MOMENTUM is the name of the game in the early stages of 2022.
Not only have teams gone on long streaks of consecutive goals in the opening three rounds, but no lead is safe as teams run-and-gun and cash in on centre-bounce ascendancy.
St Kilda's withering burst to overpower Richmond on Sunday, and Hawthorn's ultimately unsuccessful comeback against Carlton earlier the same day were the latest examples of teams that have given up big leads but not been out of the contest.
In fact, as Champion Data statistics show, 30-point leads are as unsafe as they've ever been in the past eight years.
Although there's only 27 games of evidence to go off, on 13 occasions a team has led by five-plus goals, and three times they've lost the lead.
That's blowing a 30-point advantage 23 per cent of the time, which is more than double the strike rate of any season since 2015.
It must be said, though, that on two of those occasions – Collingwood against St Kilda in round one, and the Blues over the Hawks in round three – the team that gave up the big lead ultimately steadied the ship to get the four premiership points.
Incredibly, Collingwood has been the culprit twice, leading the Saints by a big margin and then Geelong again last weekend.
The Cats continued their momentum though and halted Craig McRae's perfect start as coach.
So how often are these streaks of goals happening, and why?
An incredible 21 times through the first three rounds teams have kicked five successive goals or more.
The gold standard was the Saints' 10-goal avalanche against the Tigers at Marvel Stadium, but it's hardly an outlier.
|Team||Total 5+ Goal Streaks||5 Goals||6 Goals||7 Goals||8 Goals||9 Goals||10 Goals|
Geelong kicked eight in succession against the Magpies and the Western Bulldogs did likewise in their opening round loss to Melbourne.
Brisbane has twice kicked seven on end, as has Carlton.
Speaking to key personnel from football departments around the competition, it's evident the centre bounce is playing a huge role.
The 6-6-6 rule is now in its fourth season, and teams are looking to take advantage more than ever.
One source said teams had become more aggressive in their setup, willing to use forward handballs to find space rather than bomb the ball long from a centre clearance.
They're more willing to "get out the front" as it offers better scoring opportunities, giving forwards more space to work in and a better shape ahead of the ball.
The reward is outweighing the risk – so far – and the numbers back it up.
Goals from centre bounces have increased 26 per cent on last year – and on any season since 2017 – as teams use it as a weapon to score quickly.
Patrick Cripps (15) leads the League in centre clearances, while Patrick Dangerfield, Taylor Adams, Jade Gresham, George Hewett and Clayton Oliver are all close behind.
It's no coincidence all of those teams are having great success.
Goals from stoppages at boundary throw-ins and ball-ups are only slightly up.
|GOALS FROM STOPPAGES PER GAME|
|CB||BU + TI||All Stoppages|
*2020 featured shorter quarters
Scoring is soaring, but it was after three rounds last season as well, before fatigue started to set in and congestion again became an issue.
One football department member said they were expecting things to "revert to normal" after a couple more rounds as teams fine-tuned their defensive set-ups.
They surmised teams were still trying to figure out how to stop quick runs of goals, but was sure it would happen soon.