The AFL is edging closer to introducing revolutionary ball-tracking technology, with microchipped footballs at an advanced testing stage.
SmartBall, which involves embedding a miniature e-tag inside a ball, had been slated to make its debut in the last week of this year’s NAB Cup.
The league yesterday said it wanted more testing on the world-first technology, which is now being analysed by independent researchers at Victoria University.
First revealed by the Herald Sun in 2009 and nearly six years in development, SmartBall promises to change the AFL landscape.
Manufactured by Melbourne company Catapult Sports and co-developed by Sherrin, SmartBall works with existing athlete-tracking technology to provide clubs with real-time data relating to disposals, ball use and workrate.
Coaches would be able to see information such as:
HOW opposition defences set up when the ball is in a specific area.
HOW many times a forward leads before he eventually gains possession.
WHETHER the workrate of a team changes when it hasn’t got the ball.
Fans may also see its benefits, with talks under way with Channel 7 and Fox Sports to use the data.
Catapult business development manager and Hawthorn Norm Smith medallist Paul Dear said SmartBall would break new ground.
“All the analysis at the moment is video analysis so it’s very subjective,” Dear said.
“Once we can provide a 2D representation of the game and move towards data analysis ... it becomes a whole new world.”
Dear said exhaustive testing meant there was no noticeable difference between a chipped football and a normal one.
“In terms of the integrity of the ball we have no problems with that because we’ve worked very closely with Sherrin to make sure that the ball is exactly the same,” he said.
AFL clubs have been using the SmartBall in training for several years, with Melbourne, Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Richmond, Adelaide and West Coast all familiar with the technology.