Even the palest ink …

… is better than the most reliable memory (according to a Chinese proverb).


I have been sifting through boxes of old computer disks and came across my handwritten note about ink and memory.
I made the note in the early 1990s as I was contemplating the transformation of notational analysis into performance analysis.
I do think about my advocacy of pen and paper recording whenever I see a coach making notes in real-time. My own fascination with pale ink was amplified by Alfred Wainwright‘s records of Lakeland Fells.
Amidst the boxes of disks, I did find a pale ink record of some my hand notation of the performance of the 1991 Rugby World Cup (RWC) winners, Australia. I have written about the 1991 Rugby World Cup Final.
My record of Australia comprised real-time notation of game events.

Australia Passing and Kicking

During the RWC, Australia passed the ball 415 times and kicked 320 times (including all kicks at goal). Australia’s opponents passed 590 times and kicked 339 times.
This disparity in passes is characteristic of playing patterns in the 1980s and early 1990s. Losing teams tended to pass more than winning teams and did so with ball that they would kick away earlier in their games. England passed the ball 166 times in the final against Australia, the most of any Australian opponent.
During the RWC, the most passes Australia made in a game was against Argentina (95 passes) and the most kicks were against New Zealand (67). Wales had the most kicks in a game against Australia, 65.
I found some notes about try scoring too.

RWC Try Scoring

One of my students, Richard O’Shea, at Cardiff College of Higher Education, undertook a lapsed-time analysis of the 147 triesĀ  scored in the 1991 RWC. He recorded that of these tries:

  • 46% came from possession won at scrums.
  • 60% were scored from a strike on the open side of play.
  • 82% of tries were scored by passing.
  • There were two games in which no tries were scored.

Of the 147 tries:

  • Wingers and centres scored 50% of tries.
  • Backs scored 71% of tries.
  • Scrum halves scored 6% of tries.
  • Twice as many tries were scored in the second halves of games.
  • 45% of tries were scored in the last thirty minutes of a game.
  • 60% of tries originated from within 30 metres of the try line.

Hand Notation

I have wondered if my fascination with hand notation is grounded in my love of handwriting and my early years as a train spotter. There is something delightful about a meticulous written record.
I have kept all my teaching and coaching notebooks for much of the last forty years.
Some of the ink is very pale now but many of the notebooks trigger specific memories of classes, practices and games.
The good thing for me is that these are backwardly compatible unlike some of my Amstrad disks of rugby data from the 1980s.

Photo Credits

Martin H. Moynihan’s field notes on Cyanerpes, Panama, 1958 (Smithsonian Institution, no known copyright restrictions)
100_4251 (scsmith4, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Train spotting – The Coveted Cab Ride (Barry Lewis, CC BY 2.0)


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