A First Look at the 2011 Draw

In this blog I'll be reviewing the 2011 draw in terms of Venue Experience, a term that I defined and explored in an earlier blog. A team's Venue Experience for a given game is defined as the number of times that the team has played at that game's venue during the immediately preceding 12 calendar months, including finals. 

We found in that earlier blog that a home team's chances of victory in a particular game were a function of its own and its opponent's Venue Experience. With that in mind, one potentially insightful way to look at the 2011 draw would be to consider each team's Venue Experience averaged across its 11 home games and the average Venue Experience of its 11 opponents for those same games. That gives us two numbers for each team - its own and its opponents' average - which might look good in a chart.

On this diagram, the red dashed lines indicate the all-team average Venue Experience for home teams (the vertical line at just under 10 games) and for away teams (the horizontal line at just under 4 games). A typical team, therefore, will have an average Excess Venue Experience of about 6 games when it is playing at home.

Teams in the bottom right quadrant of this diagram have the best draw in the sense that they have relatively high levels of Average Venue Experience across their 11 home games and their opponents have relatively low levels of Average Venue Experience. Put another way, these teams will tend to have high average Excess Venue Experience levels. Fremantle is one team in this favourable quadrant. Each time it plays a home game during 2011 it will be on a ground it has played on, on average, over 12 times in the previous 12 months (as a designated home or away team) while its opponents, in contrast, will have on average only played there twice.

A similar picture emerges for the other interstate teams that share a home ground with one other team, namely Port Adelaide, Adelaide and West Coast.

Brisbane has a level of Venue Experience for its home contests similar to these other non-Victorian teams, but its opponents have a lower average experience (about 0.7 games) since, at most, they have played at the Gabba just once in the previous 12 months, Brisbane being the only team using the Gabba for home games. Some teams, of course, didn't face Brisbane at the Gabba at all in 2010.

Sydney's opponents have an even lower level of Average Venue Experience at just 0.3 games. Sydney's average is low firstly because, like Brisbane, it doesn't share a home ground, but what drives it even lower is the fact that Sydney has two unshared home venues - the SCG and Stadium Australia.

Now having two places to call home makes opponents, on average, even less familiar with the venue on which they face the Swans, clearly a 'good thing', but it also makes the Swans themselves less familiar with their own home grounds. As a result, the Swans' Average Venue Experience for home games is just over 6 games, the second lowest in the competition, higher only than the debutants, Gold Coast, for whom many games, home or away, will be on a venue new to them. 

Geelong is another team with multiple home ground venues - three in 2011 - and is accordingly associated with a relatively low level of Average Venue Experience for home games this season. However, since two of its home grounds this season are Docklands and the MCG, both relatively popular venues, and only seven games are played at Kardinia Park, its opponents' Average Venue Experience is still quite high, close in fact to the all-team average. Geelong's average Excess Venue Experience is thus only just over 3 games when it could easily be around 10, like Brisbane's, if it played all its home games at Kardinia.

Most of the teams that use the MCG or Docklands as their main home grounds - Essendon, Carlton, St Kilda, Richmond, Melbourne and, to a lesser extent, Hawthorn, the Dogs and the Kangaroos - all register similar levels of own and opponent Average Venue Experience. The Roos have a slightly higher Average Venue Experience because they play all 11 of their home games at Docklands this year, and the Dogs' is also higher because they play 10 of their 11 home games at Docklands. Hawthorn have a lower Average Venue Experience because they are playing 4 home games at Aurora in 2011.

That leaves only Collingwood unaccounted for. Their Average Venue Experience is an extraordinary 15.6 games, a consequence of the MCG being their predominant home venue for 2011. As you'll no doubt recall, the Pies racked up quite a bit of Venue Experience at the G in September (and October) of 2010.

In the same way as we've looked at each teams' Venue Experience when playing at home, we can also look at teams' Venue Experience when playing away.

As you can see, there's relatively little variability in the Average Venue Experience of teams' opponents when they are playing away. Port Adelaide defines one end of the range with an average of 7.6 games and Essendon defines the other at 11.4 games.

There is, however, much variation in the teams' own Venue Experience when playing away.

Unsurprisingly, the Gold Coast has the lowest Average Venue Experience when playing away at just 0.5 games. Next lowest is Sydney with 1.3 games, its average dragged down by the fact that it plays away games at 8 different venues in 2011, the equal-highest of any team in the competition, and by the fact that only 3 of those away games are at Docklands and 2 are at the MCG. Many other teams' Average Venue Experience in away games is bolstered by playing 6 or 7 away games in total at the MCG and Docklands, giving them an opportunity to become more familiar with these grounds.

Collingwood, again, stand alone in terms of Average Venue Experience. Theirs is an extraordinary 9.2 games, lifted by playing away games at only 5 different venues and by playing 7 away games at one of their two home grounds (5 at the MCG and 2 at Docklands). So advantageous is their draw in 2011 that the average Excess Venue Experience for their away games is only -0.4 games. In other words, for most of their away games in 2011 the Pies will be playing at a venue where they have the same level of Venue Experience as do their opponents. Across all teams the average Excess Venue Experience in away games is about -6 games.

To finish, here's a summary of the number of home and away games played by each team at each venue during 2011 (click the image for a larger view). 

In the 187 home-and-away games played in 2011, 48 of them will be played at Docklands and 47 will be played at the MCG, meaning that over 50% of all fixtures will be at one or other venue. Across the entire season, 13 different venues will be used, included Cazaly's Stadium and Manuka Oval once each, and Marrara Oval twice.

Combining home and away fixtures, Sydney is the team that plays on the most grounds during the season (10), while five teams - Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fremantle and West Coast - play on the fewest (6).