"There's no place like home."
For most, it's a throwaway line used as a distraction from a post-holiday hangover, but for many sporting clubs, it's a reality.
Home ground advantage is a hot topic in the professional leagues that have been impacted by crowd restrictions and compromised travel itineraries.
But, is it a real thing, and does it exist in country football?
Put bluntly, yes. However, it's not as simple as you might think.
The Mail-Times has dived into the results of the past five Horsham District league seasons to discover what clubs excel at home.
In the past five seasons, home teams have won 52.2 per cent of all Horsham District league games.
The figure is slightly less than what's found in the Wimmera league (54.4 per cent) or the big leagues, like the AFL (58.4 per cent) or the VFL (54 per cent).
The question about what motivates home ground advantage remains open.
Many supporters, particular away fans, believe a frenzied crowd influences umpires.
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Without detailed free-kick statistics in country football, this argument will continue to linger on the sidelines and will no doubt be influenced by the previous game's result.
The strongest theory in support of home ground advantage is a club's familiarity with their surroundings.
"It's not just the nooks and crannies of an unusual park. It's everything. It's the slight anxiety, and uncertainty everyone feels in an unfamiliar place," NFL statistician Brian Burke wrote in the Washington Post.
"As fans, we like to feel we're part of the team and that we're contributing to the win. Sadly, that's mostly a romantic delusion. Home advantage would be there whether we're screaming from section 101 or watching from our couches."
Laughing at the top
Harrow-Balmoral has had a stranglehold over the league in the past five seasons, winning 82 per cent of its games on its way to two premierships and four grand final appearances.
Not only have the Southern Roos built a fortress in West Wimmera, winning 85 per cent of games at home, but the side has made their trips away worthwhile.
Harrow-Balmoral has the best away record in the league, having won 80 per cent of its games on the road.
Jeparit-Rainbow is breathing down the premier's neck, boasting an impressive 70 per cent home record.
The Storm holds the unique claim of hosting one of the two draws in the past five seasons. Swifts were the other club who were forced to share points on home soil.
Natimuk United rounds out the minor placings with a 67.5 per cent home winning record.
Saints marching on the road
What do you do when you face an hour-to-two-hour-long road trip most weekends? You make the kilometres count.
Edenhope-Apsley has built a reputation as one of the league's standard-bearers in recent seasons on the back of its success on the road.
In fact, the Saints have won more games away than they have at home.
The side heads back to the border victorious 62.5 per cent of the time. When the Saints play host they win 55 per cent of the time.
Kalkee and Jeparit-Rainbow are also staking claims as some of the league's best travelling sides.
The clubs share winning records of 65 per cent on the road.
What about the new boys?
There's a new stop on the Horsham District league itinerary this season.
Kaniva-Leeor United joins the competition for the first time in 2021, having voted to leave the Kowree-Naracoorte-Taitara league due to uncertainty born from the COVID-19 pandemic and associated border closures.
The move gives the Cougars a fresh start at making Kaniva a tough place to travel to.
The club has struggled to make the most of its chances in recent seasons, winning just half of its game in front of home supporters.
To the Cougars' credit, they enjoy a positive record on the road, winning 52.5 per cent of away games.
So how do Horsham District league clubs compare to their Wimmera league counterparts?
Across the board, home sides in the Horsham District league struggle more, winning 52.2 per cent of home games compared to the Wimmera league's 54.4 per cent.
But, when it comes to specifics, the leagues are hard to split.
The two reigning premiers, Harrow-Balmoral and Minyip-Murtoa, both own 85 per cent winning records at home.
However, the Southern Roos can claim to be the better travellers, winning 80 per cent of games on the road, compared to the Burras' 75 per cent.
The Horsham District league's other forces don't fare too badly either.
Kalkee and Jeparit-Rainbow's 65 per cent away records holds their own against Wimmera league powerhouses Southern Mallee Giants (68 per cent) and Horsham (65 per cent).
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