Injury returns: Fool’s gold, or a wise bet?

We take a look at the history of players returning from injury, and what we can expect from them in AFL SuperCoach in 2022.

AFL Key Analysis Pre Season

It is looking like it will be the year of the injury return for SuperCoach 2022.

We have both more options than usual and a thin rookie crop, making these picks oh so important.

The question is what can we reasonably expect from these players in terms of scoring and durability?

To answer this, we can look at how players from previous years have performed after returning from long-term injury.

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This will help us decide between this year’s options such as Sicily, Witts, Milera, Rayner, Curnow, M. Crouch and Jade Gresham (I’m not saying how many are currently in my team).

We also have a few players returning from injury impacted seasons (Rowell, Butters, Shiel, Coniglio, J. Berry, Dunkley, Martin etc.) where this is also relevant.

As much as we would like to think these players are all going to play every game, it is time to manage our expectations (or if you want to keep thinking this, stop reading now).

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The data

I have chosen 15 players below that have come back from a long-term injury over the past few years.

I have gone with above-average players who were likely to be picked if fit.

We can then look at how many games they played in their return season and how they scored compared to their peak year.

How did they do?

  • This group of players played 77% of the games in their return year and scored at 87% of their peak (for reference, players who missed one game or fewer in 2019 and 2020 played 90% of their possible games in season 2021). This is not too bad and shows that we need to be more worried about durability than scoring.
  • The group played more reliably at the start of the season, playing in 85% of possible games in the first eight rounds. A player who gets injured mid-way through the year can still be considered a good selection as they have likely given us discounted scoring and an increase in value.
  • Also to note – only 3 out of 15 played every game – you are going to need backup.

We can group how these selections turned out as below:

  • Group 1 – (6 out of 15): Player scored well and played most games (yippee!)
  • Group 2 – (6 out of 15): Player scored well then got injured (still happy, but costs a trade)
  • Group 3 – (3 out of 15): Player didn’t score well or got injured right away (bugger!)
PlayerInjury YearPrevious Peak ScoreReturn SeasonReturn Games PlayedReturn Games PossibleDurability %Return ScoreReturn Score % PeakGroup
S. Docherty2019114.72020161794.12%92.380.5%Good
N. Naitanui2019114.22020161794.12%110.596.8%Good
T. Mitchell2019129.120201717100.00%113.587.9%Good
B. Crouch201896.220192222100.00%98.4102.3%Good
B. Smith201893.520192222100.00%88.694.8%Good
Z. Williams201893.92019202290.91%101.6108.2%Good
B. Cunnington20201022021152268.18%108.7106.6%Okay
T. Doedee201982.2202091752.94%85.2103.6%Okay
N. Naitanui2017114.22018152268.18%96.684.6%Okay
D. Swallow2016103.22017182281.82%85.282.6%Okay
T. Liberatore2015110.42016172277.27%90.882.2%Okay
T. Liberatore2018110.42019152268.18%82.474.6%Okay
C. Ward2019112.8202071741.18%76.367.6%Bad
T. Scully201897.42019212295.45%65.767.5%Bad
J. O’Meara201697.7201762227.27%63.865.3%Bad

So what should I do now?

We know now that these selections generally work out to some extent and would have only really cost us in 3 out of the 15 examples.

At the same time, these players did miss games and can’t be counted on to play the full season. They are also likely to cost you some trades.

I’m probably comfortably be picking a few of these players in my side on the grounds that I have good bench backup and I don’t have too many of them on the one line.

I’ll probably only pick one or two of the ‘Premium’ picks expecting them to play the whole season.

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We’ll need every trade we have and can’t afford to burn them swapping premiums.

The mid-priced players we expect to trade anyway – so less of a risk. I would also advise having good luck – so do what you can there.

In summary, pick as many of these players as you like, but know what to expect and have a plan.

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