Comebacks and the Premiership Quarter

Raisin my Trust

Last year at secondary school, I attended a monthly school leaders meeting up in the College Boardroom. We used to sit around a huge mahogany table and discuss how best to approach the increasingly frustrating issue of the overcrowded canteen, or of the broken water taps. Enthralling stuff. This is why I usually turned my attention to the delicious catered lunch options we were given. It was fantastic, and the only time of the month where I enjoyed what I ate during our break. (Sorry Mum, Peanut Butter Sandwiches become a bit boring after 5 years.) There were bowls of fresh fruit, cut sandwiches with turkey or chicken, warm scones, and even a tray of assorted cakes. But off to the side of the table, there was tempting a large pile of freshly baked biscuits and cookies. I grabbed what I thought was a tasty choc-chip cookie, and as I took I bite, I was bitterly disappointed. I was anticipating – and expecting – a sweet chocolate experience, but what I got in return, was a dried out, crumbly Raisin and Oatmeal biscuit. It shook me. It hurt, and I was let down. I vowed never to trust those cookies again. Hell, that’s where my psych says all my trust issues come from. Well, that, and the footy.

As soon as I think that the AFL cannot get anymore exciting, anymore dramatic, anymore fan-bloody-tastic, I am proven wrong. I can no longer trust the football. Every time I believe one thing, the other happens. Every time something extraordinary happens, it gets better. And every time I believe a team has it won, they don’t.

Take Friday night’s game. Trailing by 36 points at half time, the Dons seemed down and out. In enemy territory and greasy conditions, they produced one of the most outstanding comebacks ever, as Paddy Ryder kicked the winner with just a minute left on the clock. Essendon’s 5th biggest comeback ever from a half time deficit. An inspired victory, especially considering the controversy that surrounded the team and coach that week.

Or how about Showdown XXXIVThe Pride of South Australia had it under control during the 3rd quarter, leading by 5 goals. Yet low and behold – with much thanks to the Hoff – Port Adelaide charged home to win by 9 points.

The modern game seems to have got to a point where no team is ever safe. But this does beg an important question. Statistically, how often do team’s squander their lead? At quarter time? Half time? And how many three quarter time comebacks do we see? – And further to that, how important is each quarter of the game? How vital is the Premiership Quarter?

After a fair bit of research thanks to RLeague Stats and Rogers Results, I made a graph to find out.

Quarters percentage

Looking at next week’s games, it already seems likely my trust issues will remain. But unlike the Raisin Cookie in disguise, the footy will always be a sweet chocolaty surprise. Hey it rhymes!!




Follow Jake “Cobba” Stevens on Twitter and on his blog!

About Jake "Cobba" Stevens

Cobba Stevens works in sports social media and content. A keen middle-distance runner in both the ammos and the pros, he's also one of the youngest 'old bloods' supporters in Melbourne.


  1. Earl O'Neill says

    Great graph, Cobba, informative and stylish!

    We didn’t hear the final siren in ’05, but we were tucked under the stand in standing room behind the Punt Rd goalposts.

  2. Cobba – love your work. Here is your mission should you choose to accept it (have no idea where you would find the data). I think the team who scores most in time on of the second quarter – is the most under-recognised predictor in footy. One where you may be able to achieve an ‘edge’. Think the last few Grand Finals. No matter how far you are behind, a couple of goal advantage in time on indicates you have the spirit and fitness to run out the game. Its not about ‘team lifting goals’ – its just a marker of intent and capacity.
    My uneducated guess is that 70%+ of the teams that come from behind at half time to win (and hence are at longer prices in betting) are the higher scorer in the last 10 minutes before half time. It is just a matter of testing the theory and the frequency of its occurence – in relation to the odds on offer. Any takers – Cobba or Flynny? As a non-punter these days I have only an academic not financial interest in the validity of my theory and whether it provides a worthwhile ‘edge’.
    The Dockers had spent all their pennies for too little return in the first half last Friday. And the drying ground allowed Essendon to use leg speed and fast ball movement to beat the Lyon press in the second half.

    Earl – I was tucked under the stand in standing room behind the Punt Road goalposts in ’05. Chances are you were the prick I swore at when Leo took his mark!! Then a long drive to Adelaide as we hadn’t been able to get flights direct to Melbourne.
    We were so shattered we couldn’t get up the courage to come back for more in ’06.
    Booked our flights and accomodation early in 2012 – but that only jinxed us earlier in the finals series. Enjoyed much good Almanacker hospitality as compensation.

  3. Lord Bogan says

    Great stuff Cobba. Would be keen to see the stats for Grand Finals. Surprised at the 72% chance for 1st quarters. Thought it would be more even than that. How is Sports Journalism at La Trobe going so far?

  4. Good work, Cobba!
    It would be an interesting – but far too time-consuming – exercise to see how
    being in front at half time in other sports translates to winning. For example
    rugby league, soccer, and winning the first set in a tennis match.

  5. Andrew Fithall says

    Excellent work Cobba. So since you have all this spare time, and continuing with Smokie’s tennis theme, can you please check in grand slams, what percentage of players who win a match in four or five sets would have been the loser if the match was decided in three sets.

    Thanks. No rush. An answer by Monday will be fine.


  6. Jake "Cobba" Stevens says

    Cheers for the feedback guys!

    Looks like I’ve just nicked the top of the iceberg now. Plenty of questions to keep me busy for the next few months (or years…hell I might as well do a PHD on the bloody subject)

    Earl – I didn’t hear the siren either. Which brings me to conclude that in 2012 the crowd was a lot quieter, or the siren was a lot louder. – Haven’t decided yet.

    Phil – Settling in very nicely thanks. The content is interesting. This uni stuff isn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be – not yet anyway.

  7. Cobba, what is the biggest ever lead in which a side has lost from in AFL/VFL history? Was it the St Kilda v Hawthorn encounter @ Waverly in 1999, when the Saints led by 68 points in term 2 before losing, or was it the North Melbourne v Essendon shootout in 2001. when the Roos lost from a similar lead?

  8. Saints were 58 points up in their match against the Hawks. Biggest ever is when Essendon came back from 69 points down in the second quarter against North.

    Some other stats of interest about comebacks:

    Quarter-Time Deficit: 58 point (Essendon, Rd 16 2001 vs North)
    Half-Time Deficit: 52 points (Collingwood, Rd 10 1970 vs St Kilda)
    Three-Quarter-Time Deficit: 45 points (Brisbane, Rd 16 1995 vs Hawthorn)

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