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  • (2022) Nguyen, Robert
    Data-driven decision making is everywhere in the modern sporting world. The most well-known example of this is the Moneyball movement in Major League Baseball (MLB), which built on research by Sherri Nichols in the 1980s, but sport analytics has also driven major changes in strategy in basketball, the National Football League, and soccer. In Australia, sports analytics has not had quite the same influence in its major domestic codes. In this thesis, we develop tools to assist the analytics community in two major Australian commercial sports. For Australian Rules Football, the largest commercial sport in Australia, data was not readily accessible for the national competition, the Australian Football League (AFL). Data access is fundamental to data analysis, so this has been a major constraint on the capacity of the AFL analytics community to grow. In this thesis, this issued is solved by making AFL data readily accessible through the R package fitzRoy. This package has already proven to be quite successful and has seen uptake from the media, fans, and club analysts. Expected points models are widely used across sports to inform tactical decision making, but as currently implemented, they confound the effects of decisions on points scored and the situations that the decisions tend to be made in. In Chapter 3, a new expected points approach is proposed, which conditions on match situation when estimating the effect of decisions on expected points. Hence we call this a conditional Expected Points (cEP) model. Our cEP model is used to provide new insight into fourth Down (NFL) decision-making in the National Football League, and decision-making when awarded a penalty in Rugby League. The National Rugby League (NRL) is the leading competition of Australia’s second largest commercial sport it is played on a pitch that is 100m long and 70m wide, and the NRL have provided us with detailed event data from the previous five seasons, used in academic research for the first time in this thesis. We found that NRL teams should kick for goal from penalties much more often than is currently the case. In Chapter 4 we develop a live probability model for predicting the winner of a Rugby League game using data that is collected live. This model could be used by the National Rugby League during broadcasts to enhance their coverage by reporting live win probabilities. While most live probability models are constructed using scores only, the availability of live event data meant we could investigate whether models constructed using event data have better predictive performance. We were able to show that in addition to score differential that the addition of covariates such as missed tackles can improve the prediction. Clubs use their own domain knowledge to test their own live win probability theories with the R scripts that are provided to the NRL