Do you ever get the feeling that umpires tend to call more free-kicks at the beginning of the season compared to the end?

That they're quick to whistle a 50-50 call in opening Rounds but allow the players to battle it out more so late in the year? Or even the finals?

This is a faultless truth.

Australian Rules Football is one of the hardest games to adjudicate, given the complexity of the rules, the speed of the game and the way players are learning to manipulate the laws set out by the league.

It is also at the mercy of human error, which is something that can be justified.

But on too many occasions, all involved in the game have been left scratching their heads at some of the "blunders" or "missed free-kicks" that have cost teams dearly.

Undoubtedly, umpires would not want to decide a game based on one of their decisions (cast your memory back to the Ben Keays goal-review blunder or apparent Lachie-Neale Zac-Bailey advantage or high-contact in the dying stages of the 2023 Grand Final), let alone a final.

Yet, whether it's to stamp their authority or something unbeknownst to the human realm, umpires are prone to be trigger-happy at the start of each campaign compared to later in the season.

And the statistics prove it.

Looking at the data, dating back to 2016, there is a difference between the number of calls made in the opening three weeks of the season, compared to the last three rounds and month of finals football.

Free Kick infographic created by ZeroHanger.

What the data (above) indicates is the average of free-kicks awarded to each team per game during those particular periods.

This also means that when considering the difference between the earlier part of the season and the latter, the reduction of free kicks is also related to each team.

Let's look at the 2022 year (for example).

The differences of -4.11 and -3.76 illustrate that each team, on average, has a decrease of just over four free-kicks between the opening three weeks and the last three weeks. And a reduction of just under four free-kicks between the opening three weeks and the finals.

Then when looking at a match, that is somewhere between, on average, 7.52 (finals) and 8.22 (last 3 rounds) free kicks less than the early-season games of 2022.

Albeit the significance of the last three rounds and finals football is much higher and played at a completely different level.

And yes, there's more at stake.

But, there is no doubt that players, coaches, fans and others prefer the game when it's at its purest, that being: With little intervention from the umpires.

This isn't an umpire-bashing extravaganza where listing their downfalls and putting their mistakes on notice, but to seek a level of consistency from the beginning of the year to the end.

This isn't so farfetched and it's something the AFL should be striving for.