Luck, Skill, and Circumstance 2020

Written by Father Dougal on February 8 2020

Hi Everybody!

Last season I wrote about Luck, Skill, and Circumstance.  Link below, and if you have not read it already you probably should before you go on. No worries, I’ll wait…..

I’ve had a chance to look at a lot more players since then, and a few things I noticed. 

First, Rucks are different, which we mostly knew. When someone gets a full time ruck job, their score goes way up. There’s not much in previous year’s stats to help predict that. Once a ruck has a job, then things are more normal, although they turn into frogs a bit later than other players. 

The underlying skill of mids is a bit hard to track as a smooth-ish curve because part of their progression is often going from defense or forward into the mids. Big circumstance effect. But, looking at lots of mids, we can still see patterns, and they do still have the bad to good to bad overall pattern. They also can return to playing forward or back, but that doesn’t really happen until they can’t play in the midfield anymore for some reason, like age or injury. 

I feel like there are some pretty safe general age groups. 

0 -20 = Youth

21-23 = Early Career

24-26 = Middle Career

27-29 = Late Career

30-32 = Hanging On

33+ = Victory Laps

As we already know, players who become relevant sooner will tend to stay relevant longer, and with higher peaks. Those peaks tend to be Mid Career and a bit on each side. About 23-27. I don’t think this is news to anyone, but I’m sayin it so when I talk about it more it will be clear. Well, more clear I hope. 

Let’s see, it is hard to tell much from most youth scores. Sometimes sure, like say, Walsh or Oliver, but even then we can only make general predictions. Still, any idea is better than none, and for players over 23 we can make more educated guesses. 

Oh, and the older a player, the more likely that a huge score jump is a career year and not a breakout year. A breakout year is when a player raises their game a level or three, and a career year is when a player has a one off jump in scoring followed by a decline to their established level. How can we tell the difference? Age mostly. Before 25 bet on a breakout, over 25 bet on a career year, and at 25 flip a coin. Well, look at their previous seasons and try to use those to tell, and then flip a coin. 

I wrote about players in their 30s recently. Again, link if needed.

I’m thinking I should have called 29 year olds tadpoles, because they can turn into frogs, and are frog-like in that they can have that fast decline at 29, even though it is not super common. 

So, what use is all this? Mostly trying to put a player’s situation in context. Does it make any sense for them to have “X” happen beased on their career to date and current situation. I have been finding that I like to look both at raw numbers without trying to adjust for circumstance, and then also look at the numbers with possible adjustments. If you look at Nat Fyfe, knowing he broke his leg in 2016 explains his otherwise bizarre season averages


Year Games Average Age
2010 16 72.6 18
2011 21 108 19
2012 9 93.2 20
2013 19 106.5 21
2014 18 122.3 22
2015 18 124.3 23
2016 5 105.4 24
2017 21 108.8 25
2018 15 113.9 26
2019 20 120 27

If you know 2016 was injury affected, and that he was recovering from his injury over the next two seasons, those numbers make sense. In 2019 he was back to the level he would have been had he not had that injury. He pretty much lost three prime scoring years from 24-26! Now he’s in his late career and there is already talk of him playing forward more. What might have been….

We can take what happened to Fyfe and try to apply it to Tom Mitchell. His numbers below. 


Year Games Average Age
2013 12 86.2 19
2014 6 83.8 20
2015 17 104.5 21
2016 22 104 22
2017 22 118.9 23
2018 22 129.1 24
2019 0 0 25

First we know his jump from 2016 to 2017 was from changing teams. As a Titch owner in 2016 I was very aware of the Swans unwillingness to give him much time on ground, and when he did play he was often not in the mids. Anyways, he broke his leg, just like Nat did. If we apply the same point loss to Titch, we get the below projections. 

Titch with Fyfe’s injury adjustment:

Year Games Average Age
2013 12 86.2 19
2014 6 83.8 20
2015 17 104.5 21
2016 22 104 22
2017 22 118.9 23
2018 22 129.1 24
2019 0 0 25
2020 113.6 26
2021 118.7 27
2022 122.8 28

Only a year different in age, so not going to worry too much about that. Does that mean I think Tom will really recover this slowly? Um….predictions…..I think this is the only real data available. I suspect he will get better faster than that, but I am now more worried about taking him this season than I was 5 minutes ago!  Anyways, I’m not predicting this exactly, but feel like saying it will take him at least a year to get back to being fully right. If any doctors out there can explain why one break was different than another, and would heal faster or slower please speak up in the comments!

Anyways, speaking of predictions, I made some last season, and now have to go back and see how I did and what can be learned. 


From last year: Mitch Duncan 108, Dusty 110, and Zac Merritt 115 

Actual last year: Mitch Duncan 103, Dusty 100, and Zac Merritt 106


So, um too high. Let’s look in more detail:

Duncan 2019

Year Age Games Average TLA (?) % of TLA
2010 18 8 57.9 60 0.97
2011 19 18 74.8 70 1.07
2012 20 21 80.2 80 1
2013 21 22 80.5 90 0.89
2014 22 22 100 95 1.05
2015 23 11 91.4 95 0.96
2016 24 22 92.3 100 0.92
2017 25 21 109.8 105 1.05
2018 26 20 106.2 105 1.01

I think I was about on his TLA, but for some reason I estimated over it, maybe over valuing the last two seasons. When looking back I want to have said within 3 points of 105 = 102-108.  I did just go high. 

Dusty 2019

Year Age Games Average TLA (?) % of TLA
2010 18 21 77.9 80 0.97
2011 19 22 98.9 90 1.1
2012 20 20 88.5 95 0.93
2013 21 22 101.8 100 1.02
2014 22 21 99.5 100 1
2015 23 22 105.5 105 1
2016 24 22 108.1 105 1.03
2017 25 22 119.3 110 1.08
2018 26 21 103.9 110 0.94

Wow, this is obvious even without the 2019 numbers, but the rise to 119 followed by a drop to 104 means career season, not breakout. I’ve looked at a lot (lot) of players since this, so that would help me see it now and not then. Also, I think I wanted to fit the one season as not so wildly off, but it really was.  But too high. I think his TLA never hit 110 and has been stable at about 105, but even a better guess based on that would have still been high. 

Merrett 2019

Year Age Games Average TLA (?) % of TLA
2014 18 19 63.7 65 0.98
2015 19 17 88.5 90 0.98
2016 20 22 111.5 110 1.01
2017 21 21 109.2 110 0.99
2018 22 22 100.4 110 0.91

I guessed his TLA for 2019 would be 115, which was crazy talk. Partly because I tried to hard to adjust for his low 2018 season, and partly because I had too much of the baseball rise over time model in my head. Now I know that is not really how Supercoach players work. If you just think of him as likely to bounce back then 110 as his TLA makes more sense (based on last year’s data) and being off by 4 not too bad. Also, I need to stop using multiples of 5 as TLAs.  Getting rid of that silliness now I would say more like 108, giving him a little break over the three years average of 107, and that would be way closer to his real average. Hindsight is 20/20….

So, I think I am glad I did not have time to do a lot of these last season, since I hadn’t refined…whatever it is….yet. Would have been more wrong stuff. 

This year, I’m gonna set myself up to look really dumb by doing lots and lots of these. Gonna put ‘em up in batches, and do my best to cover everyone relevant over the next 4 weeks or so. We’ll see how that goes. To start I’ll do Duncan, Dusty, and Zac again. 

Oh, and I’m not going to spend time worrying about the TLA when a player is way young. I’m going to try and look at what is needed for projecting the future, meaning the relevant past, whatever that seems to be.  For players who are young and have little data, I’ll do something or other….


Mitch Duncan 2020

Year Games Average Age TLA %
2010 8 57.9 18
2011 18 74.8 19
2012 21 80.2 20
2013 22 80.5 21
2014 22 100 22 95 1.05
2015 11 91.4 23 95 0.96
2016 22 92.3 24 95 0.97
2017 21 109.8 25 106 1.04
2018 20 106.2 26 105 1.01
2019 22 103.2 27 104 0.99
100-106 28 103

I feel like he loses a point for turning 28, and that since he has dropped in average two years in a row, he’s not likely to shoot up past his 2018 average. I mean, 109 to 106 to 103 sure implies 100. I think that is a bit pessimistic.  


Dustin Martin 2020

Year Games Average Age TLA %
2010 21 77.9 18
2011 22 98.9 19
2012 20 88.5 20
2013 22 101.8 21 100 1.02
2014 21 99.5 22 103 0.97
2015 22 105.5 23 104 1.01
2016 22 108.1 24 105 1.03
2017 22 119.3 25 106 1.13
2018 21 103.9 26 105 0.99
2019 20 100 27 104 0.96
98-105 28 102

He’s resting in a lot of games and that trend seems likely to continue. They want him at peak for finals. Which is smart. But, dinged him a bit for that. 


Zac Merritt 2020

Year Games Average Age TLA %
2014 19 63.7 18
2015 17 88.5 19
2016 22 111.5 20 108 1.03
2017 21 109.2 21 108 1.01
2018 22 100.4 22 108 0.93
2019 22 105.6 23 108 0.98
106-112 24 109

Giving him a +1 for age 23 to 24. I doubt he goes backwards, and expect a little rise back. I don’t expect a huge rise, partly because the bombers are not filled with talent around him. Also, 115+ averages are pretty rare and while 24 is still in breakout territory….Well, four 100+ averages in a row, that’s nothing to sneeze at. See, I’m working on predicting breakouts and what players who did score way high looked like before they did, but I am not done yet, and was planning to do the forwards and defenders first so I would have time to finish that before I did any mids, but here I am doing a young mid. Silly Priest.  I reserve the right to change this prediction if I discover anything in my research to warrant it, so probably I have to re-do Zac when I write that up….


Ok, so, that’s the update.  Soon, write ups on the Defenders start. If you all have any feedback on this before I start posting those, I’d love to get it before I start posing them.  Obviously. Judging by that last bit, it is Beer O’Clock!

Oh, crud, not yet. There were predictions in the comments last season. How’d they do?

allsaints correctly noted that Sloane’s 96 was not the new normal, but that he was on his way down.

Lazza “I have now decided to dump Selwood and work out how to get Macrae in…” Well, both those were on the money!

Looks like other people made better use of this than I did last season!

Thanks for reading!



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18 thoughts on “Luck, Skill, and Circumstance 2020”

  1. Fantastic! Just what I was looking for without doing all the research myself.
    A Fyfe /Mitchell comparison.
    Yep taking his 113 ave and hoping he gets his mind right about the break sooner and back to dominating.
    Not the best footballer around(yes he’s right up there) , but an absolute genius at being in the right place at the right time all over the ground. That alone is worth 20 possessions and why I’m backing him in to bounce back quickly.
    Thanks heaps father!


    1. Not sure i’d be happy with that average from mitchell. Luckily, i think he will average higher but take a while to get going, and should grab him at a discount later in the year. He has looked awkward in training and has said himself he has doubts


      1. Well, that’s the thing. If he goes well your paying around 650-700k later on. If he does ok(by his standards) you get a 110+ averaging mid.


      2. Titch is a no for me, at least for 2020 anyway. For someone who is not overly quick he does cover the ground extremely well (similar to Diesel) and I just don’t feel as if he will be able to do that as well for the next 12 months.

        He is still a gun and will find the footy, I just think those 40 possession games will be 30 if he can’t get to as many contests


  2. Great stuff, Father.

    “…and partly because I had too much of the baseball rise over time model in my head.”

    For those of us in Australia who aren’t that familiar with baseball, how does that model work, just out of curiosity?


    1. Oh duh, good question, thanks!

      Adjusted for luck, baseball players rise fairly steadily/smoothly until they are 27, then the fall fairly steadily/smoothly after they are 27. Nice bell-ish curve. The fall is getting slower as training methods become better, but it still happens. There are not abrupt shifts due to position changes, and ballpark effects can be adjusted for. So my baseball influenced thinking had a steady rise then a steady fall. That’s not really what we see in practice. I’m going to have a bit of adjustment for ages, but AFL players seem to jump to their level, maybe jump again, stay about there and then drop, sometimes quickly. I expect as I do more players in detail I’ll get a better idea, which readers will see as well. There are some common bits, like the sooner a player is good the more likely they are to have a higher peak, and the longer they will be useful once they start to decline.

      Hope that made sense!


  3. Awesome FD, this will be great to look back on each year and compare your predictions with actual output. Very handy


      1. Glad you liked it.

        Sometimes the voices speak, and other times they stay quiet. Isn’t really up to me!


  4. Just wanted to say a quick thank you FD!

    Your article on TLA last year was a moment of clarity for me and helped me jump from 10k to the top 1k. It was always in the forefront of my mind when initally picking my team.

    Looking forward to seeing more articles on it this year father.


  5. Great article FD
    Reinforced by decisions on my Uber premiums – Not picking Danger or Fyfe and also made me have a rethink on my Forwards.
    Martin wil be in my team at some point given he will likely be in top 4 forwards however there is so much value in forward line by not selecting Martin .
    Having said that I am also hearing Martin is 2 kgs lighter and impressing in preseason.


  6. Brilliant stuff FD.
    Has further endorsed my MID premo STARTING picks. And who my likely upgrade targets are.
    I’ve already done a thing on Dusty that I threw out on The Twitter a month or so back. I will definitely not be starting him, but I will be looking to bring him in any time from Rd8-14.
    Since it’s for ‘other’ reasons than your analysis above, I will post a more detailed rationale about it later .
    Thanks again FD. I love this stuff.


  7. Great read.

    Think the TLA can be assessed as a range say (100-104), (105-109)…..

    Looking back at the records of player scoring over the past 4 years there has generally been only 1 player who has gone 130+, a maximum of 2 players (125-129), and zero to 2 players (120-124.)

    The maximum number players in the past 4 seasons who have averaged 110 plus is 13 which was last year up by 3 on the previous 2 seasons.

    In season 2019 there was 3 players who averaged (115-119), 6 players (110-114), 11 players (105-109) and 16 players (100-104.)

    Averages excluded players less than 5 games and included finals.


    1. By definition it would be one number, but, I would very much assume a range around it for practical purposes. My projections/guesses are definitely a range.



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