bmitw

    Wigan, Barcelona, Paris, Rio, Rome etc 🙂

    But in all seriousness NRL is dying in the regions due to admin issues and AFL is becoming more popular up to a point. But as a football parent what I see is a generation of kids whose outlook is far more global than that of older fans.

  42. Tyro Rex

    Fine, I don’t need to spend my precious work hours hunting them down. The Site you quoted clearly says “five city average”.

    What game do you think that half of Canberra, Woolongong, Newcastle, Tamworth, Armidale, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Prt Macquarie, Toowoomba, Townsville, Mackay, Cairns etc all watch?

    Its also been discussed in Crikey.

  43. Fine

    Now now, Tyro, no need to get tetchy. You can find the figures tonight if you want.

  44. Katz

    Barcelona, Paris, Rio, Rome

    Let’s see, those Rugby League teams would be the Barcelona Manuels, the Paris Surrender Monkeys, the Rio Brazilians, and the Roman Cardinals?

    Do they replay their games on Foxtel?

  45. bmitw

    Dear Katz,

    I am an equal opportunity disser. Apart from a nominal attachment to the Roosters dating back to the Russell Fairfax era, I am nowhere near tribal enough to worry about which ugly sister is uglier. But I would like to see St Kilda win next week.

    But isn’t AFL better viewed live anyway? Whereas rugby league has been so altered for TV purposes that it no longer resembles the game it once was.

  46. Fine

    Not to mention regional SA, WA and whole swathes of southern NSW.

  47. Paul Norton

    As I was on the XPT all day Saturday and couldn’t watch the match, I thought it was very obliging of the Collingwood and St Kilda players to play a draw thereby ensuring a reply which I’ll be able to watch.

    On the other hand a part of me can’t resist the temptation to snark about the fact that Collingwood has only improved by one point in 44 years. 😉

    [Fran Barlow will doubtless draw attention to the logical error in the previous sentence.)

  48. Zabeel the Horse

    Efter the Austreluyen Fidirel Iliction end the Ay-if-ill Grend Finel I’m wondirung what wull heppin uf there’s a did heat un the Milbourne Cup thus year.

  49. Katz

    Yes, bmitw, I agree that AFL is best viewed live. TV producers seem to think that unless any shot includes a countable number of nostril hairs it is not a good shot. And most TV commentators content themselves with attempting to describe what is visible on the screen. This is not good sport TV.

    AFL is huge and operatic. It is like Napoleon attacking Russia and Tsar Alexander trying to defend it. The important stuff happens behind the lines and offscreen.

  50. Fine

    Does that mean St. Kilda has gone backwards by one point in 44 years, Paul Norton?

  51. Fine

    Perhaps your kiddies Jessicabeel, Zavite and Precedence will triple deadheat Zabeel?

  52. Don Wigan

    Savvas, you’re right. My apologies.

    My old age is playing tricks on me. I was very sure the two draws/replays occurred in the same year. Maybe it was just my carrying the immediate past memory of North Melbourne- Collingwood (which was 77) that I imagined Manly-Cronulla pulling it off in the same year, and not a year later as actually occurred.

    Lucky I didn’t put money on it before I checked Wiki.

  53. Paul Norton

    Fine #54, that is an equally plausible conclusion from essentially the same line of reasoning.

  54. Tyro Rex
  55. Tyro Rex
  56. Katz
  57. Martin B

    the 2009 NRL gf outrated the AFL one, and the same will happen this year

    Unlikely. The NRL audience in Melbourne is likely to plummet this year on account of
    a) AFL GF the day before
    b) Melbourne Storm issues.

    Both articles that Tyro Rex links above make it clear that the audience variation from year to year is significantly affected by which clubs are in each final. With no interstate teams in the NRL final this year, they are likely to take more of a hit. (The AFL final last year already had no interstate teams, so no change there, plus Collingwood have a pretty strong national following.)

    Basically the story is that both NRL and AFL are well supported. Sometimes one will rate better, sometimes the other.

  58. Martin B

    The 70k regional viewers given in the story clearly should be 770k viewers (according to the maths of the story). But the figures listed in comments (969k) are still larger, so that’s an interesting discrepancy.

  59. Tyro Rex

    Katz, that article, makes nothing of the sort. It produces a reading of various figures that favours the AFL, yes. But on a short examination of the poorly formatted tables supplied on it, I can’t find on it a clear comparison of the figures for the 2009 finals including the regionals.

    And what Martin B said.

    BTW, NRL should rate well in Brisbane … the Dragons (especially, I have to admit although I hate to do so) and the Roosters are two of the most well-supported clubs outside their respective core geographic markets in Sydney (based on merch. sales outside of Sydney anyway).

  60. Katz

    TR, I never made any positive assertion about which 2009 GF drew the larger audience. Points are two:

    1. Some of regional NSW favours AFL over NRL. This is a fact that you ignored in one of your comments.

    2. No figures so far adduced clarify which 2009 GF attracted more eyes Australia-wide. I trust that you are not as confident as Andrew E when he asserts: “the 2009 NRL gf outrated the AFL one…”

    To which I may add, thanks to Martin B:

    3. The location of GF competing teams (outside core markets for the two codes) appears to have a large and temporary impact on ratings.

  61. Gory

    Who cares ! Check the figures ( it’s not that hard to do ) – the NRL has a higher FTA and Pay TV audience than AFL in Australia, The AFL went down by 5% and NRL went up by 10% in 2010 ( and that was before the AFL grand final replay this weekend ) – so much for the idea that AFL has won the war even thought they spend and have spent millions in support of Sydney and Brisbane to make sure they win a Premiership.

    Internationally? There’s always that guy in Texas that likes AFL.