Don't Blame the Data

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Playing List Ages at the Pointy End

Measuring the 2020 season age of your AFL team's best players

3 minute read

This is the second installment at my look at the age distributions of each AFL team for the 2020 season. The fist post (which can be found here), looked at the impact that the statistic chosen to report out the age profiles can have, specifically using the mean versus the median. Rightly so, many pointed out in feedback that some of the younger players on lists may not play as much or might not be as important as some of the older talent and as such, their age shouldn’t be given as much weighting as some of the stars of each team.

That feedback led to this post, which will look at identifying each team’s top line talent and comparing the talent age distribution.

To do this, club Best and Fairest (B&F) results have been analysed to identify the top players at each club. Top 10 B&F data comes from here. There are 181 players in total (Richmond have 11 players because of a tie for 10th spot). Given there has been some player movement in the offseason (six players in the list analysed, most notably Tim Kelly to West Coast finished in their team’s top 10 and then changed clubs), these players have now been placed in their new team’s distribution. Doing this has resulted in some teams having more than 10 players analysed, while others less. See below:

Team Number of Players
Adelaide 9
Brisbane Lions 10
Carlton 10
Collingwood 10
Essendon 10
Footscray 12
Fremantle 8
Geelong 9
Gold Coast 10
GWS 10
Hawthorn 11
Melbourne 10
North Melbourne 10
Port Adelaide 10
Richmond 11
St Kilda 10
Sydney 10
West Coast 11

The Age of Top Talent

Using the age of top players at each club to measure the age profile of the club shows us that Geelong’s list is the oldest at the top end, with an average age of 29.2 years. These results highlight a concern for Kangaroos fans, as their club’s top 10 B&F comes in at second on this list at 28.9 years and they missed the finals last year (by a bit too, two games out and in 12th position). Adelaide fans also won’t be too happy given their results last year.

Less concerning for GWS, Essendon and the Bulldogs (who each made finals last year), their top players are in the bottom half of this age analysis. Could be some happy times ahead for these clubs?

Melbourne has the youngest list, with an average age of 24.7 years, while St Kilda may see this number rise at the start of the 2021 season after they made a decent push in free agency at the end of the 2019 season.

We can also see that there is a negative relationship between the top players age distribution and ladder position at the end of a season - the younger the average age of your teams top 10 B&F, the lower the ladder poisition tended to be (with some exceptions of course as mentioned above).

It would be interesting to see the impact of this for more than just the most recent season. Might be one for someone else to pick up where I’ve left off, or for a later post.

Data and code for this project can be found here.

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