FOOTY in 2021 has been more open, with faster movement and higher scoring, right? Not quite.

While the 'stand' rule and the greater licence from kick-ins appears to have opened the game up for more aggressive ball movement and more goals across the first six rounds, the numbers actually tell us otherwise.

In fact, what's happened is teams have quickly adapted to the new rules, and it took them only three rounds.

Think of Sydney's fortunes as an analogy for the season to date.

In the opening three rounds the Swans were run-and-gun, blazing to victories over Brisbane, Adelaide and reigning premier Richmond, scoring an average of 121 points a game with slick, free-flowing ball movement that created a ton of space inside 50.

Errol Gulden celebrates a goal on debut. Picture: AFL Photos

They were a team that seemed to have adapted to the rule changes and caught opponents off guard.

But in the past three rounds the Swans have battled to one win and two losses, averaging just 70 points a game.

Although the disparity has not been quite that dramatic for most teams across the League, there's clear evidence the fast opening to the season is already on the wane.

According to numbers supplied by Champion Data, the footy we're seeing now is remarkably similar to 2019, when we last played four 20-minute quarters a game – with a couple of small but significant differences.

2021 footy v 2019 footy

 

2021 avg.

2019 avg.

Points For

82.9

80.2

Score per I50 %

43.3%

42.8%

Corridor % from D50

18.0%

16.8%

Boundary % from D50

50.0%

51.5%

Mark Play on %

25.6%

25.6%

Rebound 50 to Inside 50 %

24.3%

21.5%

Stoppages (excl. CB)

54.5

65.8

Tackles

56.2

62.5

Prior to that season was the introduction of the '6-6-6' starting positions rule, also an attempt to open the game up.

Scoring this season is up an average of just two points a team compared to the same stage two years ago.

And from rounds four to six? The average of 80 points scored by each team is identical to 2019.

Scoring on the slide

 

Average Score per team

Rd 1

Rd 2

Rd 3

Rd 4

Rd 5

Rd 6

2021

2019

84.9

83.8

88.1

78.2

79.1

83.1

82.9

80.2

All the key metrics we'd think indicate the game has sped up are almost the same, including scores per inside 50, using the corridor from defensive 50 and mark-to-play-on percentage.

The one stat that has gone down which might please fans – but not inside midfielders – is the number of around-the-ground stoppages.

On average they are down by about 11 a game from 65.8 to 54.5, although like everything else, that number is getting closer and closer to the 2019 metric by the week.

Tackles are also down by about six per game, adding more weight to the theory that while scoring isn't necessarily much greater, the game is more open.

A season of two halves

 

Rd 1-3 2021 avg.

Rd 4-6 2021 avg.

2019 avg.

Points For

85.6

80.1

80.2

Score per I50 %

44.1%

42.4%

42.8%

Corridor % from D50

18.5%

17.4%

16.8%

Boundary % from D50

50.3%

50.0%

51.5%

Mark Play on %

26.4%

24.8%

25.6%

Rebound 50 to Inside 50 %

26.8%

21.7%

21.5%

Stoppages (excl. CB)

49.4

59.7

65.8

Tackles

59.7

59.3

62.5

Perhaps one area that has muddied the optics for us is WHO is kicking the goals, more so than how many are being kicked. 

The big full-forward is back in vogue, with Adelaide's Taylor Walker booting 25 goals through six rounds and Carlton's Harry McKay with 22.

There are another four players at 18 – three goals a game – or above.

In 2019 Jeremy Cameron (67, average 3.35) won the Coleman Medal from Ben Brown (64, avg 2.9), while only six players topped 50 goals for the season.