IF SATURDAY'S game felt long to Chris Fagan, that's because it was.
According to Champion Data, Brisbane's 18-point victory over Carlton featured quarter lengths of 37.33 minutes (third term) and 36.34 minutes (second term). Both rank inside the top-five for longest quarters this season.
In fact, four of the five longest quarters this year occurred over the weekend, with the fourth term of the Western Bulldogs' victory over Greater Western Sydney (37.53 minutes) and the second term of Hawthorn's win over Adelaide (37.30 minutes) also dragging on.
That came within a campaign in which games are lasting on average almost 125 minutes per match throughout the season's first six weeks, the longest it has been since 1999 when Champion Data first began timing contests.
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But while Saturday's clash might have been an anomaly, lasting for 136 minutes in total, the Lions coach still voiced his displeasure in the aftermath and suggested that a compromise must be reached.
"It was 136 minutes tonight and I think we have to have a look at it," Fagan said.
"It is way too long. It wears the players out. I don't know the stats, but the injury lists at clubs at the moment look big and long and we're only into round six.
"I'm sure the AFL are aware of it, but I think the game needs to be shorter than 136 minutes. I think there was one quarter (tonight) of 36 minutes and another of 37. It's a long time.
"I don't know what the breakdown of it was, but the game feels long at the moment. I know it felt short last year, because we took it back to 16 minutes plus time-on. I reckon the right answer is somewhere in between, maybe 18 and time-on."
But are games really that much longer? Or have the events of the last 12 months, where quarter lengths were slashed to 16 minutes in 2020 due to the condensed season in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, led to our minds playing tricks on us?
In the three seasons before the global pandemic, quarter lengths hovered around the same sort of mark. They went from an average of 30.32 minutes (2017), to 30.23 minutes (2018), then peaking at 30.34 minutes (2019).
This year, they have moved to an average of 31.09 minutes. That's around 30 seconds longer than what footy fans had grown accustomed to prior to last season. But there's a simple explanation as to why.
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When quarters were slashed to 16 minutes last year, the gap between a goal being kicked and the subsequent restart was pushed from 45 seconds to 60 seconds. This year, that has been reduced to 50 seconds.
However, it's still five seconds longer between each goal than before COVID-19. Add that to quarter-time and three-quarter time breaks returning to six minutes, and half-time breaks returning to 20 minutes, and you get your additional time.
Overall, that's leading to match lengths that have expanded to an average of 124.38 minutes throughout this season. That's more than two minutes longer than what we knew in 2019 (122.19 minutes per match).
But is two minutes of additional time on the field leading to more injuries and a noticeably longer game? Or are we simply taking time to re-adapt from the dramatically shorter matches of last season?
Throughout 2020, reduced game time meant quarter lengths were on average more than five minutes shorter than they had been in the past (25.30 minutes). Game lengths were subsequently more than 20 minutes shorter (102.02 minutes).
Perhaps, as Fagan suggested, the answer lies somewhere in between. Or, perhaps, once the footy public gets back into the swing of normality, our habits will change again with it. Only time will tell.