The Decline of the Humble Behind

Last year, you might recall, a spate of deliberately rushed behinds prompted the AFL to review and ultimately change the laws relating to this form of scoring.

Has the change led to a reduction in the number of behinds recorded in each game? The evidence is fairly strong:

Goals and Behinds.png

So far this season we've seen 22.3 behinds per game, which is 2.6 per game fewer than we saw in 2008 and puts us on track to record the lowest number of average behinds per game since 1915. Back then though goals came as much more of a surprise, so a spectator at an average game in 1915 could expect to witness only 16 goals to go along with the 22 behinds. Happy days.

This year's behind decline continues a trend during which the number of behinds per game has dropped from a high of 27.3 per game in 1991 to its current level, a full 5 behinds fewer, interrupted only by occasional upticks such as the 25.1 behinds per game recorded in 2007 and the 24.9 recorded in 2008.

While behind numbers have been falling recently, goals per game have also trended down - from 29.6 in 1991, to this season's current average of 26.8. Still, AFL followers can expect to witness more goals than behinds in most games they watch. This wasn't always the case. Not until the season of 1969 had there been a single season with more goals than behinds, and not until 1976 did such an outcome became a regular occurrence. In only one season since then, 1981, have fans endured more behinds than goals across the entire season.

On a game-by-game basis, 90 of 128 games this season, or a smidge over 70%, have produced more goals than behinds. Four more games have produced an equal number of each.

As a logical consequence of all these trends, behinds have had a significantly smaller impact on the result of games, as evidenced by the chart below which shows the percentage of scoring attributable to behinds falling from above 20% in the very early seasons to around 15% across the period 1930 to 1980, to this season's 12.2%, the second-lowest percentage of all time, surpassed only by the 11.9% of season 2000.

Behinds PC.png

(There are more statistical analyses of the AFL on MAFL Online's sister site at MAFL Stats.)