Who is the best team in AFL history?

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    Last week I decided to collaborate the entire history of the AFL from 1990 to the end of last season, to get a feel for who deserves to be considered the best AFL team in history.

    And the results were surprising in their disparity and for the supremacy of one team over the rest.

    But before I reveal my findings I will discuss how I came to my conclusions and give people an insight into the recent history of this wonderful sport.

    The criteria I measured a club’s greatness over time were:
    – Most premiership flags won;
    – Number of finals series contested;
    – Overall winning record (including finals);
    – Most grand finals played;
    – How many bottom four finishes each club had;
    – Most finals games won.

    Remarkably 11 sides have won a flag in the past 24 seasons, compared to just six teams from the period of 1966-1989. The majority of this time period was before the national draft and the salary cap (the draft started in 1986).

    This shows that the AFL is an extremely balanced and even competition, which is a credit to the systems put in place.

    Only two of these teams Carlton (1995) and Port Adelaide (2004) only won one flag with Collinwood, Essendon, North Melbourne. Adelaide and Sydney winning two each. Hawthorn, Geelong, West Coast and Brisbane all hold three cups.

    Grand final wins:
    Hawthorn 3
    Geelong 3
    West Coast 3
    Brisbane 3
    Sydney 2
    Collingwood 2
    Essendon 2
    North Melbourne 2
    Adelaide 2

    The leading finals series contested are:
    West Coast 18
    Geelong 16
    Essendon 14
    Hawthorn 14
    Sydney 14
    Collingwood 13
    North Melbourne

    The winning records overall read as follows:
    Geelong 62.14%
    West Coast 55.8%
    Essendon 54.85%
    Hawthorn 54.33%
    North Melbourne 54.23per cent

    How many grand finals?
    Geelong 7
    Collingwood 6 (1 drawn)
    West Coast 5
    Hawthorn 4
    Brisbane 4
    Essendon 4
    St Kilda 4 (1 drawn)
    Sydney 4

    Bottoming out:
    Richmond 10
    Melbourne 9
    Fremantle 8
    Stkilda 6
    Western Bulldogs 5
    Collingwood 5
    Sydney 5
    Fitzroy 5
    West Coast 4
    Geelong 0

    Most finals games won:
    Geelong 24
    West Coast 19
    Collingwood 17
    Sydney 17
    Hawthorn 16
    Essendon 15
    North Melbourne 15

    Geelong for sheer consistency has to be the best in AFL history, to this point in time. Can’t wait to see what unfolds in 2014.

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    The Crowd Says (110)

    • March 27th 2014 @ 6:18am
      Shmick said | March 27th 2014 @ 6:18am | ! Report

      It comes down to whether you’re talking about a team or a club. For mine the best team in AFL history is still the Brisbane Lions of 2001-2004, but Geelong is clearly the best performed club over the full history of the national league.

      • March 27th 2014 @ 8:16am
        Franko said | March 27th 2014 @ 8:16am | ! Report

        Agree with that Shmick.

        Brisbane Lions had to knock off a very good Essendon side (who could also lay a small claim) to get to the top.

        Geelong and West Coast seem statistically the best over the journey, so arguably the most successful in that period. Both started this season well also, who knows could be a return to Blight-Malthouse early 90’s days for both clubs.

        • Roar Guru

          March 27th 2014 @ 9:15am
          Rick Disnick said | March 27th 2014 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          Agree and disagree here with you Franko.

          Certainly the Brisbane team from 2001-2004 has to go down as one of the finest teams in AFL history (if not the finest). They won 3 flags in a row, which will probably only happen once every 50-100 years with the salary cap in place, mighty achievement indeed.

          However, I’m also a realist and I believe there was a certain level of luck with those three wins also. From my recollection the Lions never won the minor premiership in any of those 3 years, which tells me they were clearly the best team in any of those years. They also won in 2 very tight contests in 2001 and 2002.

          If we now compare them to the closest team that could rival them then it would be the Geelong team from 2007-2011.

          Lets weigh it up on a points system, which I think is the best way to determine who is the best. You can add more if you like, but I think the following is pretty fare.

          *Over 4 years Brisbane won 3 premierships and 1 runner up
          *Over 5 years Geelong won 3 premierships, 1 runner up and two minor premierships
          Winner: Geelong comfortably

          Power on Grand Final Days
          * 2001 GF close game – within 4 goals, but the better team won
          *2002 GF extremely close game – best on ground Buckley in a game that could have gone either way
          *2003 GF comfortable win – 40 plus point win
          *2004 GF lost by a comfortable margin as the reigning premiers – an admirable defence but defeated well by a team that won the minor premiership 3 years straight in Port Adelaide

          * 2007 GF Geelong defeat Port Adelaide by a record amount (close to a 20 goal thumping)! This was also inflicted upon a team that had only won the premiership 3 years prior and had won 3 straight minor premierships in that decade.
          *2008 GF Geelong win the minor premiership comfortably and lose to a good but not great Hawthorn side due to very poor kicking.
          2009* GF Geelong beat a very hardened St Kilda who were the minor premiers it a tight contest
          2011* GF Geelong beat comfortably Collingwood who were the minor premiers

          Winner: Geelong comfortably in GF power rating

          Star Players

          Brisbane: Michael Voss, Simon Black, Jason Akermanis, Jonathon Brown
          Geelong: Gary Ablett, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Selwood, Matthew Scarlet

          Winner: Draw – that is one hell of a list of all time great players


          3 Premierships in 3 years vs 3 in 5 years
          Winner: Brisbane Lions

          Who would win in a game against the 2003 Premiers and 2007 Premiers:

          WInner: Geelong by 5 plus goals

          That’s my answer to the best team ever.

          The 2007 Premiers – the Geelong Football club

          • Roar Guru

            March 27th 2014 @ 9:55am
            Cat said | March 27th 2014 @ 9:55am | ! Report

            I am curious what metric did you use to measure who qualifies as a ‘star’ player?

            • Roar Guru

              March 27th 2014 @ 11:15am
              Rick Disnick said | March 27th 2014 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              Instead of me answering that – perhaps you can tell me which one of those players isn’t a ‘star’?

              Just to help out I used metrics such as:

              Brownlow Medals, Norm Smith Medals, MVP Awards, Captain/leadership skills, Goals kicked and All Australian selection.

              There are other intangible things such as the X factor – which Akermanis had in spades over all others with exception to Steve Jonhson who I didn’t mention there since he hasn’t consistently done the impossible as much as Aka did.

              • Roar Guru

                March 27th 2014 @ 1:55pm
                Cat said | March 27th 2014 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

                Wasn’t so much who is on the list, I have no issues with any of them being included as stars, was curious why some others weren’t though. Corey Enright is one name I was surprised wasn’t included.

          • March 27th 2014 @ 10:13am
            Brian said | March 27th 2014 @ 10:13am | ! Report

            I think your analysis is a bit subjective.
            Brisbane were wrongly denied a home Preliminary in 2004 and they may have won 4 in a row.
            They deserved every GF they won and it was Collingwood who played out of their skins in 2002.

            Geelong on the other hand should not have won 2009. St Kilda blew it in a tense finish.

            • Roar Guru

              March 27th 2014 @ 11:27am
              Rick Disnick said | March 27th 2014 @ 11:27am | ! Report

              I don’t think my analysis is subjective at all. However, I think yours certainly is.

              Your comments:

              Brisbane were wrongly denied a home Preliminary in 2004 and they may have won 4 in a row.

              What has this got to do with anything? They got to the final despite this and were comfortably beaten on Grand Final day by a team who had won the minor premiership 3 years straight including 2004. To say they may have won a 4th premiership is the king of being subjective and you know it. Matthews can bang on all he likes about Port playing the night before also – but guess what, that’s the advantage you get for winning the minor premiership.

              They deserved every GF they won and it was Collingwood who played out of their skins in 2002.

              At no stage have I said they don’t deserve any of the GF wins. I simply said luck plays a significant roll in any ones chance at winning 3 titles. They had two pretty close wins vs Geelong who took luck very much out of the equation in most of their wins.

              My point being if Geelong played their 4 GF again 10 times each – I’d bet they would have 3-4 premierships. My doubt would be St Kilda as they were a very good team.

              If Brisbane played their 4 GF again – I think they would win 2-3 Premierships.

              That the point of luck and when you are comparing two great clubs it is these metrics I am trying to use to separate such greatest – not subjective opinion like you have done, which makes no sense.

              Also saying Geelong should not have won 2009 and Brisbane could have won in 2004 tells me you are not on the same page since they are a direct contradiction for all the reasons I just stated.

              • March 27th 2014 @ 2:28pm
                Cavvy said | March 27th 2014 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

                Bias dressed up as objective analysis right here Rick. Clearly you’re a cats supporter which is fine, but many of the things you are stating as fact here are little more than your opinion. Also with you 9 times out of 10 analysis I think Geelong very well may have beaten (my beloved) hawks 9 times out of 10 with their respective sides in 2008 but similarly they would have been 5/10 v StKilda in 2009 and 5/10 v Collingwood in 2011 if you match up the sides. Conversely Brisbane would have beaten Collingwood in 2002 8/10, as was stated Collingwood played a great game for the list they had that day and although Port won convincingly in 2004 I don’t think they pass the 9/10 test either. 5-6/10 maybe. A lot of what ifs isn’t there. I mean a toe poke and an awkard bounce aside St Kilda could’ve been back to back premiers (perish the thought!) but they’re not, no 10, 20, 30year reunions for them. At the end of the day what happens on the big day is what’s important, Geelong never had the mettle to do it two years in a row, sure they regrouped and won every second year but Brisbane clearly had a stronger killer instinct that would have decided their fate if they were at the height of the powers at the same time. Brisbane by 5 goals for mine…

              • Roar Guru

                March 27th 2014 @ 3:53pm
                Cat said | March 27th 2014 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

                What makes you think Collingwood would trouble Geelong in 2011 that much? Collingwood played Geelong 3 times that year and lost every single time.

                PS: even without the toe poke Saints still lose by 6 points (since they lost by 12).

                And if Geelong had the extra room in the salary cap that that Brisbane team did they would have been able to afford to offer Ablett as much as the Suns did and who knows what would have happened then …

                That’s the point, none of us know, we can only judge by what actually happened.

                If you want to base it on the entire period the author of the article based it on, I’d go with Geelong as the best team over the entire period.

          • March 27th 2014 @ 10:23am
            Steele said | March 27th 2014 @ 10:23am | ! Report

            Geelong didn’t lose 2008 entirely to poor kicking. Alistair Clarkson outsmarted Geelong that day and Hawthorn were a very good side. The use of Intentional rushed behinds was a masterstroke. Any coaching tactic that forces a rule change is genius. Stuart Dew was a left field move that also worked.

            • Roar Guru

              March 27th 2014 @ 11:32am
              Rick Disnick said | March 27th 2014 @ 11:32am | ! Report

              Poor kicking is poor football. I agree with most of what you said, but most of Geelongs points came from porr kicking, not rushed behinds. Yes I also agree that it was a master stroke in coaching also.

              The only reason I mentioned this is to compare Brisbane and Geelong in their GF losses.

              I will say this.

              If Geelong played the 2008 GF 10 times – they win that game 9/10 times.
              If Brisbane played the 2004 GF 10 times – they lose that game most likely 9/10 times

              Geelong won their 3 premierships far more comfortably than Brisbane won their 3 premierships.

              All the stats back up my argument since Geelong won by greater margins in the GF, won more minor premierships and had a greater percentage at the end of each respective season.

              If you had to compare just one team in one year then the 2007 Geelong team would most likely beat the best Brisbane team from any of their 3 premiership years.

              Stats tell me this and stats general don’t lie.

              If you want to make a more compelling argument using fact then please do so.

              • March 27th 2014 @ 12:40pm
                Cody said | March 27th 2014 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

                THREE IN A ROW!!!!! No one remembers two,choke and win again!

              • March 27th 2014 @ 6:16pm
                Brian said | March 27th 2014 @ 6:16pm | ! Report

                Hawks were up by 5 goals at 3 quarter time. In the previous finals both teams thrashed st kilda and Hawthorn did bulldogs whilst geeling struggled. It simply is not geelong 9/10. St kilda 2009 and collingwood 2011 were the best season sides.

          • March 27th 2014 @ 2:03pm
            Shifty Xr said | March 27th 2014 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

            Geelong supporter by any chance Rick?

    • March 27th 2014 @ 7:49am
      Yank Paul said | March 27th 2014 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      Let’s see, you’re naming the best team in history based on 24 years when the league has existed for something over 120 years? Sorry, I’m not buying it. Now, if you were to say “best since the game went national”, okay.

      • Roar Guru

        March 27th 2014 @ 7:57am
        DingoGray said | March 27th 2014 @ 7:57am | ! Report

        Sorry YP, but the AFL has only existed since 1990.

        It was the VFL before that.

      • March 27th 2014 @ 8:15am
        AR said | March 27th 2014 @ 8:15am | ! Report

        Yank, the author makes it pretty clear that he “decided to collaborate the entire history of the AFL from 1990 to the end of last season”.

        • March 27th 2014 @ 1:02pm
          Mango Jack said | March 27th 2014 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

          Yes, he did state this, but it’s a bit of an arbitrary line. Sydney, West Coast and Brisbane were playing in the VFL, so in that sense it was already national by 1990 when the AFL officially started. Interesting though, and hard to argue against the conclusion that Geelong are the best team of recent years.

    • March 27th 2014 @ 8:59am
      DUNCAN said | March 27th 2014 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      I would have to agree with the best being Geelong and West Coast. A big factor for me would be the domestic set up at the club as well as final appearences ect and Brisbane are way behind in this regard. Financially both teams are leading the way as well and the Lions are basically bankrupt and if the AFL doesn’t prop them up there’s a reasonable chance they will be gone in two or three seasons

    • March 27th 2014 @ 9:27am
      Michael huston said | March 27th 2014 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      Agree it’s probably the Brisbane side from 2001 – 2003. They brought a whole new level of physicality and strength that’s been unmatched to this day. It’s incredibly difficult to win three consecutive flags, to have that level of consistency is phenominal.

      – I don’t think Geelong were THAT amazing, they were just consistently good. They might not have matched it with the Lions, or the Hawks of 2013 if those teams were at their best.

      – Weren’t Hawthorn in or near the bottom four in the late 90s/early 2000s before the Buddy/Roughead/Hodge/Mitchell/Rioli era?

      – The Hawks of 2013 were dominant in a way we haven’t seen for a long time, completely blowing teams away week after week. If they can win another flag or two in the next few years, they’ll surely be added to the discussion.

      – the late 90s/early 2000s Essendon were outstanding though I think they underperformed during that era.

      – If it was based on the last decade alone, Sydney and West Coast of the mid-2000s would be difficult to go by. Sydney were VERY unlucky not to walk away with 3 flags, which would have tied them with Geelong, and maybe even put them in front of Geelong based on how they’ve rarely strayed from the top end of the ladder since the very early 2000s.

      However, I miss the Lions of 2001 – 2003. Not because I liked them, but they brought a whole new level of excitement and intensity to the game, and they had some players who at their peak were superstars: Jason Akermanis, Simon Black, Michael Voss, Jonathan Brown, Alistair Lynch etc.

      • March 27th 2014 @ 10:16am
        AR said | March 27th 2014 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        Geelong, as a club, are certainly the best since 1990.

        In terms of specific teams:

        Brisbane – certainly the best since the 80s Hawks.

      • March 27th 2014 @ 10:41am
        Franko said | March 27th 2014 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        “he late 90s/early 2000s Essendon were outstanding though I think they underperformed during that era”

        Both Essendon and Port were dominant home and away sides (Well Essendon and then Port) but couldn’t convert them in to premierships and that is why they are largely left out of these discussions.
        Essendon especially through the Baby-Bombers should have converted more premierships through the 90’s.

    • March 27th 2014 @ 9:33am
      Biased Cats Supported said | March 27th 2014 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      Agree.. but thats no suprise.
      GO CATS!

    • March 27th 2014 @ 9:40am
      Ash said | March 27th 2014 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      As a Lions supporter, I think it’s hard to say. While we certainly were great in the early 2000s, Geelong has been a shoe-in for the finals for about the last ten years.

      I would say Geelong just because of their ridiculous consistency.

      • March 27th 2014 @ 10:03am
        Michael huston said | March 27th 2014 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        They have been more consistent, but their team changed a fair bit. Their 2011 side had more youth than their 2007 side did. Brisbane on the other hand were pretty much the exact same side that dominated their competition for three straight years.

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