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AFL Dream Team 2012: Breakout Players

PRo_MoE1144 has emailed us this week with an article on ‘breakout’ players in AFL Dream Team. This is a fantastic article for new and old AFL Dream Team coaches to read and get something out of. Which players are you looking to breakout this season?

Its footy pre-season again which means its DT pre-season also.  One of the big questions on everyone lips is ‘who will have a breakout year?’  It’s what everyone wants and needs to know in order to have a successful campaign in their quest to receive a Toyota, but more importantly bragging rights over your mates.

So, the ‘breakout year’ how does it happen to a player?  Well, basically it happens when a certain person improves over pre-season training in strength, endurance, mental capacity, etc.  Or they simply become confident enough to play some great footy.  This can be a hard thing to pick as to when it will play out for footballers, but most experts insist it happens in their third season of playing Aussie Rules at the elite level.

The third season is the most common; take for example some third year players that broke out this year (2011).  Brisbane young guns: Jack Redden and Tom Rockliff.  Hawthorn wingman: Liam Shiels.  Also Collingwood 2010 premiership players: Steele Sidebottom and Dayne Beames.  All of these players played in their third year of the highest level and all were considered to have ‘breakout years’ DT wise and as footballers in general.  So, how do Dream Team coaches predict which third year players will become DT stars.  Let’s start with the basics.


Read articles on websites, newspapers, blogs and so on about players that are tearing up the track in pre-season training.  A successful DT coach needs to just about know the name of every player when he sees them play on the field.  So make sure you get to know some of the new players and rookies as well as pre breakout year players.

Listen to your peers

It’s hard to know everything about every single club.  So if one of your mates tells you something about one of the players from the team they support take note of it!  A Hawthorn supporter told me at the start of the year that Liam Shiels would have a belter of a 2011.  I didn’t take much notice of it and missed out.  Don’t let one slip past you!


Lastly, and I believe most importantly.  You need to look at pure stats and numbers to work out who will shine this year.  So, I have put together some interesting stats for DTers to observe.  If you don’t agree that’s fine.  These stats are kind of my own theory.


click here to download: breakout_2012.xlsx


How are you supposed to tell which third year players will break out using STATS? I believe it’s simple work out how the likes of Redden, Rockliff and Shiels improved this year using their stats from their second years.

Click to view table in full size

Here is a table I have put together concerning breakout players from this year (2011).  As you can see, it shows the players and their DT scores from each game of the 2010 season.  The 2010 average of the players can be found in the upper table in the fourth column from the left.  As you can see, only one exceeded 80 points average for the year which means none of them had great DT years.  Although in 2011 they all (baring one) reached an average of 80+, some even passing 100.  This determines that these players ‘broke out’.

If you observe the column that says ‘1st half of year ave’ in the upper table of scores from round 1-11 you will notice that most of the players averaged low scores and nothing special DT wise.  BUT, if you lower your eyes to the column that reads ‘2nd half of year ave’ in the lower table of round 12-22 scores you will notice a huge improvement in average scores.  In fact, altogether, the players averaged 11 points more in rounds 12-22 compared to 1-11.

What I am trying to get at is that we can determine that the players that will breakout in their third year are the ones who perform well in the later rounds of their second years.

If you still don’t understand, I will break it down to one person.  Jack Redden.  In his second year of AFL he had an average of around 68 points in rounds 1-11, not exceeding 100 in any of his games.  In his round 12-22 performances he averaged about 90 points that’s a 22 point improvement on round 1-11 and an 11 point improvement on his yearly average of 79.  He also scored above 100 five times and did not go below 50 once in these later rounds.

So if we apply this theory to platers that played their second year this year (2011) then we could be able to determine who will breakout in their third year!

Click to view table in full size

So, which of these second year players had stronger second halves to their seasons, DT wise?  Unfortunately the sub rule and injury can throw this off a bit but it still is evidence towards the theory.  The one that obviously stands out the most is Allen Chrsitensen the Geelong Cat.  He played 6 of the first 12 games and he was mostly the sub which lowered his scores.  Although in rounds 13-24 he cracked into the starting 21 and scored and average of 85 for those rounds which is a huge 45 point improvement on the start of the year.  And 27 points more on his yearly averaged.  Maybe, unfair stats but nevertheless he did improve in his second half so watch out for him.  The next highest improver was Gary Rohan.  Once again, the stats are inconclusive because of the sub rule and injury.  He played the first four games and the last three, probably not enough to prove my theory legitimately.  But, the one that I believe my theory could pull out is this little ‘swity.’  Jake Melksham.  He played all 22 games this year and only averaged 63 in the first half of the year.  Then, in the second half of the year he improved up to a 75 point average for those 12 rounds. That’s 12 points up from his 1-12 average and 6 up on his yearly mean.  He scored above 80 three times and above 100 once in this time.  In his 1-12 rounds he scored above 80 and 100 only once each and slipped under 50 three times.  Improvement, yes!  Huge, probably not.  But it is something that could sneak under the radar.  Other improvers included Ben Cunnington and Jack Trengove (Melb)

There are others who may well improve like Tom Scully, Jasper Pittard and Ryan Bastinac.  It’s just that they had injury interrupted years so this statistical theory didn’t work on them.  I also like the look of a couple of older guys, Matthew Wright from Adelaide and Ben Howlett from Essendon.  Howlett improved to consistently make higher scores, getting above 80 four times and above 100 three times.  Others like Dustin Martin and Nathan Fyfe already had good years, so this stat is somewhat irrelevant to them.  They could well improve out of sight next year though.

Make of it what you will, agree or disagree. It’s only a theory, but it could work.  In the end picking the surprise packet of the year in Dream team can take all the research and hard work in the world.  It does work to an extent.  BUT, sometimes it just takes luck.  I’ll finish off with my top 10 for ‘third year break outs.’

  1. Allen Christensen
  2. Jake Melksham
  3. Jack Trengove (Melb)
  4. Ben Howlett
  5. Tom Scully
  6. Mitch Duncan
  7. Ben Cunnington
  8. Jasper Pittard
  9. Gary Rohan
  10. Matthew Wright

Article by PRo_MoE1144





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