A framework for quantifying tactical team behaviour in Australian Rules Football

Alexander, Jeremy P (2020) A framework for quantifying tactical team behaviour in Australian Rules Football. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


The inception of tracking technologies has allowed for increased access to the positioning data of team sport athletes. This information assists in understanding collective team behaviour by measuring the continuous movement patterns of players. Assessing the efficacy of collective team behaviour research requires comprehension of the contextual factors that may influence movement behaviour, such as the match phase and field location of the ball. Limited studies that have analysed collective team behaviour have accounted for such contextual variables. Research on collective team behaviour in invasion sports has typically focused on football and basketball, while investigations in Australian football (AF) remain largely absent. Furthermore, collective team behaviour investigations to date have generally inferred performance through the positioning of players without directly determining the continuous influence on match play. Therefore, this thesis presents new methodologies for measuring collective team behaviour in AF. This information was used to understand the extent to which collective team behaviour influenced match play in a continuous manner. The findings provide a framework to quantify tactical team behaviour in Australian Rules football (AFL). Global positioning systems (GPS) spatiotemporal datasets were obtained from match simulation sessions and elite-level AFL matches. This information was aligned with match event data to provide contextual information, such as match phase and ball location. Initial chapters investigated the collective behaviour of AF teams using a macroscopic approach during match simulation and a competitive match. This was undertaken using a range of spatiotemporal metrics that summarise how certain players are positioned across a field of play. These chapters identified teams that were able to obtain increased possession of the ball covered greater spatial regions. Players also repositioned deeper towards their own goal when the ball was in their defensive half and relocated higher up the field when the ball was in their forward half. Subsequent chapters used a microscopic approach to model the position of every player to understand the spatial control of each team across a playing surface. The central findings from these chapters were that the total number of players increased based on where the ball was positioned and both teams obtained greater spatial control compared to the opposition when the ball was in their defensive half. Teams were also able to arrest spatial control when forcing a turnover in possession. The general findings from this thesis are spatiotemporal metrics can be used to infer tactical behaviour. A method that continuously represents how players occupy sub-areas of play may provide coaches and sport science practitioners with a more precise account of how tactical team behaviour influences ensuing match play. Finally, quantifying the resistive exchange in spatial control between teams and detecting the value placed on controlling specific regions may contribute to providing a more representative understanding of tactical team behaviour.

Additional Information

This thesis includes 2 published articles for which access is restricted due to copyright (Chapters 3-4). The accepted manuscript has been included, and details of access to the published papers has been inserted in the thesis. This thesis includes 1 conference paper for which access is restricted due to copyright (Chapter 5).

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/40991
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords thesis by publication; team behaviour; match play; Australian football; Australian Rules football; AFL; global positioning systems; spatiotemporal metrics; performance analysis
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