How football has changed since 2000 – by the numbers

With the 2016 regular season almost wrapped up we thought we would take a look at how it fits into the context of the ongoing statistical evolution of our game. The recent era has been one of flux, driven by the delicate interplay of improved conditioning, tactical innovation and rule changes. Below is a chart showing some key indicators of style across four main themes (disposals, stoppages, scoring, and marking):

changes1

The red and green cells show us the maximum and minimum values for each item across the period. For example, in 2016 inside-50s per game are as low as they have been at any point.

There’s a lot to comment on here, so we’ll move through each theme in turn. The charts below index each value to a base of 100 and thus show us what’s moved up and down since then.

Disposals

changes2

The game seems to have become first faster and then more pressured across the period.

Up until 2009 pace and space became the name of the game. The story of football was dominated by more kicks, more uncontested footy and more disposals per game. Disposals per game peaked at the same time as kicks per handball, with uncontested possession per contested possession also at its highest in this period.

Since then, disposal counts have dropped back a little, the story being a decline in kicks rather than handballs. The last few years have been dominated by catchcalls such as “contested disposals winning premierships”. Simultaneously, uncontested possessions declined as a share of the total, and handballs became more frequent. This can best be explained due to the following:

Stoppages

changes3

We’ve had to expand the scaling here to show the sheer magnitude of tackle count increases. Whether it’s fitness, defensive structures, tactics or the desire to apply pressure, tackling has utterly transformed the sport. There’s a possibility of a slight methodology change in this time, but nothing obvious that we have found in our research.

Tackles really started increasing in 2002 but really rocketed up after 2005, reaching a peak in 2011 of nearly 220% of their 2000 levels. This is the single most dramatic change over the period in any statistical category we looked at. If we refer above, we can see that the post-2009 era of very high tackle counts probably has a lot to do with the move to lower disposal counts and higher contested possession and handball levels. It appears that players started closing down space and protecting contests a lot better.

It’s also worth remembering this whenever you hear commentators and former players lamenting that the contents and tackling has gone from the game.

For example, we remember the 2005 grand final as a dour defensive contest, but the tackle count in that game was 62-59, 121 tackles total, below the game average for every season since 2009.

Note also the growing gap between hitouts per game and clearances per game. Hitouts and stoppages rise with tackles obviously, but this is the rise of repeated stoppages where a stoppage hitout leads to another stoppage hitout rather than a clearance. This is also likely the reason for the rise in value of ruckman who primarily specialise in hitouts, and the value to recruit tall athletes who may not have AFL experience in the past.

This season shows a sharp decline in hitouts and clearances that almost certainly reflects the changed interpretation of deliberate out of bounds, and an apprehension for most players and teams to concede easy free kicks from it.

Scoring

changes4

Actual scoring has held up remarkably well given the context of such increased pressure around the ball. Goals have declined about 20% since 2000, but only in line with declining inside-50s, and those are driven no doubt by improved tackling and stoppage defence.

Scoring shots per inside-50 are down about 5% across the period, illustrating the greater difficulty of obtaining clear scoring opportunities. Accuracy is basically flat despite all this. We’d love to know if shot difficulty has increased (Rob Younger at @figuringfooty might be able to work it out), but it likely has given the following:

Marking

changes5

Marks inside 50 per game are down 20% from 2006. This possibly explains the decline in both accuracy and scoring shots per inside-50. Defences, and defensive structures, have come a long way in a decade and a half.

Marks per game themselves are also down from a boom period between 2006 and 2011. Contested marking was as good in 2011 as it had been since 2003, but has been a bit up and down since then.

For us though, everything seems to go back to tackling. A twofold increase in tackling has to be driving a lot of other change in the sport, and we think it’s reflected in many or most of these other developments.

Since its creation and formalisation over 150 years ago, the game of Australian Football has continually changed and evolved, often to the protests of “traditionalists”. However, one of the brilliant things about football is the fact that it is a living, breathing sport, full of new ideas and advancements. At HPN we see this evolution as inevitable, and often for the best.


Things to watch this week

Shuffling the deckchairs

With Melbourne choke-failing against Carlton last week in inexplicable circumstances, the final eight is officially set. However, some interesting games present themselves this week.

GILESMENTUM returns tonight, with the Crows likely needing to win to secure at least a top two spot, with a loss putting them at jeopardy of missing the top four. If the mighty Jono Giles can lead the Eagles to victory, the Eagles will secure a home final at worst, and potentially fourth place at best (percentage differential rules them out of rising higher).

Geelong needs to win to secure a top four spot, with the possibility of going top two if results go their way. If Melbourne wins (somehow), they will finish with wins in 50% of games for the first time since decimal currency was introduced.*

For GWS to finish in the top four, they need to beat North Melbourne, and hope that one of Adelaide, Geelong or Hawthorn loses. Hawthorn are an outside chance of dropping to seventh with wins by GWS, West Coast and a 40+ point win by the Bulldogs. Finally, Sydney will finish on top with a win, and will likely not fall further than fourth (barring a massive collapse and a big GWS win).

Past games!

As well as watching this week’s games, we suggest watching some games from the recent past with these statistical evolutions in mind.

To get you started, here’s a random game from 2001 between decent tackling sides of that year. Each side had about 30 tackles and the result was close with scores well above 100:

Here’s a game from 2005 under Neil Craig, one of the better defensive sides of the modern era as per our ratings system. Again the tackle count was low and the scoring was high:

And here’s the 2010 grand final, just 6 years ago:

#bruisefreefootball


* Not factually accurate.

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HPN AFL Ratings – Round 22

As the season winds down we begin to reduce ourselves to the hackneyed “cop-in-cheap-film saying of “nothing to see here”. The Pies make a big move after smashing Gold Coast last week, but we really shouldn’t be singing the praises of teams who beat the severely injury hit Suns. The Sydney offensive rating finally pushes above league average, something that the Swans have been trending towards for the past few weeks.

Somehow, the top 4 have bunched even closer together:

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We’ll look at this in more depth next week, but there’s a real chance that this is the closest that the top four have been since 1998.

Let’s take another look at those numbers in chart form:

midoff

We can see Adelaide standing out for its offensive strength rating here, while also having one of the stronger midfield ratings. Only two sides have above-average offensive efficiency while losing the midfield battle in terms of inside-50 balance. Brisbane and Richmond both score okay once they get the ball forward, but don’t get forward enough. We suspect Jack Riewoldt and Josh Schache might have a sneaky beer to commiserate their poor fortunes.

middef.PNG

It’s worth noting GWS’ stability in these three charts – they are very even across the board, with the other teams dancing around them. Geelong also mix their extremely dominant midfield with their very strong defence, showing their real strengths this year. No team this year has managed to combine an above average midfield with a below average defence. Port Adelaide comes closest, having done well down back while breaking practically even in the midfield.

offdef

Sydney’s very good defence and barely above-average attack is the standout, with only the Bulldogs now occupying the “above average defence, below average offence” quadrant. Adelaide’s offence is placed into context with its defence here – illustrating that with roughly equal opportunity from their midfield, Adelaide should generally win. Except perhaps against Sydney.

Next week we will do an deep dive into our ratings across the year, and try to make ourselves looks silly by predicting what’s to come for the finals.

HPN #Rio2016 – Day 16 Preview

Highlight of the day

Athletics – Men’s marathon

In all of the hubris about iconic Olympic events, there’s really one that stands out alone – the marathon. The first Olympic games pushed hard to tie the modern Olympic Games to the Greece of old. The tale of Philippides, the solider who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been held off at Marathon, before promptly collapsing and dying, stuck in the minds of the first organisers.

Over time the legacy of the marathon and the Olympics was intertwined. The race distance was officially set after the 1908 Olympics and the placement of the Royal box, and the 1908 race itself was notable for the suffering of Dorando Pietri.

We could go on for days about the marathon, but we won’t try to alienate our tiny audiences anymore.

Eliud Kipchoge has run seven marathons ever, and has won six of them. In that time he has run the second fastest official time ever and won a World Marathon Series. The one time Kipchoge has been beaten it took a world record to do so, and the man to beat him (Wilson Kipsang) isn’t in Rio. There’s no reason on paper that Kipchoge should lose this race, other than than the sometimes bizarre nature of Olympic marathons, and their sheer unpredictability. There are other very strong contenders here in case Kipchoge fails to live up the hype, most notably Stanley Biwott and Lemi Berhanu. The field is relatively deep, and it was a complete surprise packet in Stephen Kiprotich from Uganda who took out the title. Kiprotich is back again in Rio, and will be one to watch again.

Probably should watch

Basketball – Men’s

If you hadn’t been paying attention to the earlier games in this tournament you’d assume that the USA will walk all over Serbia and take the gold unchallenged. But if you had been paying attention you’d know that Serbia nearly beat the US in the group stage, and have hit a rich vein of form. Miloš Teodosić has maybe been the guard of the tournament (alongside Delly and Patty Mills), with Miroslav Raduljica an unmovable force down low.

Serbia are still underdogs here, and perhaps massive ones, but they have a cohesive side, compared with the raw talent of the USA. There are few better international players than Carmelo Anthony, and this is likely his swan song in the Olympics. Add in Irving, Durant and Thompson and the array of stars is blinding.

But there is a way to victory for Serbia – based on hyper-aggressive defense and exploiting the sometimes lackadaisical effort by the US at the other end. Serbia demolished Australia in the semis by attacking Delly and Mills whenever they had the ball, and forcing Mills away from the lane.

One definitely to watch.

Volleyball – men’s

Volleyball is another sleeper pick of the Olympics, an electric sport at its best. With host nation (and volleyball obsessives) Brazil making the final, this one is set to be loud. Brazil only just got through the group stage, beating highly ranked Argentina and Russia on the way to the final. Facing the Brazilians are Italy, who beat them three sets to one in the round robin stage. Brazil are the number one ranked team in the world, and will be carried on the voices of the crowd.

Handball – Men’s

Another extremely enjoyable low-profile sport featuring a rematch of a round robin game. In the group stage, France edged out Denmark, but it was a close fought match. France are the two-time defending gold medalists and will be looking to go for the rare third straight gold, whilst Denmark have never placed at the Olympics.

Watch if it’s on

Cycling – Men’s cross-country

The most obscure and probably dullest cycling discipline to watch is the mountain bike/cross-country race. Slipped in at the end as a little coda to the bike program, it is rather strange that it was added to the Olympics given that it approaches unfilmable – a mass start, repeated laps of the same terrain, rough enough that heliocpters get heavy use and of course it’s a slow slog so not even very fast.

The top ranked racers according to UCI right now are are 2012 silver-medallist Nino Schurter, and three Frenchmen Julien Absalon, Maxime Marotte and Victor Koretzky. The 2012 gold-medallist. Ranked 5th, but the reigning gold-medallist is Jaroslav Kulhavý who is presumably still a show.

Rhythmic Gymnastics – Women’s individual

OK, the Russians will win this, but we ranked this a touch low yesterday. The shit that these athletes can do is off-the-chain. It’s a little long and convoluted for our liking, but better than synchro swimming.

Wrestling – Freestyle Men’s 65kg and 94kg

The 65kg is a very open field with Frank Chamizo and Soslan Romanov the notional top ranked entrants. The 94kg should see Anzor Boltukaev and Kyle Snyder as the gold medal fight if everything sticks to plan.

There’s a bunch of wrestlers from Dagestan and neighbouring Caucasus republics competing for different countries (Romania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan) also lurking around the draw of the 94kg in particular.

This Caucasian dominance is the case in most weight divisions of freestyle men’s wrestling, but it reaches its peak here and is worth a bit of highlighting. So far Dagestanis have claimed a gold, a silver and two bronzes variously for Russia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. Others from the northern Caucasus region have several more (two Georgians for Georgia, and Ingushetian for Turkey).

More broadly, 13 of 16 medals have so far been claimed by the six countries in the Caucasus region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia and Turkey). It appears to be something of a hotspot for the sport.

Don’t bother

Boxing – Men’s 52kg, 64kg, 91+; Women’s 75kg

As we’ve said before, Olympic boxing is both fixed and pretty damn sexist. Olympic boxing needs to be reformed. We understand if you like boxing and want to watch, but we can’t recommend something this broken.

If you do watch today, watch Claressa Shields, going for her second straight gold in the women’s 75kg class. She won her first at just 17 years old. Shields grew up in poverty in Flint, and is rewriting boxing history as we speak. The only real question is whether Shields will go pro eventually, which she should.

HPN #Rio2016 – Day 15 Preview

Highlight of the day

Handball – Women’s

Of all the Olympic sports, handball might be the most neglected. Handball has the speed of basketball, the tactics of water polo and the scoring of volleyball.

Two time defending champions Norway were knocked out in the semi-finals in overtime, by a plucky Russian squad. Russia topped Pool B, and have the best chance in their history of securing a gold medal. Between 2001 and 2009 Russia won 4 world championships, but failed to break through at Olympic level. Russia got through the pool stage undefeated but face a redux of their toughest challenge to date in the final.

France lost to Russia by a single point in the round robin stage, after surrendering five extra shots on goal during their game. France weren’t considered medal threats going into the games, but have performed extremely well to date. Russia probably goes in as a slight favourite, but a French victory would be a great underdogs story in an Olympics full of them.

The aforementioned Norway will face off against the second ranked Netherlands squad in the bronze medal playoff.

Probably should watch

Basketball – Women’s

This should be a close…

HAHAHAHAHA no the USA will dominate Spain here, like they do to every other nation every four years. The real competition to the USA here were Australia, and specifically Liz Cambage, but they were knocked out by Serbia (by only 2 points) in the quarterfinals. The US have a phenomenal amount of depth, and beat Spain by 40 points in the round robin stage. There’s no reason to believe that the tide has turned that much in the course of a week or so.

Water polo – men’s

The gold medal match is between reigning world champions and World Cup winners (those are different things) Serbia and reigning Olympic champions Croatia. With any luck we’ll get a match best described as “spiteful” between the two Balkan rivals. The Serbs struggled a bit in the group stage before hitting their stride (stroke?) but are the more recently high-credentialed team. Bronze will be between Montenegro and Italy.

Soccer – Men’s

The Olympic men’s soccer tournament can be a bit lacklustre due to its subordinate billing as an under-23 tournament compared to continental championships and World Cups. However in this particular case we get the intrigue of Brazil vs Germany for gold. That means all the fervent hopes of the host nation are for an under-23 squad to avenge the humiliation inflicted on their open age World Cup team in a forum that fundamentally doesn’t matter much to world football.

Bronze is between the far more interesting Honduras and Nigeria with Nigeria favoured strongly to win.

Golf – Women’s

This has been a surprisingly good competition, full of flows and ebbs with a top quality field. Former world number 1 Inbee Park has a two stroke lead heading into the final round, with current number one, Kiwi Lydia Ko, breathing down her neck.

Triathlon – Women’s

Triathlon is a strange watch, as each athlete seems to have a different skill set and abilities to exploit. Gwen Jorgensen is the two-time defending ITU World Series Champion, and will start as favourite. Flora Duffy has had a very strong year to date, and could be a very good news story for a small nation.

Athletics – Women’s 800m, High Jump, Women’s 4x400m; Men’s 1500m, 5000m, Javelin, 4x400m

Caster Semenya is phenomenal as an athlete, and anyone who wants to argue with this can stop reading this blog right here. Semenya will win the 800m and it will be brilliant.

The 1500m is a classic Olympic event – harking back to the old school mile. Times have moved on from the 4 minute mark, with Ronald Kwemoi qualifying fastest for the final in 3:39mins. Asbel Kiprop has the fastest time of the year and is a quality closer, with Ayanleh Souleiman a fair chance of getting a rare medal for Djibouti.

Chaunté Lowe might be the favourite in the high jump, but Inika McPherson might have the best story of the event. It’s very likely that no-one jumps higher for their height than McPherson, who stands a mere 5ft 4inches. Coming off a recent 21 month ban for cocaine use, McPherson is must-watch TV.

Mo Farah is an absolute beast, doping question marks aside. He should be the favourite here, as long as he doesn’t fall. Thomas Röhler comes in as a strong favourite in the javelin, but Keshorn Walcott uncorked a massive throw in qualifying. And both the male and female 4x400m should be fought out between the Jamaica and the USA.

Watch if it’s on

Modern Pentathlon – Men’s

The final event in the Modern Pentathlon is called the “Run & Shoot”, and it’s kind of as badass as it sounds. The format opens the door for the kinds of upset that Chloe Esposito was able to pull off last night, rising from seventh after three legs to win in the final 800m.

Unfortunately the first three legs are pretty boring. Fencing is a dull watch at the best of times, let alone outdoors with non-full time pros. The horse jumps can be interesting, but this isn’t the best of the best here. And slow swimming reminds us of the last time we tried to exercise.

But that last leg is dope. Aleksander Lesun set an Olympic record in the fencing leg, with world champ Valentin Belaud bound to provide a challenge.

Diving – Men’s 10m platform

Heading into the morning semifinals, Tom Daley had the best dives, slightly ahead of Qiu Bo and Chen Aisen and reigning gold medallist David Boudia. Aisen, Boudia and Daley were part of the gold, silver and bronze synchronised teams (China, USA, Britain respectively). Those preliminary scores get reset but anyone else winning other than those four would be a bit of a shock and the Chinese would be favourites within that grouping.

Wrestling – Men’s freestyle 86kg, 125kg

Today sees the hugest men wrestling for gold in the 125kg division. Two-time reigning world champion Taha Agkul will be favourite, and Geno Petriashvili is a rising 22 year old and probably the best comeptition to him. Jamaladdin Magomedov is slightly older and Biyal Makhov is ranked 2 in the woeld. Those four should be your gold threats.

In the lighter 86kg division Abdulrashid Sadulaev is the most dominant favourite in men’s freestyle wrestling, having essentially not lost for three years. Selim Yasar is considered the only one likely to last the distance with him.

Badminton – men’s singles

The two top seeds, Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long, won through to the gold medal match and the third and fourth seeds, Lin Dan and Viktor Axels, play for bronze. So that’s rather neat. Well done seeders.

Volleyball – women’s indoor

2nd ranked in the world China meet 6th ranked Serbia in a bit of a shock turnup for this tournament. Out of the group stage these teams collectively won 5 of their ten games and finished 3rd and 4th, with China winning 2 and losing 3. In the knockouts the Chinese rallied to get through 3rd-ranked Brazil and 14th-ranked Netherlands but the Serbians had to upset the 1st and 4th ranked Americans and Russians to get here.

Bronze is the Netherlands versus the USA.

Canoe Sprint – Men’s canoe doubles 1000m, Men’s kayak single 200m, Men’s kayak four 1000m, Women’s kayak four 500 m

The last day of paddling boats unless something funky happens in the sailing or the weather isn’t right.

The FREAKING NORSE GODS ARE COMING TO SAVE THE FREAKING DAY canoe doubles is the only time you can see two men standing atop their boats, knee up, paddling the same boat stoically with a single oar. OBSERVE HOW AWESOME THEY LOOK WHILE DOING SO. Brazil and Germany auto-qualified and are favourites while Ukraine qualified fastest through the semi-finals.

The 200m kayak is a mad dumb sprint and the two fastest qualifiers, Liam Heath and Maxime Beaumont came through in the identical times of 34.32 seconds but we assume in a race this short a bunch of other guys might jag it through the tiny viccissitudes of short term fate instead.

In the fours, the Hungary and Belarus women were autoqualifiers and in the men’s Czechia and Germany both got home in the two heats well ahead of any rivals.

Don’t bother

Boxing – Men’s 56kg, 75kg; Women’s 51kg

OK, we’ve stopped caring about boxing now. It’s both fixed and pretty damn sexist. We suggest you stop caring too. We appreciate the effort the athletes are putting in, and aren’t trying to demean them, but Olympic boxing needs to be reformed.

Taekwondo – Men’s 80+kg, Women’s 67+kg

The more Taekwondo  we watch, the less of it we want to watch. If there’s one Olympic sport that should get the axe, this is it. BRING BACK PANKRATION!!!

Favourites are Espinoza and Galloway in the 67+kg, and Shokin and Mardani in the 80+kg

Rhythmic Gymastics – Women’s individual

One of the more bizarre showings and we suspect its existence at the Olympics is, historically, a sop to the communist world. There’s no men’s rhythmic and the gender role enforcement is strong enough that men’s floor routines in the normal artistic gymnastics don’t even use music.

Explainer: The sport involves dancing and doing flexibility and balance things while using the weapon specified in each event (clubs, ribbon, ball, and hoop) and then at the end the Russians win.

HPN Rio 2016 Day 14 preview

Highlight of the day

Cycling – Women’s individual BMX, Men’s individual BMX

OK – we’ve gone heavy on cycling so far, but we promise you that the BMX is worth it. After the qualifying run, three quarterfinals and three semifinals, the whole thing comes down to one freaking run over a track that looks like it was ripped from Excitebike. A slipped pedal or incidental contact could kill four (or more) years of hard work.

Caroline Buchanan missed out on a medal entirely in London, and has geared her last four years to this less-than-one minute. The London champ, Mariana Pajón is the favourite here, but anyone who makes it through to the final should have a shot

The big news in the men’s is the two time Olympic champ Maris Stromberg and defending world champion Joris Daudet were both knocked out in the quartefinals. Sam Willoughby had a near-flawless QF stage, and has performed on the big stage before. Connor Fields should challenge him all the way.

Probably should watch

Athletics – Men’s 50km walk, Women’s 20km walk, Women’s pole vault, Men’s hammer throw, Women’s 5000m, Women’s 4x100m relay, Men’s 4x100m relay

The belated 2012 gold medallist Jared Tallent pulled out of the 20km walk due to injury so his performance in the 50km race walk will be interesting. World record-holder Yohann Diniz would have to be considered a strong chance, clocking the fastest 2016 time after returning from a long term injury, and no doubt keen to atone for missing the finish in the previous two Olympics. However in an event loaded with disqualifications the field is a pretty open one.

The 20km women’s walk, too, is fairly open behind world champion and world record holder Liu Hong who is undefeated in over a year. Hong was banned in secretive circumstances for one month this year for testing positive to a specified dietary supplement called higenamine – that substance also caused some confusion over conflicting advice with UEFA footballer Mamadou Sakho. The gold and silver medallists from London were both Russians implicated in doping, one has been stripped of her medal so far. The best chances for an upset are Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez and Shijie Qieyang whose best 2016 times are within 1 minute of Hong’s and who beat her at London (her initial bronze behind the two Russians has since become silver).

Almaz Ayana blitzed the 5000m field by 13 seconds in the heats after already claiming the 10000m gold by 15 seconds. She will be very hard to beat. Senbere Teferi, Vivian Cheruiyot and Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal ran nearly identical times in those heats and Yasemin Can will also fancy her chances at a medal. Three Ethiopian runners including Ayana and Teferi swept the mdeals in the 2015 world championships and the pair may well quinella this. Cheruiyot’s Kenyan compatriots Hellen Obiri and Mercy Cherono are also medal chances, being the second, third and fourth fastest so far in 2016 races.

The women’s pole vault saw Ekaterini Stefanidi pass the automatic qualifying mark at her first vault of the meet, coming in with hot form with four competition wins in the Diamond League this year. Sandi Morris has the best vault in 2016 prior to the games. Those two probably loom as the two strongest contenders, but not by a huge amount. As in the men’s this will be a very open event decided by tiny margins.

The men’s hammer has been thrown wide open by the shock exit of two-time world champion, Paweł Fajdek who had been a very short-priced favourite after being undefeated in over a year. Rattled by a foul throw and a poor second effort, struggling with the heat and perhaps with memories of three foul throws destroying his Games at London, he didn’t throw far enough in his final attempt to make the final. His compatriot Wojciech Nowicki throw over a metre clear of any other qualifier, and Ivan Tsikhan hit automatic qualifying with his first attempt. Outside of those two, Dilshod Nazarov stands a chance of winning Tajikistan’s first ever gold and the local Walter Domingos is an outside chance.

Both 4x100m relays are basically USA Jamaica. The women’s 4×100 nearly saw a huge boilover with the USA favourites missing  a baton change in their heat. The incident was correctly ruled obstruction by an errant competitor’s elbow and they ran the fastest qualifying time in a hastily organised solo heat. Whether the extra run dampens their pace in the final remains to be seen.

Usain Bolt aims for another gold (helping to replace the 2008 relay one he’s looking like losing due to Nesta Carter’s doping sanction) within the Jamaican team. The US team is loaded with depth but has historically had problems with the baton transitions, battling a substantial failure rate since 2000. Jamaica ran second to a red-hot Japan in the heats, leaving the Japanese looming as a potential spoiler.

Water polo – Women’s finals

Often water polo is called the handball of the water – which is broadly right, if it was also the wrestling of the water as well. Put simply, water polo is brutal and occasionally brilliant to watch.

Hockey – Women’s finals

In the gold medal match, the Netherlands and Great Britain compete for gold, with the formidable number 1 ranked Dutch lineup likely to beat the 7th ranked England team (the GB women’s team contains no Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland players).

The Kiwis will start favourites against Germany for bronze.

Soccer – Women’s finals

The women’s soccer is one of the showcases of the Olympics from a team sports perspective. The Olympics is the absolute pinnacle of the game. This final sees surprise packets Sweden, behind an extremely effective counter-punching strategy, face off against favourites Germany. A lot of US fans are hilariously salty at Sweden for knocking them out through underhanded strategies such as “defending”, which is reason enough to go for the women in blue and yellow here.

The bronze will be contested between Brazil and Canada.

Wrestling – Men’s freestyle 57 kg, Men’s freestyle 74 kg

The tension in wrestling can be something to behold, even if not quite up to Judo standard.

Hassan Rahimi and Vladimer Khinchegashvili contested the 57kg gold at the most recent world championships and come in as the top two seeds whi;e the veteran Yowlys Bonne is apparently a particularly entertaining contender to watch. Lurking deep in the seedings is one of those elusive North Korean, Kyong-Il Yang who won the 2014 woirld championships.

Jordan Burroughs is the top seed in the 74kg having won two of the last three world championships and the gold in London. Aniuar Geduev is his closest rival but they’ll meet well before the medal rounds with the loser relgated to the repechage for bronze. Pürevjavyn Önörbat took silver to Burroughs last year and it might be him or Hassan Yazdani from the bottom half of the draw..

In a notably bizarre case, the Indian outside medal chance Narsingh Yadav was yesterday banned for four yearsafter the Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted WADA’s appeal and rejected his locally successful argument that his two positive steroid tests were “sabotage” by rivals.

Watch if it’s on

Badminton – Women’s singles, Men’s doubles

Carolina Marin takes on Pusarla Venkata Sindhu in a matchup between 1st vs 9th seed. Sandhu would be aiming win either India’s tenth ever Olympic gold medal and second since Moscow. Either way it would be the highest place so far attained by an Indian athlete at the Rio Games. The bronze match is 3rd seed Li Xuerui vs 6th seed Nozomi Okuhara.

In the men’s doubles (as we prematurely noted yesterday) sees a string of upsets in the doubles pit unseeded Malaysia against fourth seed China for the gold while Great Britain won the bronze.

Modern pentathlon – Women

We planned on having a massive rant here about how stupid “modern” pentathlon based on 19th century soldiery is in the current day…but you’ll have to wait. OUR TAKES ARE TOO HOT FOR A FRIDAY AFTERNOON. In the meantime, watch the final event of this and pretty much nothing else – it’s the biathlon of the dry land.

Oktawia Nowacka is leading after the fencing and Lena Schoneborn and Elodie Clouvel are betting favourites.

Taekwondo – Women’s 67 kg, Men’s 80 kg

Taekwondo is the ancient art of trying to spin kick people in the face then issuing video scoring challenges. The electronics are intriguingly augmented this time, though, with force gauges coming up on the screen with kick strengths.

In the men’s 80kg class the athlete to watch is the Moldovan athlete Aaron Cook. If you think that Aaron Cook doesn’t sound like a traditionally Moldovan name, you’d be right. After being inexplicably overlooked for selection in his home Olympics in 2012, despite being ranked number 1 in the world, Cook changed nationalities to Moldova thanks to the help of a friendly billionaire. Cook is seeded 2nd here, and it’s hard for us to barrack against him. Mahdi Khodabakhshi, the current world champion, is the biggest obstacle in his path to destiny.

In the women’s 67kg class, Chuang Chia-chia is the defending world champ, but only seeded third here. Elin Johansson and Haby Naire are ranked first and second, and Oh Hye-ri is from South Korea and can not be written off for that reason.

Don’t bother

Boxing – Women’s light 60 kg

Check this out (paraphrased at Wikipedia from this Vice article):

From the 2016 Summer Olympics, male athletes no longer have to wear protective headgear in competition, due to a ruling by the AIBA and the IOC that it contributes to greater concussion risk. Female athletes will continue to wear the headgear, due to “lack of data” on the effectiveness of it on women.

Fuck boxing.

Synchronised swimming – Women’s

We’re not going to say much here, because making jokes about synchronised swimming is like shooting multiple fish at the same time in several barrels. Synchronised swimming is definitely a real sport, and is very tough sport, it just isn’t that good to watch. Russia currently leads China in the standings.

Equestrian – Individual jumping

We watched three seconds of this the other day and the commentator said “And the German is the number one athlete in the world.” Surely the horse is the athlete here? I mean if you put that rider on a random horse it’s not jumping shit. The horse, with a different rider, probably would cruise over that same shit like no-one business. We assume the horse under the unnamed German will win.

Round 22 – the “premiership quarter” really is the premiership quarter

At HPN, we don’t have a great acceptance of conventional football beliefs that aren’t backed by hard evidence. Cliches are often repeated by the football commentariat without much thought to where they originated, or whether they originated in fact.

And if we had a dollar for every time we’d heard the phrase “premiership quarter” breathlessly spouted by an ex-footballer drowning in his own flop sweat, we’d be very rich men indeed.

So we thought we’d take some time to see if the third quarter is really the premiership quarter, or if it was the fanciful creation of a television pundit short on content for the week.

quarter by quarter

On the top two charts here we’ve used the post-finals ladder to check finals performance and not necessarily home and away performance, which is important because we’re looking for premiership performances, and not minor premier performances.

Sometimes data surprises you. Logic would indicate that the most important quarter is the final one, as it is the one that ultimately sorts the winners from the losers. But, as clearly indicated above, the true quarter of dominance for eventual premiers is the third quarter. Indeed, the second quarter is often more important to the best team rather than the last, which makes you question why. Over the last six seasons the eventual preliminary finalists have had an inferior 4th quarter performance to the previous two quarters, indicating that good teams take their foot off the gas once a game is won, and there’s little left to lose in real terms.

Conversely, a lot of the higher ranked non-finalist  teams tend to do better in the final quarter, and the less important first, where the game often can’t truly be won. This is probably the stuff of “plucky”and “gallant” performances so often associated with decent non-finalist sides.

qtrs1

It’s also interesting that the second best team in the third quarter tends to be the third placed side on the ladder, whilst grand final losers have tended to do worse in the third quarter. Perhaps third place post-finals is often occupied by a side as good as the runner-up, the best team who slipped up along the way.

qtrs2

This season Adelaide has the best record in the third quarter, followed closely by Sydney and GWS. Hawthorn, by contrast, has only won 12 out of its 20 premiership quarters.

Sometimes it’s great to put together and analyse data and be completely surprised, as we were above.

Things to watch

1. The Opponent-adjusted Coleman Race

Earlier this year we took a look at adjusting the Coleman race by the defensive stinginess of goalkickers’ opponents and how they fared agains ttop 8 sides versus bottom 10 sides. At that point we identified Josh Jenkins as upping his output against top sides and having been more valuable than then-leader Lance Franklin.

Here’s an updated table of every goalkicker over 35 goals this year, and how much their opponents impact on their scoring:

oppadj.PNG

Josh Jenkins still holds up better than most other big forwards, but is now bested by Tom Hawkins and Toby Greene. Toby Greene, this year at least, emerges right now as king of the big game, kicking 2.1 goals per game against top 8 sides and 1.8 goals against the rest. This fits his talented dirtbag persona to a tee, we feel.

Down the other end, Josh Kennedy continues to look a bit flat-tracky, with other forwards whose output declines markedly against quality opponents including Chad Wingard, Luke Breust and especially Tim Membrey.

Tim Membrey has emerged this season as a sort of patron saint of flat-track bully forwards. He has a nearly 60% decline in output against top 8 sides relative to the bottom ten. He has kicked four bags of five against bottom sides in a season that looks like this:

membrey.PNG

Moving to an adjusted Coleman ladder, we again find our leader differs from the raw goal tally frontrunner:

adjcoleman.PNG

Yep, this time it’s Lance Franklin out in front of current Coleman winner-apparent Josh Kennedy. Jenkins is also nipping at their heels due to his more valuable goals.

Watch the next two weeks and see if:

  • Kennedy can defy the labels and dine out against quality opponents in West Coast and Adelaide)
  • Whether Jenkins can keep up his record by only going okay against Port and then a fair bit better against West Coast
  • How much Franklin’s vaunted move up the field impacts his output against North Melbourne and GWS, games which will scale decently.

2. Magic Number

This one is really easy, and really brief now. There’s no need for a graph or a chart.

If North Melbourne wins either of their last two games, they make the finals. They also make the finals if Melbourne or St Kilda lose either of their games. Or if St Kilda fails to win both games by about 20 goals.

It is conceivable that Melbourne wins the last two games of its schedule, but it is unlikely and they still have a percentage gap to make up. Still, it would be a remarkable fall if North managed to miss the finals after their hot start to the season.