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The Captaincy Effect

There are a number of new Captains in the AFL this year and all of them are potential DT superstars of 2011. DT TALK reader Mick asks: Will the additional pressure of captaincy actually have a negative impact on scoring output?

There are a number of new Captains in the AFL this year and all of them are potential DT superstars of 2011. Matthew Boyd, Luke Hodge, Gary Ablett and Brad Green have all been handed the torch for their respective sides and all are on the radar of most keen DT observers. But one common sentiment that surfaces in any pub discussion of these players –

Will the additional pressure of captaincy actually have a negative impact on scoring output?

In order to gain some historical perspective, and to find an answer to our quandary, the following list outlines the change in yearly average for the current crop of AFL captains in the year they were first awarded captaincy.

Adelaide: Nathan van Berlo has been newly appointed this year, but previously it was Simon Goodwin. His average increased slightly from 87.2 to 89.2 in his first year as captain.

Brisbane: Jonathon Brown was named co-captain with Black, Johnson, Lappin and Power in 2007 and his average dropped from 107 to 93. When he was named sole Captain in 2009 his average increased from 87 to 94, leading from the front.

Carlton: Chris Judd is the current Carlton Captain, but the honour was first awarded to him in 2006 playing with the Eagles. In that season his average increased from 83 to 100.3, his second best DT season ever. Juddy is another superstar that led his team by example in the first year of Captaincy.

Collingwood: Nick Maxwell was named in 2009 and his average increased from 59.7 to 75.5. It’s hard to believe the Pies gave the Captaincy to a bloke who averaged under 60, but it had a positive impact on his scoring.

Essendon: Jobe Watson last year increased his average from 91 to 94.9.

Fremantle: Matthew Pavlich in 2007 recorded an increase from 90.8 to 102, his only 100+ season in 10 years of football. His scoring has tapered off ever since.

Geelong: Cameron Ling was given the Captaincy last year, his average dropping from 88 to 82. Prior to Ling it was Tom Harley. Appointed in 2007, his average jumped from 50 to 55. Neither is terribly relevant to Dream Team.

Hawthorn: Sam Mitchell in 2008 underwent a slight decrease from 94.5 to 92.2. Interestingly, he had his two best DT years following this, both 100+.

Melbourne: Captaincy was handed to stalwart Junior Mac in 2009 and his average dropped slightly from 81 to 79. He was 32 years of age and in his 12th season of football.

North: Brent Harvey in 2009 recorded a drop in average from 94 to 82. Most would agree, however, that this was a result of breaking his elbow in Round 5 (and despite this he still managed to play 15 games like the star that he is).

Port: Dom Cassisi in 2009 went from 91 to 93.

Richmond: Chris Newman in 2009 went from 81 to 79.

St Kilda: Lenny Hayes in 2004, as part of the ‘Grant Thomas Rotating Captaincy’ theory, dropped 10 points from 99 to 89 in his 5th season of football. Nick Riewoldt had his turn in 2005 and dropped 10 points from 99.9 to 88.7, but he did break his collarbone and only manage 14 games. Luke Ball was handed the potato in 2006 and dropped 4 points from 94 to 90. Since the failed rotation experiment, every second male in the 21st Century Bar in Frankston has claimed to be ‘St Kilda Captain’ but their scores have not been fully documented.

Sydney: This is another bunch that won’t commit. Since 2005 they’ve had about a dozen players on a semi-rotating, captain’s parlay formula rolled into a double at Rosehill. But let’s say the Captain was really just Kirky (because it really was). His average went from 79 to 84.

West Coast: No-one cares. But for the record it’s Darren Glass (how many people outside of Perth actually know that?) In 2008 his average went from 41.4 to 41.3. Amazingly, in the last 6 years, Glass has had a highest season average of 43.1 and a lowest of 40.5 – just 2.6 points difference. He might well be the single most consistent player in all of DT.

Bulldogs: Brad Johnson in 2006 increased his average from 96.6 to 100.2, his equal highest DT season average ever.

So will the Captaincy have a negative impact on Dream Team output? Let’s countdown the Top 5 concluding statements:

5. Legends of the game will lead from the front and increase their average, like Judd and Pavlich.

4. Mid-priced guys such as Nick Maxwell can grow into their potential (van Berlo anyone?)

3. Blokes who are already playing around their current ceiling will maintain it.

2. St Kilda are a mess and their leadership should be ignored.

1. No recent Captain has had a significant decrease in Dream Team average in their inaugural year without a corresponding significant injury.

I think we can safely rule out the theory that the pressure of Captaincy will lead to a decrease in scoring output.

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