Victoria University partner with AFL’s Western Bulldogs to present VU Data Lab

As a leader in sport data analytics, Victoria University joined industry partners Western Bulldogs during the 2021 AFL finals series to present the VU Data Lab which provided summaries of the Bulldogs games and revealed insights into stats that can suggest upcoming challenges and player recovery.

Through Finals Countdown, a video series hosted by Sam Hargreaves, Bob Murphy and Ellie Blackburn, experts discussed player ratings to both analyse and enhance performance, using Victoria University (VU) research statistics.

Western Bulldogs List and Recruitment Analyst, Sam McIntosh leads the VU Data Lab, investigating player performance using the renowned AFL Player Rating.

McIntosh refers to the Player Rating system as “the best objective indicator of a player’s overall performance available to the AFL.”

The number of rating points is relative to how much it improves their team’s likelihood of scoring next.

Every action falls into one of the five main categories:

  • ball winning (stoppages, mid-chain and intercepts)
  • ball use (kicks, handballs and shots at goal)
  • defensive (pressure and spoils)
  • hitouts
  • negatives (frees against, debits and 50m penalties).

McIntosh says the partnership between VU and the Bulldogs provides access that benefits players and researchers alike noting “the partnership is pretty unique in that it affords researchers like myself to be embedded within the club. We’ve also got other researchers and students in areas of strength and conditioning and training design, and load management.”

Fans tuned in to a special pre-game show on Grand Final day featuring current and past players and legendary club members. They appeared together with hosts to investigate the VU Data Lab findings, and analyse the previous games in which the Bulldogs and Demons have faced off.

Bulldogs midfielder and VU Business student Jackson Macrae discussed the value of the research partnership for the team, leading into the Grand Final.

“It’s a terrific resource that both parties take advantage of and really work together well. And I know we’ve had quite a few people at the club to help us…and open our eyes to certain technology and science and statistics that have probably helped in measuring weightlifting, recovery and different aspects of our performance.”

While the final result did not go in the Bulldogs favour this year, VU is proud to have played a part in their path to the Grand Final, and is looking ahead to successful 2022 AFLW and AFL seasons.

Read detailed reports from the VU Data Lab.

For more information on this in-demand industry and VU’s Graduate Certificate in Data Analytics for Sport Performance go to

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