AFL Market Liquidity

The Betfair Hub takes you through AFL Market Liquidity.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

A quote often used by former coaching legend Mick Malthouse to describe the pursuit of an AFL premiership, the 2017 season is particular proof that the pinnacle of the sport is a heralded position reserved for the true stayers.

Last season’s Grand Finalists, the Western Bulldogs and Sydney Swans, have been the poster boys for the relentless nature of AFL football in the opening 15 rounds.

True to their name, the Dogs provided a feel-good underdog triumph with their drought-breaking 2016 flag after 62 years in the wilderness. The achievement came from seventh position on the ladder, the first side since 1998 to obtain silverware having finished the home and away season outside the top four.

To reference Malthouse’s mantra, the Bulldogs timed their move to perfection and hit the line full of running. Going from the hunter to the hunted has proven to be a difficult adjustment though, with their mediocre 11th position emphasising the unwavering standards required for success.

One of the key hunters, runner-up Sydney, has provided an interesting narrative to date. Coming off the pain of Grand Final defeat and suffering a flurry of injuries, the Swans started the campaign with six-straight losses. While the 0-6 record surprised many, it serves as a stark reminder of the fine margins between agony and ecstasy in such an even competition.

Their casualty list has gradually eased and now laden with proven performers again, Sydney has responded strongly by putting together five wins on the trot to sit inside the top eight.

Another team of interest is Hawthorn. The brown and gold era of dominance was widely declared over five weeks into the year, after 86, 86 and 75-point losses appeared to spell an end to the side boasting a three-peat prior to the Bulldogs’ heroics. If the early rounds are sprints, the ageing Hawks were showing weary legs.

However, a recent rediscovery of form has Hawthorn adding dialogue to the finals conversation. Adelaide and GWS have spoken loudest by occupying the top two positions, and Melbourne and St Kilda have offered a prominent voice, too. But perhaps the wily veterans are offering one final, lung-bursting push.

To better understand the complexities of these broader examples, it’s worth delving deeper into the emerging trends and patterns evident in the data for the opening 15 rounds.

Market and Liquidity Formation

Time Distribution of Bets Placed

Time Distribution of Bets Placed provides an intriguing guide of when punters are placing their bets. The data shows limited activity early in the week, which suggests the prices are not being considered in-depth until the games start to enter the punters’ psyche as matchdays approach. Team announcements typically occur on Thursdays and that combined with eight Thursday night fixtures contributes to the first significant spike. The most popular time is Friday night, as it generally signifies the start of the football weekend and features a stand-alone match aired across free-to-air platforms.

Time Distribution of Volume

Time Distribution of Volume displays a similar pattern to the aforementioned Time Distribution of Bets Placed. There is very little activity on days without consistent games, Tuesday and Wednesday in particular, while a correlation between the number of games on a given day and the volume can be seen. Saturday typically encompasses five games, Sunday three and Friday one with an occasional Thursday night, hence Saturdays leading the way ahead of Sundays and so on. Notably though, Friday almost matches Sunday’s volume despite having two less games on a ‘normal’ weekend.


Volume by Round

Round 2 was the highest Volume by Round, with $7.65 million pre-play and $3.01 in-play. Feature games included Richmond v Collingwood in the traditional blockbuster on Friday night, Western Bulldogs v Sydney in the Grand Final re-match on the Saturday, and a one-point thriller in the North Melbourne v Geelong clash on the Sunday. It’s worth noting that rounds 11-13 include byes and therefore less games, yet the volume didn’t record a significant drop-off as a result. This perhaps points to the punters concentrating their volume based on availability, meaning they upped their output on the games that were scheduled.

Volume By Market

For the Volume by Market, match odds proved to be the clear leader for punters with a total volume of $111.8 million traded. Next in line was the +/- points handicap, winning margins and under/over pts. Popular in-play markets were match odds, handicap and under/over pts. These are likely linked to fluctuating scores and therefore favouritism as the match plays out.

Volume by Team – Match Odds

Volume by Team – Match Odds is led by Geelong with $6.71 million, closely followed by Adelaide and GWS. The lowest was clearly Brisbane with $0.68 million. The data shows a clear correlation between success of the team so far this season and volume, rather than being weighted to clubs with big membership tallies, like Hawthorn and Collingwood. Betfair punters are investing in value and as such, displaying the “analytical and detached” approach outlined in Psychology of Betting – Illusion of Control.

Volume by Team – Match Odds – Pre/In Play

Volume by Team – Match Odds – Pre/In-Play has North Melbourne as the only team with more in-play volume than pre-play. This is perhaps due to their bottom-four ladder position in conjunction with several games with tight finishes. The Kangaroos have had five games decided by five points or less, so punters are being drawn into the event in-play. In a similar vein, the Western Bulldogs have traded the most in-play and have played in six games decided by 8 points or less.

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