Big Wins or Big Comebacks?

Round 3 of the 2022 AFL season seemed to have it all.

The highlights started on Friday night in Showdown LI, with Jordan Dawson kicking a goal after the siren to send the Adelaide crowd into a frenzy while breaking the hearts of Port Adelaide supporters.

Saturday night saw two games worlds apart in terms of quality; Geelong overcame a 30-point deficit at three quarter time to beat Collingwood, while Brisbane belted North Melbourne by 108 points.

Then on Sunday, Carlton kicked seven goals to one in the first quarter against Hawthorn before holding on by a point, while St Kilda kicked away from Richmond late on the back of Max King.

The outcomes of the Geelong/Collingwood and Brisbane/North Melbourne games have been a talking point this week for several reasons. One of which being that Geelong and the Lions face off tonight at GMHBA stadium.

It poses the question of whether it’s better to come home with a wet sail (like Geelong) or have an easy win (like Brisbane).

This point was discussed in-depth on Triple M’s Midweek Rub, featuring Leigh Montagna, Wayne Carey, Damian Barrett, and Dale Thomas.

Thomas predicted a six-goal win for the Lions, claiming Geelong would suffer from “blockbuster syndrome” after making a massive charge in the final quarter to win the game last week. Barrett agreed with Thomas’ assessment, also backing Brisbane.

Carey and Montagna backed Geelong, with Montagna believing that Brisbane would struggle to get up against the Cats after their “walk in the park” against the Kangaroos (due to a lack of a competitive hit out).

This debate got me wondering about how teams perform the week after a big win or a big comeback. So, I’ve gone to the stats to find an answer.

Brisbane’s big win was the 305th time in V/AFL history a team has won by 100 or more points. Of these, the team that won by over 100 points won the following week 203 of 304 times (66.8%).

When you look specifically at Brisbane’s past in these games, they have won six of seven games the next week (86%). The average winning margin in these games was 60.6 points.

Conversely, Geelong became the 111th team to win after being 30 or more points down at three quarter time. These teams don’t perform quite as well the week after as the big winners do; 51 wins from 110 games (46.4%).

Geelong does a little better than average, with five wins from eight games (63%). The Cats have an average winning margin of 50.6 points in these games.

As far as I can tell, there has only been one other time in history where the teams that won by more than 100 points and won after being five or more goals down in the same week then played each other in the next week.

This occurred in Round 7, 1947. Carlton (who defeated St Kilda by 102 points the week before) faced off against North Melbourne (who defeated Essendon by 8 points after being down by 44 points at three quarter time). The Blues led at every change and finished 19 points clear of North.

Based on the history, Brisbane should win. But these figures don’t account for a range of factors, such as tonight’s game being played in Geelong or Joel Selwood being rested.

It also doesn’t account for more detailed form. Although Brisbane are 3-0, they’ve beaten Port Adelaide, Essendon, and North Melbourne, who collectively are 1-9. In contrast, Geelong are 2-1. Their opponents to date have a 4-5 record.

Here’s hoping for a great game of footy on Friday night.

As always, I apologise to anyone who has already looked at these stats. If you find an error in my work, let me know!