From The Notebook, Round 4: Trends from the first month

A month into the season feels like enough time for some trends to be established.

This week’s Notebook is slightly different to normal service. Instead of two or three in-depth topics, I’ll jump around in dot point format, looking at what stands out across the league through four rounds.

It’s also the first look in 2023 at one of my favourite stats to analyse: minutes played by age. Usually – and from now on – it’s exclusively for $10 Patrons – but for this one time it’s free to look at.


Usually the Notebook will be on Monday, and always available first in the morning for those on the $5 and $10 Patreon tiers before it’s public for all on Monday night. Naturally this week is a little different given when the round finished; substitute Tuesday for Monday and it’s along the same flow.

If you’ve missed the Patreon features for subscribers, you can find them all here.

There are a handful of new features to enjoy, plus a refresh of some favourites, and simplified tiers. Here’s the link to the Patreon page.


Pittonet & De Koning’s ruck splits

In previous years, whenever Marc Pittonet and Tom De Koning have played together, the former has always been a clear number one ruck while the latter has backed him up.

Across the last three weeks there appears to be a greater willingness to change it up depending on matchups. De Koning took more of the work in Round 2 – against an athletic Geelong duo – nearly a 50-50 split in Round 3, and then Pittonet the main man in Round 4, releasing De Koning for more time forward to stretch North Melbourne’s undersized defence.

Ruck contestsRound 2Round 3Round 4
De Koning444025

Winless quarters

There are two teams without a win in a specific quarter:

– Fremantle’s first quarters: 0-4, -36 points
– Hawthorn’s third quarters: 0-4, -147 points

Undefeated quarters

On the flip side, there are three teams undefeated in a specific quarter:

– Carlton’s second quarters: 4-0, +27 points
– Essendon’s fourth quarters: 4-0, +42 points
– Melbourne’s fourth quarters: 4-0, +88 points

Melbourne’s finishing kick

Speaking of undefeated sides in a term, the Demons’ scores in last quarters this season:

4.5.29: Round 1 v Western Bulldogs
6.1.37: Round 2 v Brisbane
7.4.46: Round 3 v Sydney
5.3.33: Round 4 v West Coast

22 goals is the highest scoring quarter of any team through the first month. My suspicion is it’s their improved ball movement wearing down opponents until they break.

Brisbane defending in space

A sign of Brisbane’s defensive slippage so far this year can be found in the uncontested ball count. Teams can move and control the ball easier than the Lions would like:

Brisbane’s uncontested possession differentials

Round 1 v Port Adelaide: -127
Round 2 v Melbourne: -16
Round 3 v Western Bulldogs: -34
Round 4 v Collingwood: -42


One of the new features on here in 2023 is the ability to create your own positional depth chart for every club.

It’s available for those on the $5 and $10 tiers, and hopefully everyone finds the tool as useful as I do.

Here is where to find the page.


GWS leaking scores

After four rounds, the Giants are last by a distance in scores conceded per inside 50:

Scores conceded per inside 50%

15th: Geelong (47.2%)
16th: Hawthorn (47.8%)
17th: West Coast (50.5%)
18th: GWS – (52.6%)

The natural conclusion is ‘defence = bad’, but my read is its their ball use which is causing all sorts of problems.

Until its bedded down properly – with the inconsistency a natural by-product of playing a new way – the turnovers are coming in terrible positions that are near-impossible to defend from. For example, 17 of Essendon’s 22 behinds came from turnovers on Sunday, per AFL’s Match Centre.

Fix that area and the defensive setup will magically begin to look better.

Adelaide ramping up the scoring

The Crows’ league ranking for scores per inside 50:

2021: 13th (42.30%)
2022: 11th (42.88%)
2023, after Round 4: 1st (50.7%)

Extra proof that their shift in ball use is working so far, as discussed in last week’s Notebook.

St Kilda ramping up the defence

If I’ve calculated right, only one team has turned the ball over more often than St Kilda. Yet no team has conceded fewer points from turnovers than the Saints.

It’s how they can be (far and away) the best defensive team when it comes to scores conceded per inside 50…

Scores conceded per inside 50%

1st: St Kilda (35.8%)
2nd: Carlton (38.6%)
3rd: Fremantle (40.9%)

…and 4-0 despite struggling to score regularly from their own entries.

Scores for per inside 50%

16th: St Kilda (39.6%)
17th: Richmond (38.5%)
18th: Fremantle (38.4%)

Once I figure out which elements of St Kilda’s play will stay when the cavalry returns, I promise there’ll be a proper deep dive on their defensive setup.


If you’ve missed any recent posts on The Shinboner, you can catch up on the last five here:

Round 4: North Melbourne’s match analysis v Carlton
How contested ball is fuelling Collingwood’s leap
From The Notebook, Round 3: Brisbane, Adelaide, Mason Wood
Round 3: North Melbourne’s match analysis v Hawthorn
Fortnightly Focus: Bobby Hill, Noah Balta, Will Setterfield


The first look at minutes played by age in 2023

Without re-litigating the point, I prefer using minutes played by age rather than ‘average games’ and ‘average age’ of a team because it digs past the surface to provide more valuable information.

It’s a simple concept – track the minutes played by every player for every team, sort it by age, and now we have insight for the demographic of clubs each weekend. It ignores the veterans running around in the VFL and isn’t influenced by a heavy young population not ready for a game yet. It’s purely about the 23 who run out at AFL level.

Normally these are exclusives for $10 Patron subscribers, but for one time only they’re free. Here’s how every team looks after Round 4…

…and how that looks in a league-wide comparison, broken down into several different age groups.

Five things jump out at me from these two slideshows.

1: While Tom Lynch and Toby Nankervis’ injuries probably casts a spell over any chance of causing damage in 2023, Richmond are trying to thread the needle between transitioning out of the premiership era – half of their best 22 in their age 29 year or above – with handing the keys to the 24-26 crew. The key is probably going to be where they find their next key forward from, but aside from that there looks to be cover amongst most remaining areas.

2: Collingwood’s list is primed to go now. They hand the fourth most minutes to the age 26-28 year group, the fourth most to age 29+, and don’t have much pressure (yet) coming from 22 and under. Combine it with a game style leading the way in the AFL and it’s no wonder they’ve started so well.

3: Speaking of primed, Carlton’s is on the same level. More than two thirds of their minutes fall between the age 25-30 range.

4: Not to excuse their first four weeks, which have been largely poor, but it snuck up on me how Gold Coast are still a very young side. Perhaps I’m just getting a little bit impatient.

5: You can see what West Coast are trying to do with a youngsters + veterans approach; the latter shielding the former as they grow into AFL life. All the Eagles need for that to work is every single veteran not getting injured simultaneously.  

These graphic breakdowns are updated every fortnight from here on out and are exclusive to those on the $10 Patreon Tier. Here’s where you can subscribe.

5 thoughts on “From The Notebook, Round 4: Trends from the first month

  1. Gold Coast will be younger again next year with 3 first and second round picks through their academy. They would do well to finish no higher than 16th and pick up another top liner before bids start to come in. They will need to build on their points too, in any case, so players will be moved for draft picks.

  2. Thanks Rick, great post as usual. I’d gently push back on using the uncontested possession count as any evidence either way for defensive slippage for Brisbane.

    Obviously the differential against Port was shocking (and I think it might have been a teams lowest possession count for about a decade) but Brisbane have always been a low uncontested possession team with a very high kick-handball ratio. The differential in other games isn’t inconsistent with what they’ve done since 2019.

    My pure eye test as a fan over the last year has been that the midfield and in particular centre bounce is where Brisbane’s defensive issues can be exposed leading to significant score, but that’s not to say there aren’t issues in defensive transition or defending ball movement – but might need some more refined numbers to show it.

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