Match analysis in AFL, Soccer and Rugby Union: patterns, trends and similarities
University of South Australia, Australia 1. INTRODUCTION All sports evolve over time. Even sports that may appear to be very stable or consistent are regularly changing. For example, golf began in 1744 with a simple set of 13 rules but the most recent edition of the rulebook was 208 pages, outlining literally hundreds of rules (www.randa.org). Australian Football (AF) was codified in 1857 with 10 rules and now has in excess of 360 (www.AFL.com.au). However, it is more than just rule changes that contribute to the evolution of a sport, it is also the skills and abilities of the players, game tactics employed by coaches and, in field and court-based sports, the speed and style in which the game is played. This paper reviews the evolution of three football codes: AF, Association Football (soccer) and Rugby Union. Specifically, the aim was to determine if there are any consistent patterns of evolutionary changes common to these field sports that may help to understand forces associated with game structure or tactics that might influence the way these sports change over time. 2. METHODOLOGY Understanding how sports evolve typically requires reviewing the highest quality athletes involved in the sport. This means the national football league in AF (AFL), and World Cup matches in both soccer and Rugby Union. Through necessity this also means past games can only be reviewed using video analysis. Specially designed computer-based tracking software has recently been developed to quantify elements of the game that, theoretically, could provide information on game trends across decades of competition (Edgecombe and Norton, 2006).