The 2022 AFL Continuity Rankings

At this time of the year, with season previews popping up left, right and centre, there tends to be a few trusty cliches involved.

“Team X has lost <several hundred games> of experience”
“After delisting <insert number of players>, Team Y have a different looking list”

Technically they’re both true, but it doesn’t really tell us much about how a team’s output is going to change from one year to the next.

For instance, if someone’s had a 15-year career, how much do their decade-old games change a list in 2022? Or if Team Y delists 12 players but half of them hadn’t featured at senior level, what’s the true picture for how the on-field product is affected?

Hopefully this alternative helps paint a clearer picture.

(It does for me anyway, at the very least)

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An interlude. For those who missed Monday’s announcement, I’m trialling a Patreon for the 2022 season. In an ideal world that will let me do much more this year than in previous, and who knows – maybe it can become a permanent thing depending on the take up.

Here’s the link for all the explanation, benefits for signing up, and also how to actually sign up. That last part seems important.

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For those who remember last year’s list management tools post – available exclusively for $10 Patrons from March 1! – a key feature was breaking down the total minutes played by age across each club.

Gathering that information left me with each player’s individual tally for 2021, all just sitting unused in a spreadsheet. Then I realised how to use it, blatantly lifting from John Schuhmann’s yearly NBA piece on this same topic of continuity.

Subtract the delisted players’ output from the 2021 total and you’re left with the percentage of minutes a team carries over into 2022. Simple.

So without any further ado, here are the 2022 AFL Continuity Rankings:

A handful of numbers and teams jump out at me after looking at the graphic. In order from top to bottom:

Melbourne: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Although there’s the intangible of a premiership hangover to account for, bringing back nearly 98% of your minutes from a flag winning year is an astronomical amount, and an excellent foundation to build from in 2022.

From an age point of view, there shouldn’t be any drop off when you consider how their minutes were allocated in 2021.

Geelong: Here is a prime example of a cliche mentioned at the top of this piece. Geelong said farewell to 10 players from their 2021 list – only Hawthorn changed more – yet the Cats still rank fifth for most returning minutes.

Lachie Henderson’s minutes are more than double the other nine departures combined, making him the only significant departure from last year’s on-field product.

Of course, that doesn’t magically wave away all the remaining questions about their list and where they’ll be able to get another 20ish games from Joel Selwood, Tom Hawkins and Isaac Smith at the same level we’ve been so accustomed to, let alone others on the wrong side of 30.

But it’s still February, let’s save the well-worn ‘Geelong = old’ topic for another time.

West Coast: For the record, if/when Jack Darling doesn’t return, the Eagles drop to 17th on this list at 84.7%. Moving right along…

Carlton: Although the Sam Walsh knee injury and Harry McKay foot concern has taken some gloss off proceedings, this is a fascinating spot. Although the Blues rank last in terms of continuity, there’s a strong case to be made they won’t be any worse than 2021, injuries permitting.

A full season of Charlie Curnow (fingers crossed) and Marc Pittonet offset anything lost in the key forward and ruck positions, while a budding army of small forwards will get their turns to replace Eddie Betts, Michael Gibbons and Marc Murphy’s output.

Adam Cerra and George Hewett should instantly improve Carlton’s midfield substantially on 2021’s offering, in turn freeing up the front half rotations to be further defined. If there are clearly defined roles on both sides of the ball, the improvement will be noticeable.

The x-factor is how quickly Carlton bed down Michael Voss’ new defensive system. If – if – it takes well, the loss of Liam Jones can largely be offset. To put it another way, I’ll leave you with this: Jacob Weitering is indisputably one of the best defenders in the league. Now imagine what he could do with a functioning setup ahead of him.

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