SEVERAL appointments have been made by St Kilda football manager Simon Lethlean over the past few months as he overhauled his department, but one went under the radar.
Darren O'Shaughnessy came over from Hawthorn, where he was a consultant from 2012, to begin as senior analyst at the club last October.
The Saints already had a team of analysts, including Robbie Chancellor, Chris McKay and Callum Willis, who trawl through vision, figuring out what works and what doesn't, inventing strategies and uncovering how the best clubs play.
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What O'Shaughnessy provides is a data-driven approach, using numbers to further explore football.
Effectively, he's bringing his scientific approach to combine with the coaches and their philosophies, acting as a bridge between those two worlds.
O'Shaughnessy helps out in several areas, including recruiting, player development and in his real interest, which is on match-day.
Sitting in the coaches' box, he will take in the stats and decipher what's important and what isn't.
"We might recognise that the opposition's kicked three goals out of centre bounces in a quarter. You might think that, on the face of it, is a disaster," O'Shaughnessy told AFL.com.au.
"We can go into the details and say maybe they weren't quality shots, or maybe one was from a 50-metre penalty."
An initiative from McKay has seen the St Kilda Analysis Academy being formed, which will take a deeper look at all 18 clubs.
"We can pick up if a team's significantly changed its style after round eight, or whatever it is," O'Shaughnessy said.
"We should be able to get a hold of that and say let's look at some vision and see what's really going on, but also we can measure what's been successful, or are they using a different game style against different opponents."
He can help younger players improve by showing them different aspects of the game that might otherwise be tough to understand.
For example, running patterns. Seeing can help them learn what they need to know.
"If you put that in a consistent visualisation for the players, they get a much better sense of where they are," O'Shaughnessy said.
His work with the recruiting department comes in various forms, such as aiding the evaluation of players in the under-18 system.
"(If a player is) at a top junior club compared to a middle-of-the-road one, you can adjust those numbers to say 'here's where he sits on those measures'," O'Shaughnessy said.
He believes the use of data in clubs is "accelerating" but thinks more can, and will, be done.
"You look at the example of say Liverpool overseas, it's got a number of PhDs on staff now," O'Shaughnessy said.
"I don't think the AFL has a need for that yet and certainly doesn't have a budget for it, but there's a need to get better use of data.
"Even revisit the fundamentals and say, 'is it useful to have the first thing being this guy had 22 touches? How about we use some more repeatable KPIs (key performance indicators) over time, rather than just looking at how many times did we do something'."