Predictions are dangerous before every season, but AFL pundits were united on one thing this year: scores were going up.
The unanimous view was based in large part on the flurry of rule changes introduced by the AFL, all designed to make the game flow more freely. The big ones were the new 6/6/6 rule, the adjustments for kick-ins and fifty-metre penalties, and the softening of “hands in the back” interpretation.
The changes were designed with a few goals in mind:
- To make the game move faster
- To open up the field and give players more room to move and dispose of the ball
- To make it easier for teams to attack quickly through the centre corridor
- To increase scoring
- To reward marking players in contests
So the expectation was that scores would go up. While four rounds is only a small sample, it’s fair to say the drop in scores has been quite noticeable.
What do the numbers say?
First of all… yes: scoring is down. It’s the lowest it’s been over the past five seasons, and down four points on last season.
But of course, we don’t yet have the full season for 2019. Is there something in the early season that leads to lower scores than overall? Are defences perhaps more effective early in the season? Let’s look at like-versus-like.
There it is: scores are generally HIGHER in the early part of the season. Last year, the first four rounds were ten points higher than the entire season (176 versus 166). And it’s a trend – it’s been that way every season across the five years, other than 2015 when it was level on 173.
That’s all well and good… but we care about the betting impact. Changes in scoring are fine. But if the bookies adjust for them, it really makes no difference either way. The under/over line is a moving target.
In theory, the total points under/over market should be a 50/50 proposition. This season, the unders is running at a massive 64%, indicating the market definitely haven’t adjusted for the lower scores – not yet, anyway.
As an interesting aside, it’s not a 50/50 proposition overall… since 2015 the closing under/over market has run at 55% in favour of the unders. It’s just that this year, it’s gone to a new level.
So has the market adjusted? Clearly not. As the numbers below show, over the course of a season, the under/over market aligns itself with the move in scoring. If scoring goes down, the market does too.
To date this season, it’s been in direct contrast. The market has gone up by 4 points, while actual scoring has come down by 4 points.
Finally… which clubs are most responsible for the unders trend to date in 2019?
Just as an observation, there would appear to be some correlation between that table and who has surprised this season… the clubs toward the top are ahead of expectations, while those at the bottom are generally travelling worse than expected (there are, of course, exceptions).
The conclusion there? Clubs with low results expectations are defending a lot better than they were predicted to.
We’ll keep on eye on this… make sure you do the same.
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