Nehad, Al ramtha and Canberra


I have been supervising PhD research for two decades.

My journey started in 1994 with Gareth Potter at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff.

Last week, one of my more recent PhD students, Nehad Makhadmeh, submitted her thesis for examination. The title of her thesis is Talent Identification and Development in Women’s Football: Integrating Australian Insights in Jordan.

During her four years at the University of Canberra, Nehad researched girls’ and women’s football in Canberra and her home city of Al ramtha in Jordan.

Her overall aim is to contribute to the flourishing of football in Al ramtha at a time of immense demographic and economic change there in the wake of conflict in nearby Syria.

It has been a remarkable privilege to be Nehad’s supervisor. I have learned a great deal about Arab societies as we have debated the relevance of Australian models of talent identification and development.


Nehad’s Abstract

This thesis investigates the possibilities for sustainable girls’ and women’s participation in football in Jordan.  These possibilities are explored with insights gained from fieldwork in two cultural contexts: Al ramtha, Jordan and Canberra, Australia.

The research reported here uses a mixed methods approach to data collection about talent and identification systems. It combines desk study, semi-structured interviews with teachers, coaches and administrators and participant observation in teaching and coaching contexts. There were two phases in the research process. Phase 1 explored talent identification and development pathways in women’s football and involved preliminary fieldwork in Canberra and Al ramtha. Phase 2 investigated the teaching of football in two Jordanian schools with the context of the King Abdullah II Award for Physical Fitness. This phase included fieldwork in Canberra with my participation as a volunteer coach in a community football club.

The thesis concludes with a discussion of sustainable talent identification and development in women’s football in Jordan and considers opportunities to integrate insights gained from women’s football in Australia.

Professional Stranger

One of the topics Nehad and I discussed was her ability to be a professional stranger in her research. As her work developed she tried to see the strange as familiar in Canberra and the familiar as strange in Al ramtha. In Canberra, she was fortunate to meet a key informant who helped with the ‘familiarity’ of the structure and practice of football. In Al ramtha, she negotiated her way sensitively through local and national networks and organisations.

She achieved all this as an English as a second language speaker. Twenty years apart, her research took me back to Gareth’s research in performance analysis. He came from a Welsh speaking household in which English was also a second language.


Photo Credits

Both photographs by Nehad Makhadmeh, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Encoding Success

Introduction: DNA and CNA

This was a remarkable week for the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) Consortium. ENCODE is an international collaboration of research groups funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) that aims to build a comprehensive parts list of functional elements in the human genome, including elements that act at the protein and RNA levels, and regulatory elements that control cells and circumstances in which a gene is active.

On the 5 September, ENCODE announced that:

The results of the ENCODE project were published today in a coordinated set of 30 papers published in multiple journals. These publications are the result of cross-consortium integrative analysis, covering more than 4 million regulatory regions in the human genome mapped as part of ENCODE. The coordinated publication set includes one main integrative paper and five other papers in the journal Nature; 18 papers in Genome Research; and six papers in Genome Biology. The ENCODE data are so complex that the three journals have developed a pioneering way to present the information in an integrated form they term “threads.” Since the same topics were addressed in different ways in different papers, the Nature ENCODE website was developed to allow readers to follow a topic through all of the papers in the ENCODE publication set. In addition to these publications, six review articles are being published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and other affiliated papers in Science, Cell, and other journals. The new Integrative Analysis page on this portal provides links and descriptive material for these publications and related analysis resources.

Back in 1990 I was intrigued to learn about the launch of The Human Genome Project. I wondered if some of the principles applied in genomics could be applied to the observation and analysis of performance in sport. Are there universals in sport that become markers for success (and failure)?

Two years after the announcement of the Genome Project I proposed the establishment of the Centre for Notational Analysis (CNA) at Cardiff Institute of Higher Education. The approximation of CNA to DNA was unintentional but did, ironically, start my search for patterns of successful behaviour in sport. In 1998 Gareth Potter became the first PhD from CNA with a thesis titled Modelling Winning Performance in Invasive Team Games.

Encoding AFL

The announcements this week about ENCODE came as I was finalising my data collection for the 2012 AFL season.

This year I looked at the scoring profiles of teams by quarter of the game.

In my data set I have 197 winners, 197 losers and 1 drawn game.

In 2012, winners scored a total of 22,178 points. Losers scored 13,982 points.

The score totals by quarters of game for winners were: 5517 (First Quarter);  5348 (Second Quarter); 5541 (Third Quarter); 5731 (Fourth Quarter).

The score totals by quarters of game for losers were: 3472 (First Quarter);  3396 (Second Quarter); 3591 (Third Quarter); 3539 (Fourth Quarter).

The season average per game for winners was: 28 (First Quarter);  27 (Second Quarter); 28 (Third Quarter); 29 (Fourth Quarter); 113 total.

The averages for winners each week were:

Week Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
W1 27 32 31 27 117
W2 30 30 31 32 123
W3 34 22 34 27 117
W4 26 19 27 18 90
W5 22 29 23 22 96
W6 26 27 28 28 109
W7 27 30 24 25 107
W8 30 29 23 31 114
W9 22 27 27 29 105
W10 29 29 25 33 117
W11 31 23 26 29 106
W12 24 24 26 26 100
W13 36 23 27 23 108
W14 31 27 30 38 125
W15 25 26 34 29 114
W16 30 26 31 35 124
W17 25 25 28 31 109
W18 37 26 32 35 130
W19 31 23 28 27 109
W20 24 25 35 32 115
W21 25 34 22 31 115
W22 27 35 26 30 118
W23 26 29 27 31 113

The season average per game for losers each week was: 18 (First Quarter);  17 (Second Quarter); 18 (Third Quarter); 19 (Fourth Quarter); 71 total.

The averages per week for losers were:

Week Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
W1 20 25 19 20 84
W2 15 13 24 15 67
W3 16 17 18 21 72
W4 15 18 14 18 64
W5 18 22 16 16 73
W6 18 22 23 12 75
W7 16 16 20 13 65
W8 15 16 21 16 67
W9 15 18 16 17 65
W10 18 18 15 15 66
W11 18 11 17 26 72
W12 16 19 18 23 77
W13 21 16 18 19 75
W14 20 13 15 19 66
W15 17 19 14 14 65
W16 23 18 18 18 76
W17 16 17 19 19 70
W18 16 14 18 20 67
W19 17 19 21 21 77
W20 19 20 20 23 82
W21 22 14 16 17 69
W22 19 15 22 17 73
W23 17 15 16 21 69

Colour Coded

Hawthorm were the Minor Premiership winners in 2012 and Greater Western Sydney were the bottom team on the Ladder.

Hawthorn’s season looked like this:


Greater Western Sydney’s:

I based my record on performance in 2012 on performance relative to 2011 AFL ranking. Greater Western Sydney were a new team in the competition and so were ranked 18th in my reference list.

The colour codes for each game are:


Winning teams have a green profile and are trying to avoid aberrant red markers. Losing teams tend to have a blue profile and are trying to gain yellow markers.

Just as in the ENCODE Project I think it is fascinating to contemplate whether all parts of the performance profile are important. This week one report observed:

The ENCODE Project has discovered that so-called “junk DNA” in the human genome is more useful than previously thought. Rather than useless remnants from our evolutionary past, half or more of human DNA act as “gene switches”, researchers found.

I hope to explore some of these trigger issues in subsequent posts.

Photo Credits

Micah’s DNA

Richmond Tigers v GWS Giants