Take a peek inside AFL surprise packets

Come, take a peek inside the AFL surprise packets.

Just what secrets do they – West Coast and Western Bulldogs – hold?

How have they risen to the upper echelon of the AFL in a season when both were tipped to vie for a wooden spoon, not a silver cup?

With three rounds remaining before the finals, the Eagles are perched in second spot and the Dogs are fourth.

So just how have they confounded pundits who pre-season discounted them as finals contenders, let alone flag fancies?

An inspection of both clubs reveals a common theme crucial to their unexpected rises: they don’t butcher the ball.

West Coast make the least clangers – defined as errors including free kicks against – in the competition. The Bulldogs make the second-least.

The Eagles make on average 39.7 clangers a game; the Bulldogs 43.4. The worst clanger club this season is Port Adelaide (50.1).

The Eagles and Dogs are also tidy in disposal efficiency – the Eagles (73.9 per cent) are ranked sixth and the Dogs (73.3 per cent) rank eighth.

So both West Coast and the Bulldogs are highly-skilled outfits who make few mistakes. Then they deploy those skills with devastating effect.

The Eagles are the second-highest scorers this season, and rank fourth in the comp for getting the ball inside their attacking 50m arc.

The Bulldogs are fourth-highest scorers, and ranked third for inside 50s.

The goal-kicking accuracy of both clubs is solid yet not spectacular: West Coast 51.3 per cent (ranked sixth) and the Dogs 51.2 per cent (ranked eighth).

The amount of scoring opportunities is largely created by players up the field winning the contested possession statistic – the Dogs are ranked fourth and the Eagles fifth in statistic routinely referred to by coaches as a key to winning games.

And if the opposition do get the ball, they find it hard to score against both the Eagles, who have conceded the third-least points, and the Dogs, who have let in the sixth-least scores against.

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