Harris Andrews and Lachie Neale during Brisbane's loss to Collingwood in round three, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

WINNING the inside 50 count has never meant less than in the opening rounds of 2024.

No team encapsulates this better than Brisbane, which has taken the ball into its attacking zone more than the opposition in all three games this year – yet come out on the wrong side of the scoreboard in all three.

The Lions had 13 more entries than Collingwood last Thursday night yet lost by 20 points. Plenty of other teams suffered the same fate last weekend.

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Port Adelaide (66) dominated Melbourne (45) in that statistic and lost. West Coast had as many (51) entries as the Western Bulldogs and were thumped by 76 points. And Hawthorn went down by six goals to Geelong despite generating nine more entries.

Just 63 per cent of winners in the opening 29 games this season have won the inside 50 count. According to statistics provided by Champion Data, it's the lowest win rate of any season since 2000. In fact, only the shortened season in 2020 (66 per cent) has seen less than 70 per cent of games won by teams that won the inside 50 count.

Dan Houston, Connor Rozee and Willie Rioli after Port Adelaide's loss to Melbourne in round three, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

If the pattern is to continue this season, what markers should we be looking at as indicators of success? And which teams are hitting those markers early on?

It's long been common knowledge that the turnover game is king, but this season is coming with a twist.

Nine of the past 10 premiers have been top six in scores from turnover differential, with the only exception the barnstorming Western Bulldogs in 2016, who ranked seventh.

So far, the top six teams in that metric this season are Greater Western Sydney (+31), Carlton (+28), Western Bulldogs (+24), Sydney (+16), Geelong (+15) and St. Kilda (+11).


However, the change has come from how – and where – teams are punishing those turnovers.

Each season, teams generally try to emulate the previous year's premier, and it appears the competition has gone to school on what made Collingwood such a success in 2023.

The Magpies were the kings of moving the ball from their back half, scoring almost 40 points a game from defensive-half chains as they stormed to the flag.

With defences now so well drilled to defend forward-half turnovers, there's been an explosion of scoring originating from the other end of the ground.

The Giants are the top dogs with 50.7 points a game coming from defensive-half chains, while the Saints (46.7), Port Adelaide (42.7), Sydney (40.8), Brisbane (39.3) and  Carlton (37.7) have all upped their output in that area.

Interestingly, the Pies are ranked 16th with just 24 points a game.


While scores from turnover differential and defensive-half scoring are proving great indicators of success, they're not the best marker.

That gong goes to a team's pressure on the opposition.

Win that category and you win 90 per cent of matches. Again, Collingwood was ranked No.1 last year.

Every team in the top eight has a positive pressure differential this season, led by Port and Carlton.

Pressure differential to R3, 2024

Team Pressure differential
Port Adelaide +18
Carlton +15
Western Bulldogs +8
Sydney +7
Fremantle +6
GWS +6

Although getting the ball inside your forward 50 is obviously crucial, the early markers of 2024 are showing us it's not the be-all-and-end-all, and that perhaps we should be weighting a side's pressure, its ability to score from turnovers, and how it generates scores from the back half of the ground more heavily.