Lincoln McCarthy is mobbed after kicking a late winner against his former club Geelong. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England.
Lincoln McCarthy is mobbed after kicking a late winner against his former club Geelong. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England.

Nailbiting season closest in two decades

The AFL has produced the closest season in two decades with dramatic momentum swings and low scoring combining to produce 32 one-goal margins so far this year.

But scoring continues to plummet, and now sits at 80 points per team per game - even lower than last year's 83.1 points.

AFL coaching legend Leigh Matthews said the series of dramatic last-gasp finishes compensated for the low scoring, saying sport's greatest priority should be close fixtures.

He said the dramatic finishes in the last minutes of a game were the ultimate entertainment for AFL fans.

With nine home-and-away games and nine finals remaining the season will finish with more than 32 games decided by six points or less, including Richmond's frantic finish against West Coast on Sunday.

The Lions kicked two goals in the last three minutes to beat Geelong by a point, while Richmond dragged in an early 29-point lead, then West Coast levelled scores from 13 points down in the final minutes before Jack Riewoldt.

In 2015 there were only 15 games decided by six points or less, with 25 in 2016, 31 in 2017 and 27 last year.

Lincoln McCarthy flies for a mark during the Lions' thrilling win over the Cats at the weekend. (AAP Image/Darren England)
Lincoln McCarthy flies for a mark during the Lions' thrilling win over the Cats at the weekend. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Critics had predicted a series of blowouts this year given the new 6-6-6 rule and reduced access to AFL runners.

But while there have been some blowouts the season has seen clubs surging back into contention when seemingly out of the contest.

So far 12 teams have regained the lead from 30 points down, with eight of them going on to win that clash.

Four-time premiership coach Matthews declared the close finish the most important part of sport.

"My great game of footy is 30 goals and close. That's great," he said.

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"I reckon if you can only have one, if you're going to have 20 goals to 15 or a close finish that's 10 goals apiece then the close finish in any sporting contest is probably the best.

"We're getting plenty of that. The equalisation mechanism that the AFL have been trying to put into place gradually over the years are having a pretty good effect at the moment."

AFL fixturing boss Travis Auld said last week despite the lack of high scoring under new rules the standard of contests was high.

"The average margin is down from last year, the number of close games is up. It is something like 75 per cent of game time within two goals."

News Corp Australia


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