In the Spotlight: Rivalry Round

Champion Data, Thursday, 24 March 2011.

Round 7 sees the ANZ Championship being played with extra feeling as teams are not only playing for their own team success, but national pride is also on the line. Rivalry Round is always a season highlight and with the Commonwealth Games Gold Medal match still fresh in everyone's mind, it is another chance for New Zealand and Australia to go head to head.

But which country has the upper hand when it comes to the ANZ Championship? Some could argue that Australia lead the way, as the three titles decided so far have all gone to Australian teams. The NSW Swifts took the inaugural title in 2008, followed by the Melbourne Vixens in 2009 and the Adelaide Thunderbirds last season. So far in 2011, the Queensland Firebirds are currently undefeated after six rounds.

But let's dig deeper shall we?


Head to Head between the two countries tells a definite story as to why New Zealand teams are struggling to compete against the Australian teams when it comes to winning titles. In the 3 years of the ANZ Championship, Australia leads the head to head stats by a massive 66 games to 25.

It is on away soil when the New Zealand teams struggle. From 47 matches in Australia, a New Zealand team has prevailed only twice, with the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic recording both victories. Whereas at home, the five New Zealand teams have won 23 times compared to 21 for the five teams of Australia (all teams recording victories).


From Round 1, 2008 to Round 6, 2011, Australian teams have scored 12,743 goals from 15,575 attempts with a shooting percentage of 81.8%. New Zealand teams have scored 11,118 goals from 13,723 attempts with a shooting percentage of 81.5%. So after 237 games, there is only a 0.3% difference between the two countries in shooting percentage, with Australian teams scoring an extra 1,555 goals during this time.

In New Zealand, Australian teams have the slightest of advantages scoring 2,256 goals, only 7 more than the locals. In correlation to the Head to Head statistics, the advantage is much greater on Australian soil, with the five combined Australian teams scoring 2,615 goals over the 3 year period, 655 more than the New Zealand teams. From a New Zealand perspective this needs to change dramatically.

Further examination of goal scoring statistics uncovers a huge gap in average scores over the past 3 years. At home, Australia averages an impressive 56 goals against New Zealand opposition. In these same games, New Zealand teams have only been able to muster an average of 42 goals per match. Compare this to games in New Zealand, where both countries' teams have been able to average 51 goals each per game. An increase of only five goals per game by Australian teams is not as significant as the nine goal drop in scoring by the New Zealand teams when they play on foreign soil. It seems a lack of firepower when playing across the Tasman is currently New Zealand's biggest downfall.

In terms of rebounds, since detailed statistical records began in season 2009, Australian teams come out on top. Australian teams have taken 610 offensive rebounds and 778 defensive rebounds for a total of 1,388. New Zealand teams, on the other hand, have taken 435 offensive rebounds and 719 defensive rebounds for a total of 1,154. The Queensland Firebirds and Adelaide Thunderbirds are the only teams to crack 300 rebounds, with 344 and 306 respectively. The Canterbury Tactix and Central Pulse are trailing the pack, with both teams unable to reaching 200 total rebounds during this time.

Intercepts, however, are a statistic where New Zealand prevails by the remarkably slender margin of only seven. New Zealand teams have taken 1,072 intercepts with Australian teams trailing behind on 1,065. The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic leads the way, recording a massive 46 more intercepts than the next best team, the Thunderbirds. On the other hand the Firebirds, leading the rebound statistic, are significantly trailing in intercepts, registering only 176 since 2009.

Deflections are a statistic where Australian teams show a clear dominance. They have created 2,640 deflections, compared to 2,297 for the five New Zealand teams. This is a huge difference of 343. The Thunderbirds are the deflection queens of the competition, recording 616 overall, and clearly leading the second best team, the Vixens, with 535. Unfortunately for New Zealand, three of their teams trail the rest of the competition.

New Zealand show more discipline than their Australian counterparts, conceding only 9,788 penalties compared to 10,170. After examining the statistics, it is safe to say the amount of penalties a side concedes does not reflect their position within the premiership table. The Pulse and Tactix have shared the lowest table positions over the past few seasons, but have given away the least amount of penalties. In what seems to be quite a significant correlation, the team which has placed 1st in deflections and 2nd for intercepts, 2010 champions the Adelaide Thunderbirds, have also given away the most penalties during this period. Maybe the Pulse and the Tactix need to be more aggressive in the future.

Turnovers are one statistic that is remarkably close. Only six turnovers separate Australia and New Zealand over the past few seasons. New Zealand teams have turned the ball over 2,949 times, with Australian teams turning it over 2,955. The Firebirds have turned it over the least, recording only 509 turnovers over 2 seasons, followed closely by the Steel. The Thunderbirds feature again with the highest number of turnovers with 689, clearly ahead of the Pulse and the Fever. But with this in mind, the Thunderbirds are proven performers, whereas the Pulse and the Fever still have a long way to go to reach the lofty heights the South Australian team have reached.

Looking at the statistics, the five Australian teams do have an advantage over their five New Zealand competitors. The overwhelming factor that sends out a clear message however, is New Zealand teams' struggle to win in Australia which translates into the fact that a New Zealand team has never won the ANZ Championship.

Rest assured it will be GAME ON come this weekend and as competitive as ever but the question should be asked, which New Zealand team can defy history and the statistics and take the ANZ Championship trophy over the Tasman for the first time?