EVERYONE in AFL football has heard of the 'noise of affirmation' but at the weekend we discovered the 'confirmation of silence'.

The sample size is small but what evidence there is of how games would be umpired without crowds confirms the suspicion we probably all had.

All of the AFL's nine round one matches were as good as played in front of empty stadiums, owing to the coronavirus outbreak – and the free kick counts made for interesting reading.

Home and away free kick counts in round one

GAMES

HOME FREE KICKS

AWAY FREE KICKS

HOME DIFFERENTIAL

Richmond v Carlton

18

24

-6

Western Bulldogs v Collingwood

12

19

-7

Essendon v Fremantle

17

11

+6

Adelaide v Sydney

18

21

-3

GWS v Geelong

24

15

+9

Gold Coast v Port Adelaide

14

17

-3

North Melbourne v St Kilda

21

17

+4

Hawthorn v Brisbane

20

15

+5

West Coast v Melbourne

9

11

-2

  • Matches in italics involved teams from different states

Six of those contests saw clubs travel interstate to play, which would typically result in them having a crowd support disadvantage and being on the wrong side of the free kick ledger.

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That factor was removed, and the home and away sides split the free kick count across those matches last week.

Only Brisbane, Greater Western Sydney and St Kilda have a negative free kick differential at home against interstate rivals since 2010.

Umpires walk out at an empty Metricon Stadium. Picture: AFL Photos

West Coast, Port Adelaide and Adelaide have the greatest positive differential in the same period.

In fact, the Lions are the sole visitors in that time to win more free kicks than the Eagles in Perth (plus-six from four clashes), with West Coast overall averaging 5.5 more free kicks than its interstate opposition in 108 games.

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However, the Eagles have now narrowly lost the free kick count twice in a row at home to the Demons, after winning the previous seven dating to the 2011 season, by an average of 8.3 free kicks.

Free kicks at home since 2010

CLUB

HOME GAMES v INTERSTATE TEAM

FREE KICK DIFFERENTIAL

Adelaide

105

+260

Brisbane

104

-8

Carlton

45

+143

Collingwood

45

+96

Essendon

42

+85

Fremantle

95

+137

Geelong

55

+157

Gold Coast

92

+12

GWS

85

-10

Hawthorn

69

+106

Melbourne

46

+56

North Melbourne

54

+141

Port Adelaide

122

+285

Richmond

46

+31

St. Kilda

43

-15

Sydney

111

+76

West Coast

108

+595

Western Bulldogs

51

+221


Brisbane finds itself in several unexplained free kick quirks, including being the only side to not have a positive differential against Hawthorn in Tasmania.

The Hawks have now won the count against the Lions in nine out of their past 10 meetings at the MCG or Launceston.

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Neither the Crows nor the Suns have a notable free kick advantage in their match-ups in the past decade with the Swans and Power, respectively, but both have won the count more often than losing it.

There is a greater advantage in this time period for the Bombers and Giants over the Dockers and Cats, respectively.

Phil Davis might have lost this battle with the umps, but the Giants won the free kick war against Geelong. Picture: AFL Photos

Essendon's been in front of Fremantle in the free kick count four of the past five times at home, while GWS is plus-30 against Geelong across their past four contests in Giants territory.

There is a strong prospect of crowds not being let in even if the season resumes, and the early evidence suggests that means home-ground advantage might not be what it once was.