Every Point Matters

The 3 point scoring methods nobody really considers 

Buddy: The biggest culprit for Free Kicks Against

When selecting a team we focus on the key stats – kicks, marks, handballs, hit outs and goals. These are the major contributors to a player’s Dreamteam scoring output. They are also stand out when you watch a game.

These stats are not the only way players can score and more importantly lose points. The least analysed contributions to a players scoring for Dreamteam must be tackling and free kicks, for and against.

These often overlooked statistical categories can play a major role in players scoring as well identifying undervalued/growth players.

Take the example of breakout 2011 star Jack Redden of the Brisbane Lions. In 2011, he scored on average 34 points from tackles which contributed 31% of his points per game average of 109.1.  More time in the middle and better ball winning ability also helped but his dedication to tackling gave Redden owners a safety net. In 2012, as he matures and Brisbane improves, we can expect that Redden will win more of the ball. If he maintains his commitment to defensive effort, then he only needs to average 3 more possessions to take him to the Dane Swan scoring level.

On the downside, Buddy Franklin and his aggressive playing style and habit of talking to the umpires cost his owners a net 137 points over the course of last season. This equates to 1.35 games at his average of 101.68. A zero sum return would move Buddy from 11th to 4th in terms of total points for forwards. No suspensions would also have seen Buddy lead the league in forward scoring by 240 points.

An appreciation of the potential impact of these silent stats leads us to ask – who are the players that benefit and struggle with tackles and free kicks.

Tackling – You don’t have to have the ball to score

Measures to slow the game have seen the amount of tackling increase as more contests are created. At the same time shifts in tactics such as the zone press has seen less one on one coverage and more opportunities for players to make tackles. The tactics have required players to harass the ball carrier to create turnovers/stoppages.

In the 2007 season, there were on average 844.2 tackles per round (3,376.8 DT Points) with Collingwood, Brisbane and Geelong making 58 tackles each per round. There was a 1.4% increase in average tackles in 2008 to 856 per round. Sydney and Geelong were the top teams with 60 per round.  In 2009, there was a massive 15.9% increase in average tackles to 992.1 per round. The rotations policy favoured by coaches in 2009 allowed for players to go all out for short periods. St Kilda on the way to the Grand Final made 73.2 tackles per round. Slow it down specialists North Melbourne and Sydney were second and third at 67 tackles per game.

Just when you thought that players couldn’t make any more tackles, in 2010, tackles per round increased by another 9% to 1,081.7 (4,326.8 DT points).  Premiers Collingwood lead the league with 74.8 tackles per game. Last year, despite the sub rule saw tackling increase 2.6% per round adjusting for the entry of Gold Coast. Including Gold Coast there were 1,171.2 tackles per round or 4,684.8 DT points.  Sydney set a record for tackles per round of 78.9. Every team in 2011 averaged more tackles per round than the best team in 2008. The table below ranks the teams by average tackles per round.


Rank Team Tackles
1 Collingwood Magpies 58.2
2 Brisbane Lions 58
3 Geelong Cats 58
4 Sydney Swans 56.4
5 Melbourne Demons 56
6 North Melbourne Kangaroos 55
7 St Kilda Saints 52.6
8 Carlton Blues 52.4
9 West Coast Eagles 52.2
10 Fremantle Dockers 51.9
11 Western Bulldogs 51.6
12 Adelaide Crows 51.4
13 Port Adelaide Power 50.5
14 Essendon Bombers 48.6
15 Hawthorn Hawks 46.5
16 Richmond Tigers 44.9

As you can changes to game in tactics, defensive alignments and pressure has seen a 38.7% in tackling in 5 seasons.

In terms of individuals, former Sydney Captain Brett Kirk was the standard bearing for tackling. If he made 1 more tackle in 2006, from 2003 until 2009 Kirk would have led the league in tackles every season. From a Dreamteam point of view he just didn’t win enough of the ball.

To determine who are the best tacklers, I have used a cut off of 100 tackles per season. To get 100 tackles a player would need to make 1 a quarter. In proportional teams 100 tackles would contribute 20% of a players season score of 2,000 points (91 points per game over a 22 game season).

Over the past five season there have been the following number of players per season that made 100 tackles;

  • 2007 – 19 players
  • 2008 – 15 players
  • 2009 – 26 players
  • 2010 – 42 players
  • 2011 – 46 players

In those 5 season there are a numbers of players who break this benchmark in multiple seasons.

  1. Andrew Swallow lead the league in 2010 with 183 tackles in 22 games. Average of 8.3 tackles per game or 33 Dreamteam points per game.  He has finished in the top 12 in the league in tackles for the past 5 seasons.
  2. Jude Bolton and Matt Priddis have finished in the top 12 in each of the last 5 years, mainly 4-6 in the league.
  3. A fit Lenny Hayes and Dom Cassisi regularly feature in the top 5. Cassisi made 103 tackles in 13 games last year at 7.9 per game.
  4. James Kelly, Luke Ball, Daniel Cross and Joel Selwood are amongst the top 15 most seasons.
  5. The tackling output of Leigh Montagna, Jimmy Bartel and Brad Sewell has declined in the past two seasons contributing to their decreased scoring.
  6. In 2011 West Coast tagger Scott Selwood led the league in tackles with 202 (808 DT points). This is the highest amount in the past 5 years.
  7. In 2011 with more time on the ground premium Dreamteam players Gary Ablett, Matt Boyd, Scott Pendlebury, Scott Thompson, Marc Murphy, Nic Dal Santo and Paul Chapman all made over 100 tackles.

In 2010 Jack Reddden was 22nd in tackles making 115. In 2011, he made 166 which was good for equal 4th in the league.  So who can make a Redden like jump from good to great based on a solid commitment to tackling. The following all made more than 100 tackles last season:

  • Liam Shields – 6 per game
  • Jack Trengrove – 5.2 per game
  • Jack Ziebell – 5 per game
  • Steele Sidebottom – 4.28 per game
  • Luke Shuey – 4.16 per game

If we look at players eligible for the Rising Star Award last years rookies the best tacklers were:

  • Tom Liberatore – 4.8 per game
  • Jordan Gysberts – 4.3 per game
  • Shuey
  • Jack Steven – 4 per game
  • David Swallow – 4 per game
  • Allen Christensen – 3.7 per game
  • Dion Prestia – 3.5 per game

When considering two similarly priced young players who are expected to improve to a similar level, pick the player with more tackles as they learn to find the ball the score will improve more. In the mean time if they play bad you should get 20-32 points from tackles. We will also see that players with good tackling numbers get extra points from holding the ball free kicks.


Saints and Sinners – Frees For and Against

Picking a player that wins free kicks is unlikely to contribute significantly to you winning your league. The 1 point awarded to players winning a free kick doesn’t seem like a lot. In fact a 1 point different in season averages equates to only $5,200 in a players value.

As we all know that every point can matter and finals can be decided by 1-2 points.  On the flipside, there are few things more frustrating than checking a players live scoring and seeing the number go backwards.

Looking at the raw numbers the number if free kicks for and against are always nearly equal every round every year. In 2011, there were 342.3 free kicks for and 341.8 free kicks against per round.   Excluding Gold Coast, the numbers of free kicks awarded per round increased 5% and the free kicks against increasing slightly more by 5.2%.

The number of free kicks varies greatly per season with increases by 9% per season 2010 and decreases by 11.4 in 2009. The difference between frees for and against is fairly constant with only 1-2 more free kicks for rather than against awarded each round for the past 5 seasons.

The most disciplined teams in 2011 were

  • Port Adelaide – most free kicks awarded at 22.6 and only 19 per round against. 3.6  positive free kick count was the highest in the AFL.
  • West Coast – 21.9 free kicks for and 19.2 against per round were next best followed by Collingwood 20.2 free kicks for and 18.7 against.

The least discipline teams in 2011 were:

  • Richmond, 22.2 free kicks against per round followed by Hawthorn 21.8 free kicks against and Geelong/Essendon 21.6 free kicks against per round.
  • Richmond, Hawthorn, Geelong, Essendon, St Kilda, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne were all penalised more free kicks against then awarded free kicks for.

Over the past three seasons

  • West Coast, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, North and Geelong have had the most free kicks awarded for.
  • Hawthorn, Richmond, Geelong and Sydney have been penalised against them.

In terms of individual players in 2011 on a per game basis the umpires favourites, free kicks for, were:

  • Joel Selwood – Geelong, 3 free kicks for per game.
  • Marc Murphy – Carlton, 2.5 free kicks for per game.
  • Dean Cox – West Coast, 2.4 free kicks for per game. Cox also was awarded the most free kicks – 61.
  • Todd Goldstein, Andrew Swallow, Matt Priddis, Scott Pendlebury, Adam Selwood, Sam Mitchell and Jude Bolton round out the top10.
  • In terms of Rising Star eligible players Josh Toy had the highest free kicks for average of 2.2 per game, followed by Zac Clarke, Zac Smith, Allen Christensen and Luke Shuey.
  • Over the past five years, Adam Selwood, Andrew Swallow, Angus Monfries, Chris Judd, Daniel Cross, Dean Brogan, Dean Cox, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Selwood, Jude Bolton, Luke Ball, Luke Hodge, Marc Murphy, Matt Priddis, Nic Dal Santo, Nick Riewoldt and Sam Mitchell were amongst the top 15 in free kick for winners in multiple three seasons.
  • The type of players that umpires award more free kicks too are ruckman and on-ballers considered inside ball winners.

In terms of individual players in 2011 on a per game basis the umpires enemies, free kicks against, were:

  • Buddy. 53 free kicks against in 22 games. Buddy has lead the league in free kicks against in 3 out of the last 5 years and never finished better than 9th in league.
  • Ruckman Matthew Lobbe from Port led the league on an average basis giving up 2.6 free kicks per game over 10 games.
  • Other ruckman Darren Jolley, Angus Graham, Brent Renouf, Brad Ottens, Ben Hudson, Dean Brogan and Shane Mumford are all in the top 10 for free kicks against.
  • Scott Thompson is the only non ruckman/non Buddy player in the league to be in the top 10 against.
  • In terms of Rising Star eligible players Andrew Browne had the highest free kicks against average of 1.9 per game, followed by Shaun McKernan, Tom Lynch, Reece Conca, Dylan Grimes, Sam Blease, Allen Christensen and Josh Toy.
  • Ruckman especially undersized and back up ruckman, power forwards and tackling midfielders are the type of players that give away the most free kicks.

Overall there is strong relationship between players who commit to tackling and free kicks. Players that tackle win or commit free kicks either by holding the ball, pushes in the back or high contact.

The positive points players that tackle outweighs the points lost from being penalised extra free kicks. As an example Redden lost only a net 4 points per game from free kicks compared to 34 points extra from tackles.

When selecting you team, especially mid-priced players and rookies, look for those that tackle to de-risk these selections.

All numbers used for this article are from footywire.com.


  • Wow I am astounded at the time some of you guys put in.

    • Yes totally agree… I try my own research alot but that is unreal! It’s great!

    • Magpie, you have just missed a golden opportunity for a first. I for one am very dissapointed.

    • bah interesting read but over complicate matters people will do anything to find a unique player and there are stats for everything these days almost everyone will have a unique player in there team so by just picking the tried and true your the one that’s really being unique i have no idea if that made any sence does in my f*ed up head

      • Release the hounds Smithers!

      • +1.
        my unique players…
        Adcock? not really.
        Ian callihan? mabye.
        The rest are in most teams.
        Still have to pick Buddy tho.
        Only real star for RD 13 relivence.
        (gotta believe he will play all games this year)

        Still good right up Damo

  • incredible stuff, thanks mate.

  • And thanks also for showing me the footywire link………..didn’t know about that.

  • My kind of article Mr Stone.

    Cram full of stats, and terrific analysis.

    In the words of Jenna Jameson… “Never underestimate the tackle”

  • Quite an amazing article, one that is seriously taking this great game to such an elite level its scary.

  • Footy wire is great, thanks for putting it up, shows plenty of useful stats. Great article by the way!

  • This is phenomenal! Just WOW!

  • Awesome read!
    Speaking of tackles and free kicks, there’s nothing better than when your player lays a tackle, gets the free and caps it off with a goal…..BOOM, 14pts right there!

  • Amazing reading boys! Simply amazing!!

  • Its a shame Scott Selwood doesnt get more of the ball (being a tagger too), averaged 8.1 tackles per game last year.

  • From the top drawer! Top work

  • Great stuff Damo. The stuff on tackles is gold, it was that very reason I took the punt on Redden in 2011.

  • Great article Damo. Well written and researched and quite refreshing to read something completely different so close to lock-out.

  • Are you a fan of Damo’s article? Stay tuned tomorrow for a MONSTER read all about rucks and the main strategy! It is a sensational piece!

  • Only my second year on dream team glad this time im following u boys not the self proclaimed doctor.
    Just wondering did Ben cousins used to score any good?

    • Averaged 80.1 for his entire career. Worst season:59.8. Best season:95.4
      During his golden era @ WCE for about 3 years he averaged ave 90+

      • cheers mate not really what i wanted to hear though i was hoping cuzzy was smashing it

  • Thanks for the feedback guys.

    It was interesting researching the article just how much tackling has increased over the past five years. At the same time scoring for Dreamteam hasnt changed. Therefore tackling is becoming a more important factor in Dreamteam scoring. Redden just proved it.

    Tackling playing a big role in my team selection this year. For example made Sidebottom a lock.

    If you look at someone like Masten, and forget about his history. The NAB Cup has shown he is a quality runner, who is using the ball well and made 10 tackles on the weekend. Who else in his price range can you say that about? McCarthy? His points have been inflated by goals not tackles. Not reliable game to game.

    Warnie is right about the ruck article it is 4,000 words plus. Need to improve my writing. Article could have been just 10 words – Dont worry about the price, just pick Dean Cox.

    You can see why tomorrow.

    • Looking fwd too it DS! It took me longer than I think it took Brap to read and digest, but it is well worth it IMO. Thanks for your excellent work.

    • Awesome work mate, cant wait to read the article on Rucks tomoz ;)

  • Great article mate. Tackling was why I got Andrew Swallow in last year, but i missed Redden in my research. :(

    Got a couple on the list who are there for tackles, but frees against is not stopping me getting in Franklin.

  • Hands down one of the best articles I’ve read. Well done.

    Steele was already a lock and Trengrove was someone I was thinking about at the end of last years season but had almost forgotten him. Now he comes back into consideration. Hmm…. Too many decisions to make

  • Didn’t expect melbourne to be fifth for tackles considering how soft they are regarded

  • A great read. Thanks

  • Great Read Damo! Am now actually considering Sidey! Hmmmmm….

  • I cannot decide between Sloane or Shuey. Anyone want to give me a reason against either?

    I’ve got Sloan but after this article I’m starting to wobble again. Both these players have Tommy Rock potential this season IMO.

    • Shuey is a far better footballer and plays in a far better team.

    • Grow a pair and get em both. Then use the extra cash to get Cox as he will smash it all season long!

  • Fantastic info Damian. Well worth the read and something to definitely think about!
    Well done mate and thanks again.