It is a question that has baffled AFL experts for years. How did a West Coast Eagles team full of superstars such as Chris Judd, Ben Cousins, Dean Cox and Daniel Kerr lose to the underdog Sydney Swans in the 2005 grand final?

The answer has emerged from the most unlikely of places - Hollywood - with the man played by Brad Pitt in the baseball film Moneyball helping then Swans coach Paul Roos build a premiership- winning team.

The film is based on Michael Lewis' best-selling book Moneyball, in which the general manager of a major league baseball team used a complex maths system to trade players instead of using the draft.

The system, called sabermetrics, uses empirical data to find hidden strengths in overlooked and undervalued players rather than take risks on top draft picks.

Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (played by Pitt in the film) used the controversial system to build one of the most successful teams of the decade, turning 160 years of baseball tradition on its head.

Roos admits he and many inside the Sydney Swans read the book in 2004 and used sabermetrics to help build an unlikely champion team capable of beating a team of champions.

"It's a fascinating book," Roos said. "It's specific to baseball but we implemented some of Moneyball's general philosophies of trading draft picks for players."

Roos followed the system to trade high draft picks for middle-of-the-road players. He traded pick 15 (Melbourne's Lynden Dunn) to get ruckman Darren Jolly in 2004 and picks 19 and 50 to get Ted Richards in 2005.

"I had no hesitation of giving up pick 15 for Jolly after we'd done our analysis," Roos said.

"I'd looked at 13 drafts and there were so many pick 15s that never went on to play AFL, so I knew I wasn't giving up much to get him.

"We won the premiership against the Eagles and he was a significant part of that.

"When we traded him to Collingwood (in 2009), we got two picks for him.

"So he was a great trade for us, no doubt."

Over the years, Roos used sabermetrics to trade for players such as Craig Bolton, Rhyce Shaw, Shane Mumford, Josh Kennedy and Ben McGlynn.

Though the Swans lost the 2006 grand final to the Eagles by one point, there is no doubt the system brought the club success.

"Moneyball helped reinforce our views that if you're smart, you can actually do things differently to what the system says you should," Roos said.

"It gave us reassurance that what we were doing worked."

The West Australian

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