Cat P*rn & the Ross Lyon Vortex

The following Twitter exchange got me thinking

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Did the Ross Lyon Vortex actually exist? Using the data I have put together for the Statistical Premiership Window I have plotted the average game score since 2007 (rolling 22 game average so the data starts from Round 22, 2007 up to Round 17, 2014).

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There has been a general decline in average game scores over the last 6 to 7 seasons, other than a fairly short-lived reversal during the 2012 (and part of 2013) season. Many like to blame the defensive mindset of coaches for this, with Ross Lyon leading the way. So how do Ross Lyon-coached teams compare to this league average. I have plotted below the average points for and the average points against for Ross’ teams since he took over the Saints in 2007.

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Over the past 6 plus seasons, Ross Lyon’s teams have always kept the opposition to a score below that of the league average, most notable in 2009 when the Saints finished on top of the ladder at the end of the main season (can’t call it Home & Away!). In 2009, the Saints also managed to score above the league average, but for most of the time have also scored below average. Plotting the total game average score for Ross’ teams to the total competition produces what I like to call Ross Lyon’s Vortex!

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The red shaded area in the chart above represents the difference between the league game score average and Ross’ teams average game score – or the vortex where all the missing goals that Greg Baum was lamenting.

Now for some statistical porn for all those Cats supporters as promised.

From the 2007 to 2013 seasons, Ross Lyon-coached teams have made 3 grand finals (not including the rematch in 2010) and Geelong have made 4 (yes Hawks fans – your team has also made 3 GFs but I only have so much time). The following chart compares the average league game score to Geelong’s average score both for and against.

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That just look much nicer wouldn’t you say?

The chart below compares the difference in points between the average games scores that Geelong have played to the league average and does the same for Ross Lyon-coached teams.

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I don’t think many (if any) would dispute how fun it has been to watch the Cats play football over the last 6 to 7 years, and I think these charts show that.  I also don’t want to disparage Rossball as there have been some cracking games involving his teams over the same time, but on the whole, I know which style I prefer.

PS: Word of warning, those who revel in this type of negative analysis on Ross, note the upward trend in Fremantle’s average points for this season. They may be as well placed as the Saints were in 2009 to pull it off this year – stay tuned for the final instalment of the Statistical Premiership Window after the end of Round 23.


  1. Damien- I guess I can begrudgingly respect the defensive pressure Lyon’s teams apply. But it is ultimately horrible to watch. And surely we watch sport for the grace and the beauty. If these are clinically stripped from the contest, then there is nothing left.

    Instructive analysis, as always!

  2. buccaneer says

    Brilliant work Damien, love it – and very interesting point that you haven’t drawn out is that Rossball teams score pretty much at, or more recently slightly above the average score.

    Now the missing stat that will clearly show the future of the game (short of rule changes to reduce the number of players or some such), regardless of how anybody ‘likes to see the game played’

    Can you show us a head to head score graph of Ross teams v Cats. I think you will see Ross-ball wins. Winning is what coaches get paid to do and that is why every team other than the Cats, Pies, Bombers and Eagles are now playing Ross-ball

  3. Sometimes you have to play a style that suits the cattle you have, me thinks. Apart from big Nick and little Milne, the Saints have had few other scoring options. The cats have had a far greater spread* of goal kickers and a more even skilled team [*perhaps a stat there would be enlightening Damien]. The Pies played around the boundary and used defensive pressure to win a flag; not so convincing with Bucks’ new style [injuries permitting]. Lyon felt he needed to put some steel into the flakey Freo team by teaching defensive pressure; now they are becoming more attacking but retaining the discipline learned.

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