The Winning Edge: The Reverse Barometer

My tipping this year has been sub-standard. I’m the first to admit that the countless hours spent invested are not providing the expected results, and I’m not the force I was in my younger zenith. My tens of tipping competitions are in danger of being rendered as solely a week to week battle to grab nine and the margin. No overall win in 2012 is in sight.

The vital question I have been asking this season: is it me or the game? Have I lost touch, or has the game evolved? In match review panel verdicts, leaked team selections before the ‘official’ ones emerge, and then finally the expert tips and various stats that supposedly matter, the over-informed gorging on their weekly homework can become as likely to succeed as those with no knowledge, especially with an ineffective filtration system.

The first part of the season I spent trying to play an odds-related metagame. If the odds or perception dictated a fifty-fifty match of epic standards, then I had to pick the team that the least number of punters had picked (a figure available on a few tipping ventures). This piggybacked off the widely held belief that one simply cannot choose favourites week in and week out, and then expect to be winning a competition come the end of the year, let alone at the end of a round (although this proved to be the case for some of last year, when upsets seemed to be exception as weakened sides fell victim in the second half of the season).

Given the ultra-competitive nature of this year, upsets have come frequently, giving the sport a much needed adrenaline filled boost of hope. The problem for this tipster was that the early season upsets came in games not perceived to be even money, while the fifty-fifties tended to follow the tipping percentages, which left me with an early season deficit to catch up from.

From there, I disembarked from the odds to the stats. But the plethora of stats is almost impossible to decipher. What stat(s) matter(s)? Goals kicked? No, it’s a matter of capital punishment being dealt in turn to embryo sides and teams devoid of confidence. Effective disposals? Depends where you’re being effective (I remember Garry Lyon stating in 2005 that he thought the most important effective kick in football was the inside-50, and I occasionally borrow that line). A few professors of the game have come up with formulas and ideas of how the game is truly won and lost, but then there are no tips associated with these blackboard drawings. And no tips means no results to then form measurable conclusions.

The experts, a rough form guide I perused when the stats failed to help, can be divided between the rocks, the nuts and the loyalists. Rocks tend to back favourites and if particularly excited about one team’s underdog prospects they may venture outside to play. The nuts, myself included, will pick a few upsets a week. The mongrel punter in us demands the risk-reward properties. The loyalists rarely have any chance of winning, the heart a tipping fallacy. But one thing in common they share, they put their necks on the line. They live by the sword and die by the tip.

Which brings me to my current tipping mechanism. Commentators often talk of barometers, players who reflect the success of their own team. But picking a barometer, and when players emerge and fade as barometers, is reasonably inaccurate and ineffective. Far more successful for me has been the concept of the reverse barometer. These are players whom when they occupy a side provide extra vulnerability, usually due to inexperience. It’s a perverse way of tipping, seeking weakness in a world of already slashing negativity from media forms and invisible tweeting creatures.

Every player, with a few superhuman exceptions, must spend time as a reverse barometer. We all have. It’s that time where we are unsure if we belong. We are yet to consistently prove to ourselves our worth to the team. They need not always be rookies. Some will fluctuate in and out of this rating, whether it be due to a change in position or when the usual commanding officers by our side are suddenly out of the trench. It’s not a criticism, it’s a state that must be negotiated to eventually become a leader.

In a year where Geelong has fielded more first game players than any Premier since Richmond in 1970, it seems fanciful to think they can simply replace the retired warhorses of Ling, Milburn, Mooney and Ottens (and then Bartel, Wojcinski, Varcoe and Menzel, all missing during Collingwood’s win on Saturday night). The same logic applied to the Sydney and West Coast battle, the Eagles heavily relying on players with sporadic matchplay and first year rookies. Richmond’s loss to the Gold Coast, and North’s flash display against unstable Carlton followed similar scripts. A handy eight from nine tips were spiked this week, Gold Coast proving initial concerns with Richmond, but were still a tough and risky tip.

But as reverse barometers gain experience and improve naturally (through gaining the time afforded by not being the substitute), they evolve into thermometers, simply forming part of the overall team and dictating if the team is running hot or freezing to a standstill. Tracking the rise of reverse barometer to thermometer, is seemingly easier than picking the thermometer becoming a true barometer. Injuries and suspension affect the dynamic flow week to week, but is manageable if the change is slow and subtle enough. In a time where the mental application, consistency and trust within a team dictates the manner of performance, teams changing players too frequently alters team pressure and temperature. The most important stat then, currently in the AFL? The twenty-two aside on the park.

About Pete Anthonisz

A pathfinding, chaos of routine preferred, destination unknown explorer, seeking chance encounters and general sporting madness. Enjoys musicology and videography, meta and expecting the unexpected. For connoisseurs of sport and lovers of competition.

Leave a Comment