While it’s only one round, the opening weekend of the 2021 AFL season showed us that free-flowing footy may well be back.

And while the sample size is small, a number of key indicators revealed that it could be here to stay. Which is good news for overs punters on Palmerbet’s Total Points line — a popular AFL market. Five of nine of the weekend’s games finished on over 180 (total) points, which is well above recent averages. So, is it here to stay?

Why the shift?

Scoring has been on the decline for a number of years now. While 2020 was not an accurate indicator (given quarters were reduced from 20 minutes to 16) the last full sample size, 2019, showed that the average team score was just 80.4 points, which was the lowest since 1967. The hyper-professionalisation of the game and a defence-first mindset amongst many coaches were two big reasons for the decline, and something had to be done.

New rules

As a result, the AFL introduced three new rules for 2021 as a way to free-up congestion and see teams hitting the scoreboard more often. These are:

  • Man on the mark: The player manning the mark is allowed minimal to no lateral movement
  • Kick-ins: The mark is now set at 15 metres from the centre of the kick-off line towards the centre of the ground at kick-ins (previously 10 metres)
  • Interchange cap: Rotations decreased from 90 per match in 2020, to 75 per match in 2021.

Free flowing

In Round 1, 42 per cent of scores over the course of the weekend came from the back half. The AFL average over the last five years was 36 per cent. “The pipe has been unclogged, its been full of you know what, it’s just starting to flow,” Garry Lyon said on Fox Footy’s On the Couch on Monday night. “Once the ball got into the forward half over the past three or four years, as a commentator you just sat yourself back and said ‘well, lets hope it can get out of there’. And it‘d often stay there for three or four minutes.”

Another stat raised on the program showed that in Round 1, 33 per cent of kick ins resulted in an inside 50. The five year AFL average is 19 per cent. “That’s profound because now you’ve got a couple of ways you can go forward and I think that gives you another element,” Lyon added.

“You get the option not to have your autopilot just run up the ground and go to a full-court press because your full forward can stay back … It’s a massive number. The man on the mark is great, but the kick in rule might be greater.”

Impending adjustment?

Of course, there will be an adjustment to the markets should the higher scoring continue. But at this stage (Wednesday morning), the line for all nine AFL games in Round 2 remains below 180. So punters could see that as an opportunity to pounce.