A night in Stats Central

I have long been going to the SANFL to keep a close watch on the development and form of any Adelaide Crows player running around in the twos. And for every game I’ve gone to I’ve carried a little black notebook, about the size of the average hand, with me.

As the teams run out I jot down the Crows player’s names alongside columns I’ve quickly drawn up marked ‘K’ for kick, ‘H’ for handball and so forth. The room beneath the table is left for game notes and general observations on how the guys are going.

I do it mostly to keep track of their progress so I can walk away from the game saying more than, ‘they did alright’. Perhaps also a small portion of it is so my concentration doesn’t wane, wondering about how much warmer I would be in bed at 10:00pm on a Friday night compared to being at Norwood Oval in the middle of winter.

But it seems my amateur stat taking has not been in vain as I spent last Friday night alongside the Champion Data team at Richmond Oval.

It was a mild April night in Adelaide. I was comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt however my nerves started to get the better of me as the sky turned pink over the city skyline as the sun set behind the grandstand. I was sitting with my mum during the reserves game anxiously waiting to meet Brett from Champion Data.

No less then an hour later I was rubbing shoulders with a host of interesting characters in the central box at the back of the stand. To my left was the ground announcer, two timekeepers, and The Advertiser SANFL reporter Warren Partland and to my right the spotter, Brett, the caller and lastly the keyboarder. Not to mention that we were right next door to the Norwood coach’s box, lead by former Crow Nathan Basset.

My task in it all? Well I was there to observe the spotter’s role and to get a gist for the whole stat-taking gig. Chris was the evening’s spotter and a life-long West Adelaide supporter who enjoyed the role as an ‘easy way to make some money on the side’. His role, as he explained to me, was to note the number of any ‘unknown’ players called and any other error that needed to be fixed by the keyboarder at the quarter breaks.

Brett, who invited me along after noting my enthusiasm for keeping stats, was responsible for calling every kick, handball, tackle, hit out etc for the match. In turn the keyboarder would enter the data into what looked like a very complicated program on his laptop.

The game sounded something like this: ‘West 33 hit out, West 37 kick, West 21 contested mark, West 21 ineffective kick, Norwood four handball, West 24 tackle, ball up’.

Put it this way, I never missed one of the Crows’ Will Young’s 21 possessions.

Around the 20-minute mark of each quarter a young lad from West Adelaide would come up to the box and collect a print out of the data collected so far and he would return again during the breaks. I asked the guys whether most teams take advantage of their service but was told generally only a few as most rely on their volunteer statisticians.

At half time we all took a break, except for Warren who started to type up his piece for the paper the next day, so I went to say hello to mum who proudly showed me the stats she was keeping for Will Young. She wasn’t too far off.

Despite the scrappy game the second half was entertaining to watch from the box.

The announcer informed us that the new electronic scoreboard switched off because ‘You can’t have that and the new lights working together,’ forcing him to read out the score after every goal or when someone from the crowd shouted out ‘What’s the score?!’ And finally I heard old Crow Nathan Basset, famous for his dummy spits, ark up next door about something to do with the umpires. I was just waiting to witness another one.

Despite the technical glitch I spotted a few familiar faces eager to check out the stadium’s new lighting. Most notable was the one and only Clive Waterhouse and a few Crows players that hung around to watch the first half.

After the game I was given a print out, hot off the press, containing both team’s full stats for the match. I may not need my little black book for too much longer.

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