History in numbers – Champion Data documenting the women’s game

The AFL’s official statisticians expect they will expand their coverage of women’s football in 2018, collecting data not only on the AFLW and Under 18 Championships but also the top tier state leagues including the WAWFL, SANFLW and VFLW.

In an interview with the Girls Play Footy Podcast, Champion Data statistician and AFL analyst, Karl Jackson explained that the statistics collected by Champion Data for the AFLW mirror that of the AFLM.

Kara Donnellan collected the most Champion Data ranking points ever recorded in a match back in round six of 2017.

“The only difference is that we don’t record the match-ups data for AFLW, so that’s recording which players are playing on each other – trying to identify taggers and key defence roles.” Jackson said.

“Outside of that, the amount of stats that we capture and the amount of information we’ve got for the AFLW is identical to what we do for the men’s competition.”

While data had been collected on the exhibition matches, prior to 2017 there was no coverage of state leagues or juniors meaning that when the AFLW launched last year, many of the players were unknowns. Statistically, at least.

Predictions were made based on, well, not much. While some had tipped Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs as the teams to beat, it was Brisbane who went undefeated and Adelaide who took home the premiership cup.

As we step into season two, we have a much clearer idea of the competition, the teams and the individual players, and we owe some of that to the work of Champion Data.

As Jackson explained, the amount of data collected is significant and the process somewhat complex.

“The way that we operate is that we collect all the data live.

“We’ve got ten people working on every game to get the information, most of it coming from one person who is essentially calling the game like a commentator [and] that’s being recorded into our database by what we call a keyboarder.

‘Each of those people have someone sitting next to them doing QA [quality assurance], so checking that the right stats are being called or being entered.

‘We’ve also got every kick, we record how much pressure they were under, whether they’re left or right foot, how long they’re kicking it, what their target was and information on where every stat happens and interchanges.”

All that work means that we now know, for instance, that Sarah Perkins finished top five in the competition for pressure applied and score assists.

We know that Hannah Scott was the best general defender in the competition, gaining 385 metres per match, 133 more than the next best defender.

We know that Kara Donnellan finished in the top five for clearances, tackles and inside 50s and that her round six performance against Carlton earned her the most Champion Data points ever recorded in any competition.

And while we didn’t need stats to understand the skill and impact of Erin Phillips and Daisy Pearce, we’ve got them now.

In the foreword to Champion Data’s AFLW Prospectus, women’s football pioneer Chyloe Kurdas mentions the talent of Michelle Dench, the daughter of North Melbourne’s David, who played for Melbourne University in the 90s.

Like many before her, and plenty after too, the exploits of Michelle Dench aren’t etched into our history books or captured in highlights packages. They exist only in the memories of those who witnessed them.

This has long been the story of women’s football. But it’s no longer the case.

When the next Michelle Dench steps onto a field, their skill and strength and smarts will be captured and recorded. And that is something to celebrate.

You can order your copy of the AFLW Prospectus directly from the Champion Data website.

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