Maths predicts your footy team’s fate

  Last updated October 25, 2019 at 3:18 pm


If you’re worried about how your favourite footy player’s injury will impact the team’s ladder ranking, a new formula might lend some insight.

afl_football_sport team

West Coast Eagles after their 2018 Grand Final win. Credit: Cameron Spencer/AFL Media/Getty Images

In a first for Australian football, a Deakin researcher has developed a formula to determine the impact of AFL player injuries on where a team is likely to finish at the end of the season.

It investigates the relationship between AFL teams losing their most valuable players to injury and their ladder position – and ultimately their chances of making the finals.

The cost of injury comes down to a player’s importance

PhD candidate Daniel Hoffman from Deakin University looked at 15,289 injuries causing players from 18 teams to miss 51,331 matches between 1997 and 2016, using data provided by the AFL and its clubs.

He was able to work out a formula that addresses the cost of the injury to a team by weighting a player’s injury against their importance to the team.

Hoffman analysed the associations among injury measures and team performance in reaching the finals series and where teams would finish on the ladder.

The study found that if a team’s 10 most valuable players missed a combined total of 27 matches, the team would typically finish 9th or lower, resulting in missing the finals series.

Then, for every player in the top 10 most valuable players that missed nine matches in a season through injury, the team would lose one ladder place.

Player match availability weighted by player value was higher for finalists than non-finalists and explained seven per cent of the variation in the ladder position of teams.

Finally, it was found that teams where no valuable players missed a match in the season were 12 per cent more likely to play in the finals series.

A formula for AFL teams to use

It seems pretty straightforward – when less key players were lost to injury, a team would perform better and ultimately go further up the ladder.

But, Hoffman says his study removes any guesswork and includes a formula teams can use through the season to predict ladder position based on injuries.

“We know that injury does influence team performance, and this study supports what we already know.”

“But what’s important is these findings give coaches more accurate data on where to focus resources in booking their team a place in the finals,” he says.

The full report can be found here.


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