Episodes in a contested AFL game: an example from Round 7 in 2016



Yesterday, I discussed the Gold Coast versus Melbourne AFL game from Round 7 of the 2016 AFL season.

Today I am looking at a game in Round 7 that was contested over three of the four quarters of the game, Richmond versus Hawthorn.

I had anticipated that Hawthorn would win this game.

This is the scoring chart for the game from the AFL website:


A Contest

I think this is an excellent example of a contested game in which momentum shifts from one team to another until in the fourth quarter, Hawthorn breaks away and dominates the game.

In each of the first, second and third quarters, Richmond leads the game:

  • Start to 13.11 (1Q)
  • 11.03 to 21.41 (2Q)
  • 12.34 to 19.57  (3Q)

Hawthorn’s responses came:

  • 13.12 to 21.13 (1Q)
  • 21.42 to 30.28 (2Q)
  • 19.58 to 29.36 (3Q)


Momentum Shift

There were nine points between the teams going into the final quarter (Richmond 71, Hawthorn 80).

Richmond is one of the four teams who had overcome a nine point or greater deficit at three quarter time to win this season (in Round 1). Ironically, Hawthorn has been involved in two games when they have come from behind at the end of the third quarter (Rounds 3 and 5). Hawthorn has been tied at the end of the third quarter too (Round 4).

Hawthorn dominated the first 11.44 minutes of the final quarter and then closed out the game from 19.10 onwards.

As with yesterday, I am interested in the interaction between on-field performance and off-field coach observations.

The AFL text commentary noted in the third quarter:


and later in the quarter:


When Hawthorn scored a behind at 6.57 in the final quarter, I identified this as a tipping point in the game. Hawthorn now lead by 22 points and it is a moment of no return for Richmond. They must respond. They do equal Hawthorn’s scoring over the next 12 minutes (1 goal and 1 behind each) but are then overwhelmed by four Hawthorn goals in five minutes. In this phase of the game Hawthorn amplified their momentum and Richmond were unable to dampen it.


A game theoretic approach to performance

My interest in observing AFL is part of my fascination with finding ways to share stories of performance in real-time and lapsed-time.

It would have been interesting to hear the end of third quarter conversations between coaches and players for both teams. It would have been informative to hear player talk in the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter too.

These voices would form part of what Philippe Mongin (2009) calls A Game-Theoretic Analysis . In that paper he writes:

military campaigns provide an opportunity for successful application of the formal theories of rational choice. Generalizing the argument, we finally investigate the conflict between narrative accounts – the historians’ standard mode of expression – and mathematical modeling.

This seems a potentially rich way to explore performance.

In the post match conference, the Hawthorn coach is quoted:

We started to win the ball a little bit better from clearances and, in the early part of the game in particular, Richmond were really strong out of the centre bounce. In the last part of the game that started to flow our way. We started to think if we could get enough supply we could kick a big enough score to win, but we didn’t anticipate that it was going to open up like that.

The Richmond coach:

We were disappointed to go down like we did in the last quarter. We were just belted around in clearances and contested ball that last quarter and they just controlled the ball. The first three quarters I thought were commendable. Our effort and intensity was there and we played some pretty good footy. It was probably a game where we had a couple of opportunities during the third (quarter). I thought we didn’t capitalise enough. (We) just had some bits of play where Hawthorn were too classy and made sound decisions, whereas we probably coughed it up and turned the ball over.

Both coaches’ observations raise some fascinating issues around player-led on-field initiatives and decision-support conversations in the coaches’ box.

Contested games give us an opportunity to travel between the stories coaches’ construct and the data that informs their construction.

A great round of AFL for conversations about performance.

Photo Credits

Cats v Hawks (James D Photography, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Richmond vs Melbourne rnd4 (Rachel Hofton, CC BY 2.0)

Melbourne Cricket Ground 1870-75 (Robert Smith, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

AFL 2014 Qualifying Final 1: Geelong v Hawthorn


Geelong and Hawthorn meet this evening in the first qualifying final of the 2014 AFL season.

The teams have met twice during the regular season.

Game 1

Scores By Quarter (Geelong won 106 v 87)

Game 1

Game 2

Scores By Quarter (Hawthorn won 94 v 71)

Game 2

The comparative rhythm of points scoring for both teams during the whole season has been:

HvG Season

The performances of both teams against the season’s average winning score of 104 points and the average losing score of 69 points have been:


Geelong 2014


Hawthorn 2014


This a great game to start the AFL Finals. Data over the whole season suggest to me a Hawthorn win. I am mindful that both teams are great rivals with a history of very competitive games.

Photo Credits

Hawthorn v Geelong at the G (Mal Booth, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

312246866.jpg (Craig Sillitoe, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Hawthorn did win (104 v 68).

Scores By Quarter

HG PF 14



Visualising Actual Performance Compared to Predicted Performance


The Sydney Moderns Exhibition in general, and Roy de Maistre in particular, have sent me off thinking about visualisation this week.

I have been wondering if I can combine my interest in the impact of a team’s ranking on performance with a narrative form that has a visual impact.

Thanks to an alert from my son, Sam, my colour search was transformed by the ColourLovers site. I was able to use their palette tool to explore HTML Colour Codes.

I decided to create two single hue palettes, one for winning (blue) and one for losing (red) performance. The ColourLovers palette enables the user to set the hue (H value), its intensity (saturation) (S value) and the darkness of the colour (V value).

I chose a blue hue for winning performance. The information about the hue includes: the Hex Code; the Red (R), Green (G) and Blue (B) values and the HSV values:

Win Code

and a red hue for losing:

Lose Palette

I have used the performance of two AFL teams in the regular 2013 season to explore the impact colour might have on visualising performance.

Hawthorn and Richmond

Hawthorn were the minor premiers in 2012 and repeated this performance in the 2013 season.

With their number 1 ranking for the 2013 season, this was the prediction of their performance (a completely blue profile):


The darker the blue (indicated by higher saturation values) the closer Hawthorn’s opponents are to them in ranking.

Hawthorn’s actual performance was:

H Actual

The darker the red, the closer the team defeating Hawthorn was in ranking terms. The loss to Richmond was a very interesting result. Richmond were a significantly lower ranked team but as the visualisation of their season below indicates, they were very competitive in 2013.

A comparison of Hawthorn’s predicted and actual season underscores how comprehensive their minor premiership win was.

H Compare

Richmond were ranked 12th in the 2012 regular season. The prediction for 2013 based on this ranking was:

R Predict

The darker blue and red hues indicate a close proximity to teams in terms of ranking. This prediction suggested two wins in the first eight games with an opening game against Carlton ranked two positions above Richmond.

Richmond’s actual performance was five wins starting with a first round defeat of Carlton:

R Actual

The comparison of the predicted and actual indicates how much Richmond improved this season:

R Compare

This comparison prompts me to think about Richmond’s progress by defeating teams ranked near to them.  These colours have high saturation figures and appear as darker colours in the graphic. The highlight is the light blue colour of the win against Hawthorn in Round 19.


This is a first attempt to explore my use of colour in visualsation. I am hopeful that a narrative is present in these visualisations. I have made a conscious decision to use a single hue for winning (blue) and for losing (red). I think the Hawthorn images indicate how successful their season was. After a Round 1 defeat, they followed their predicted path (based on ranking) to Round 15.

I hope that the Richmond visualisations indicate a change in their fortunes in 2013. Their season was a much bluer season that predicted. They were able to defeat closely ranked rivals. Their victory against Hawthorn in Round 19 was one of the performances of the season for me.

I look forward to developing this use of colour whilst being mindful of the excellent advice available about what constitutes better practice.

Photo Credit

Sydney Moderns Catalogue Cover (Art Gallery of NSW)