WHICH finals contender has the best stoppage game, and how should that be judged? 

If goals resulting from clearances is the measure, then there are three frontrunners to enter September with an edge on the rest – Brisbane, the Western Bulldogs and Essendon. 

The Lions and Bombers each kicked 11 goals from stoppages in round 21 – a season-high for all teams that the Bulldogs first set in round 10.  

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The round also saw the trio separate from the rest of the competition as the first teams to reach 100 goals from stoppages for the season. 

Brisbane's performance in the indicator was significant as it formed the backbone of a performance that could reignite the club's premiership hopes. 

It came against a banged up young Fremantle, but a team nonetheless that also ranks top four for launching scores from stoppages and has held its own at the coalface for most of this season. 

00:46 Mins
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Big O puts on a ruck show

Oscar McInerney snares a superb goal out of the ruck contest to extend the Lions' handy lead

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The Lions' goals came in all forms at Optus Stadium. Bursts out of the centre, clean takes and snaps from boundary throw-ins, and then the meat and potatoes of their game – relentless forward pressure after a stoppage that eventually breaks the opposition. 

"Anyone who follows the Lions and has seen our better games, that's how we play," coach Chris Fagan said after the win. 

"We win the contested ball, get it forward and put plenty of pressure on and create enough opportunities for ourselves to kick a winning score."

The only team to kick 11 goals from stoppages twice this season (they also did it against Greater Western Sydney in a 64-point win in round 11), Brisbane's midfield was putting the competition on notice, and it did so without Lachie Neale.    

So how much do eventual Grand Final teams rely on stoppages as a scoring source, and what are this year's top four on the ladder doing? 

Ladder leader Melbourne, who led the AFL for goals from stoppages in 2018, no longer puts a premium on it and ranks No.10 with 4.0 goals a game, relying much more heavily on forcing turnovers. 

The second-placed Western Bulldogs rank No.3 with an average 5.0 goals per game from stoppage, while Geelong and Port Adelaide each kick 4.5 goals a game from the source, ranked equal No.6. 

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Rozee and Butters combine to punish Crows

Connor Rozee caused a crucial turnover before handing it of to Zak Butters who slammed home the goal

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Brisbane is well ahead of them all with 5.8 goals a game from stoppages. 

Recent history shows that the score sources of the eventual Grand Final teams have been steadily changing since Richmond's 2017 team, which averaged 4.7 goals from stoppages and a massive 9.7 goals from turnovers.

Turnovers dropped as a source for Grand Final teams in 2018 and 2019, with an uptick in 2020 once adjusted for shorter quarters. In the same period goals from stoppages have remained steady.

Whether goals from stoppages becomes a characteristic of this year's Grand Final teams will obviously depend on who gets there, but the Lions and Bulldogs – or even the Bombers if they qualify for finals – will hope it does. 

Eleven has been the magic number for goals from stoppage in a single game so far this season, happening four times in 2021 but not once in the shortened games of 2020. 

The last time that number was beaten was in round 21, 2019, with 14 goals from stoppage kicked against Gold Coast. The team that did it? Brisbane. 

Grand Final teams joint goal sources average

Year

Stoppages

Turnover

Kick-In

2020

3.5

6.3

0.5

2019

4.9

7.4

0.5

2018

4.7

8.2

0.6

2017

4.7

9.3

0.6

2016

5.3

7.6

0.7