As more than one observer has already noted, the 2017 season is wide open, and an increasing number of games are coming down to the timing of the momentum pendulum.
Round 19 dished up two more breathtaking examples of the genre: Adelaide reeling in a 50-point deficit, Collingwood responding, then the Crows raising one last almighty effort to snatch the draw; and Port Adelaide, having trailed by 10 points with a minute to play against a St Kilda side that rode its late momentum to a seemingly decisive lead, climbing out of the grave.
The Port Adelaide win was another graphic example of the psychology of these finishes, as the Power, having led for virtually the entire game, suddenly faced an unexpected (and probably unjust) defeat. They responded as all loss-averse athletes do in such circumstances – with a desperate, physical, risky, death-or-glory and, as it transpired, irresistible 60 seconds of football.
The Saints did their utmost to repel them, but the psychology of the leading team in a close finish is different: its players become reactive and risk-averse. Paddy Ryder and Robbie Gray did the rest.
The Crows-Magpies clash a day later reproduced the same dynamic, but this time with an extra swing of momentum that ended with that Mitch McGovern kick after the siren. In finishes like this, and a season like this, the ability of players to hold their nerve – plus a lashing of luck – is separating teams.
As we explored at length in last month’s Inside Football, the emotional impact of losing is twice as great as winning. Loss aversion drives this game.
On that score, which of the 10 contenders still standing might be most loss averse?
Traditionally the previous year’s defeated grand finalist, gut still burning with disappointment, is the hardest to hold out. That would be the Sydney Swans. But they’ll be needing some serious nerve.
What is featured this month…
BOX OF CHOCO
South Australian royalty, Collingwood captain, Brisbane Bears pioneer, Port Adelaide drought breaker … Mark Williams represents many of football’s traditional values yet remains one of its most lateral thinkers.
LET’S FIX THIS UNJUST SYSTEM!
The AFL needs to ensure that all things being relatively equal, the best eight teams contest the finals series. It ain’t happening.
GAME TO PICK A PREMIER?
The season is presently a race in 10! It’s rapidly coming down to some fine differences – and the luck of the draw – as BEN CASANELIA writes.
Football once conducted a 33-season experiment into reducing congestion and improving the appearance of the game and the statistics from that era are clear: if you want more scoring, reduce the number of players on the field.
With finals less than a month away, every team still in the running is looking to replicate the irresistible run of form of the 2016 Bulldogs on their way to the flag. DAVID TAYLOR investigated how your team has performed in August over the past five years as a guide to what to expect.
IN? OR BIN?
Some things AFL football could do with a little more of – and some things it could do without, writes our former editor RUSSELL HOLMESBY.
SUCCESS COMES WITH A LOADING
The toll on AFLW players has already shaped the VFLW season as a new buzz phrase takes hold in women’s football. PHOEBE MCWILLIAMS explains.
THE JOYS OF FATHERHOOD
On the run-in to Fathers Day, TANIA CONNOLLY explores what it means to be an effective parent around the AFL scene.
VFL | A confounding development
AFL Victoria’s decision to disband the VFL reserves was met with dismay in many quarters.
NEAFL | Ilett retires with Thunder in his heart
NT star calls time on a decorated career.
SANFL | Panthers caught in scoring eddy Last year’s boom team has crashed out of contention this year, but coach Garry Hocking refuses to blame the loss of his star spearhead.
WAFL | Job vacancy as Swans coach departs
Despite a fine record in developing young players, Greg Harding has been unable to return Swan Districts to the heights of 2010.
THE LOCAL WHITEBOARD
We highlight the newsmakers, upset specials, milestone men and games to watch in metro and country football in August.
FLAGGING THE POSSIBILITIES
The finals tide is about to wash over football; here’s a look at the clubs aiming to ride a wave of momentum to glory.
QUICK OFF THE MARK!
If lack of acceleration is your issue, WA sprint guru Mark Neates is the man to consult.
The Saint who could provide brains at the AFL; Plenty of Will power; The Eagle rebranded; Clement in Pie mix; Hopper on Blue path; and ruffling Harvey feathers – we reveal some of the whispers around the corridors of power.
All this and more in the August issue of Inside Football magazine.
ON SALE 7 AUGUST at your local newsagent, Woolworths, Coles, 7-Eleven, Caltex and Coles Express for just $6.95.