UPDATE: For those finding this article via search, the five comparison graphs are now regularly updated on the List Management page, exclusive to $10 Patrons.
Long-term readers will remember this concept from last year when these list management tools were first introduced.
The concept is simple: in the age of the medical sub, judging experience and demographics purely on games played misses the important context of how much time players actually spend on the field.
For example, Melbourne’s Toby Bedford has 13 appearances to his name this year. However, seven of them are as an unused substitute. Using the number 13 doesn’t tell a complete story.
Instead, figuring out how many minutes each player has played paints a more accurate picture of who’s contributing. Over on the List Management page, it’s been broken down team by team, but today’s post digs a little deeper.
How does one team compare to another? Are there accepted narratives which don’t match with reality? Can these be used as a predictor for future list moves?
Get ready for a handful of charts, trends, and interpretations.
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To reference the List Management page for the third time in 200 words, those familiar will know of the team demographics, split into three age groups.
That’s our starting point here. Introducing chart number one, a league-wide comparison of team minutes played by those 22 years old and under:
With a positive lens, my two standouts here are Fremantle and Sydney. Elsewhere it goes largely as expected with Adelaide and North Melbourne the top two, plus Gold Coast and Essendon in the top five as well.
But for the Swans (29%) and Dockers (27.3%) to give this many minutes to younger players, when their best football is in the top tier, is a promising sign for the future.
The fun part is they’re both playing distinctly different styles. One minimises risk in possession (Fremantle) and the other embraces it (Sydney). Contrasts always make for a more entertaining watch and it’s what we’ll get next week when they clash at Optus Stadium.
Here’s where things start to get fun. Between the age 23 and 28 years, it’s where most teams understandably distribute the bulk of their minutes.
Carlton are well out in front of this metric, the only team past 70 percent. Geelong are at the other end, with literally half as many minutes.
It all seems straight forward on the surface, but when looking at this for the first time I had one nagging thought, specifically with Carlton and St Kilda.
Although they’re similar on this chart, it felt like there was a missing piece. If I figured it out, it’d make for a deeper look into the list profile of each team – and the rest of the league.
Then the brainwave hit me – let’s break this 23 to 28 section down into two smaller parts.
For those who have missed any posts or podcast appearances over the last week, here’s where to catch up:
The 23-25 age range needs a catchy title, but unfortunately I’m not Bill Simmons and don’t have a knack for these sorts of things.
Let’s go with ‘pre-prime’. Carlton, pushing 50 percent (48.51 to be exact) are miles ahead of the next (Hawthorn, 37.3).
Much of it is based on the Blues’ excellent 2015 draft (Weitering, McKay, Curnow, Silvagni) and supplemented by players brought in from elsewhere (Cerra, Young, Kennedy). Half of the best 22 falls into this range; a promising sign of things to come.
Notice how St Kilda, so high in the 23-28 area, has dipped the other way when it’s constricted to 23-25. That means…
Allow me to be Captain Obvious for a moment: If you have a high portion of minutes in this area – and a low portion in the under 22 section – you’re hoping to be a top four contender.
St Kilda probably top out at, maybe, a semi-final side as currently constructed? There are much worse places to be (says the North Melbourne fan), but it’s this list demographic which makes them a sneaky, under-the-radar fascinating team for where they choose to go next.
Melbourne’s high number comes largely from their age 26 year and six players. However, only three of them – Petracca, Brayshaw and Neal-Bullen came through the National Draft as 18-year-olds. The others arrived either via trade – Langdon and Lever – or as a mature-age selection, as Fritsch did in the 2017 National Draft.
It’s then rounded out by Harmes, Salem, Hunt and Viney.
Which leaves one more chart to look at. It’s time for experience.
If you’ve missed it, new features continue to be added to the Patreon-exclusive pages. A reminder:
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No matter how tedious it is to say Geelong = old, it still makes me chuckle at how drastically different their approach is to everyone else. They’re nudging 55 percent in this metric, and no-one else hits 40.
For me, Collingwood are the notable standout when numbers are sorted like this. They’re around mid-table for minutes under 22, second from bottom in both the 23-28 and 23-25 range, and second for 29+.
Almost everything has gone to plan for them this year, right down to a 6-3 record in games decided by 15 points or less (note: it’s 5-1 if you narrow it down to 12 points or less, but considering there have been two losses by 13 points, I’ve expanded it to ensure the full context is captured).
They’ve cemented three best 22 locks (N Daicos, Ginnivan, Henry) under 22 and not had to deal with many key injuries in areas without cover. The areas where they’ll need to improve soon are clear, which should make for a common sense approach in the off-season. The approach to McStay doesn’t quite jibe with that, but that’s a conversation for another time.
These charts will soon be added to the List Management page as links so they’re easily downloadable, and will be updated every few weeks until the end of the home and away season.
(If you’d like these age charts broken down into any other specific age groups, hit me up over on Twitter.)