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A look at the most dominant eras in VFL/AFL history

Paul P. Mark Roar Rookie

96 Have your say

    A fond memory as a young boy in the mid-1980s when staying over at my nanna and pop’s house was looking through the annual Miller’s Guide sporting publications that my pop had accumulated over the years.

    Although they were focussed on horse racing, these thick paperback guides were a treasure trove of sporting records from around the world.

    I loved looking down the list of VFL – as it was still known in the 1980s – premiers and runners-up since 1897. Yes, the first VFL season was way back in 1897. The trusty Miller’s Guide revealed that Essendon won that first one. I would continue down the list.

    “Collingwood won four flags in a row from 1927 to 1930!” I remember exclaiming to Pop one time as he was studying the form guide for the next day’s races at Flemington. “Jock McHale was coach,” he replied, “No other club has ever done it”.

    That record still stands in 2018. Four premierships in a row from 1927 to 1930. What’s more, Collingwood finished runners-up in the grand finals of 1925 and 1926, which means the streak also included six consecutive grand final appearances. So Jock McHale’s men lost two and then won the next four.

    Legendary stuff. But is it enough to claim the title of the best era in VFL/AFL history? Let’s find out.

    What length of time constitutes an era?

    The minimum is five years
    One of the most difficult aspects of this ranking process was deciding the length of time that constitutes a true dynasty or reign of dominance.

    As I began the research involved in getting a clearer picture, one thing soon became apparent: the length of any truly successfully sustained era couldn’t be less than five years in duration.

    As you’ll see in the table below, two clubs boast eras that achieved seven consecutive grand final appearances. Two others made the grand final six times in a row. Yet another two clubs have made the grand final five times in succession. That means we have six separate occurrences of a club reaching the grand final at least five times in a row. So five years had to be the minimum length of an era.

    The maximum is eight years
    At the other end of the scale we also need to have a cut-off point. Some may even argue an ‘era’ can perhaps only be regarded as a true era while under the guidance of the one coach.

    Of the 12 eras I ranked only three clubs had more than one coach at the helm during the period, which is quite fitting, but the main deciding factor was changes to playing personnel. If you go longer than eight years, the ‘core’ group of players tends to change too dramatically to constitute a recognizable era.

    How the ranking works

    Total premierships won in the period simply had to be the number one ranking method. Coaches, players and supporters want to win premierships – that is the goal year in, year out.

    But what about when two clubs won the same number of premierships in the designated era? Well, the only thing harder than winning a premiership is winning two in a row, then three in a row and so on. So the eras are ranked by total premierships first, then by consecutive premierships if applicable.

    To see the full size table, click on the image.

    As you can see, there are some amazingly successful eras in this list. What’s more, it was only after I had settled on this top 12 that I realised every single decade of the game’s 120-year history is included. What a testament to this great competition. Below is a summary of the top three.

    The teams

    1. Melbourne – 1954 to 1960, coached by Norm Smith
    This was a run of seven consecutive grand finals, including five premierships comprising a triple and a double. Astonishing. Thus this Norm Smith-coached Melbourne of 1954 to 1960 takes the number one position as the best era in VFL/AFL history.

    Besides being the only side to win five premierships in an era, if you have a look at the stats when playing at either home or away, we see that Norm Smith’s boys, captained by the legendary Ron Barassi, had a remarkable home win rate of 91 per cent with a points percentage of 157.8 per cent. In fact they lost only six games at home in seven seasons.

    The MCG was their fortress, their colosseum. They owned it. And, mind you, this was done in an era without playing against travelling non-Victorian sides – they never even had a home state advantage yet still won 91 per cent of home games. Remarkable.

    Melbourne is also one of only two clubs, along with Hawthorn, to make this list twice. When you consider Norm Smith was captain during the other great Demons era of 1937 to 1941, which also featured a ‘three-peat’, it really is no wonder that the award for the best player in the grand final is titled the Norm Smith medal.

    2. Collingwood – 1927 to 1930, coached by Jock McHale
    I’m guessing many people, especially Collingwood supporters, might argue that being the only side to have managed to win four premierships in a row warrants the number one ranking position.

    Well, while four in a row is definitely the best streak in VFL/AFL history, I felt Melbourne’s effort of winning five premierships in seven years, including a triple and then a double, was superior.

    But don’t get me wrong, this Collingwood effort was more than just a streak of course. It was kind of an era within an era given it was the pinnacle period of Jock McHale’s staggering 38-year coaching stint at Victoria Park.

    As can be seen in the table, this golden run featured six consecutive grand final appearances, having been beaten in the grand finals of 1925 and 1926 before going on to score the ‘quadrella’.

    The Magpies’ overall win percentage of 81 per cent from their 122 games is also the second best in the entire list, bettered only by Geelong of 2007 to 2011.

    Even though these ratings are purely based on statistics, this effort by Collingwood was also a great example of perseverance. Many a group of men in woeful economic times may have never got over the anguish of losing consecutive grand finals in 1925 and 1926. Quite the contrary in this case: they went on to win the next four in a row!

    Whether you barracked for Collingwood or not, this was an extraordinary feat that brought inspiration and hope to a downtrodden city during the Great Depression.

    3. Hawthorn – 1983 to 1989, coached by Allan Jeans
    Oh, they were indeed a happy team at Hawthorn in the 1980s! Although I have them at number three, the mighty Hawthorn line-ups of 1983 to 1989 may well be the most universally regarded ‘best ever’ in history.

    You just hear so much about them, and it’s not difficult to see why. Four premierships in seven years and one of only two eras that featured seven consecutive grand finals.

    They possessed players of all-time greatness from one end of the field to the other. Could they have been number one? Well, losing to Essendon twice in a row in 1984 and 1985 conjures up questions of what might have been. The Dons sure did extract revenge and then some on the Hawks after going down to them in 1983.

    Still, the Hawks bounced back in 1986 to beat Carlton, who in turn, however, extracted some revenge of their own on the Hawks in 1987.

    So after finishing runners-up three times already by 1987 it may have appeared the Hawks’ quest to go back-to-back was shot. But this outfit went on to win the flags of 1988 and 1989 against Melbourne and Geelong respectively. The grand final of 1989, in which the Hawks prevailed by six points, is still regarded as one of the most bitterly fought and highest quality grand finals ever contested.

    After finishing fifth in 1990 Hawthorn won yet another flag in 1991. This was the only instance when I was tempted to make an exception to the eight-year era limit. Extending their era to 1991 would have made it five premierships from nine years – though that still wouldn’t have been superior to Melbourne’s five from seven.

    Adding to my decision was the fact that after 1990 Allan Jeans had permanently handed over the reins to Alan Joyce, who had stood in as caretaker coach during Jeans’s illness in 1988. That further signified the end of an era.

    Honourable mentions

    There are many more truly epic eras in the list which deserve mentioning, but I shall stick to the ones I have personally witnessed live.

    Brisbane – 1999 to 2004, coached by Leigh Matthews
    The Brisbane Lions were almost unbeatable when it mattered most. Although they came in at eighth, I would dare suggest that at their very best they were in fact the very best the league has seen.

    Along with their renowned hardness and fearlessness, this was an outfit that included three Brownlow medalists in their midfield – Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis, Simon Black – plus Nigel Lappin, who could have easily won one himself. Jonathan Brown, Alistair Lynch, Justin Leppitsch, the Scott twins – the list of greats goes on.

    A lot of pundits rate Kevin Sheedy’s Essendon side of 2000 as the best-ever playing group. Sure, they lost only one game in that premiership year, but what many seem to forget is that virtually the same Essendon line-up was soundly beaten by Brisbane the following year in 2001.

    Essendon were unable to go back-to-back, but these Lions were just getting started, and they won three in a row from 2001 to 2003. Unfortunately for Brisbane, however, their shot at unarguable immortality was thwarted by a brilliant Port Adelaide in the 2004 grand final.

    Geelong – 2007 to 2011, coached by Mark Thompson and Chris Scott; and
    Hawthorn – 2008 to 2015, coached by Alastair Clarkson
    Geelong have the stats, but the Hawks have the results.

    These happen to be the two most recent and overlapping eras on the list. Alastair Clarkson’s Hawthorn of 2008 to 2015 and Geelong of 2007 to 2011 coached by Mark Thompson and Chris Scott are the rivals of modern times.

    Let’s start with Geelong. If you look at the stats table, they are top or equal top in every single match stat – winning percentage of games for overall, home, and away et cetera. The same goes with the all-important points percentage.

    This stat-topping Geelong unit had a plethora of greats, including Gary Ablett Jr, Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel, Steve Johnson and many more. There is no doubt they regularly fielded some of the best line-ups in AFL history.

    Mystery still surrounds the circumstances leading to coach Mark Thompson‘s resignation at the end of the 2010 season after finishing third. Had his heart been in it that year? Would they have won it otherwise? Who knows, but Chris Scott was certainly lucky to inherit such an accomplished playing group whom he took to a premiership during his first year as coach in 2011. But, alas, after 2011 there were no more grand final berths.

    Although no other club matches Geelong’s overall statistical dominance across five seasons, they are ranked 11th because this ranking system puts weight on total premierships and then consecutive premierships. Geelong won ‘only’ three premierships and didn’t manage to go back-to-back. In fact they are the only team to win three or more premierships in an era without winning any in succession.

    Geelong Cats premiership era

    (Paul Coster/Wikimedia Commons)

    Unfortunately for them it all comes down to the 2008 grand final loss to Hawthorn. Mention this grand final to any avid Geelong supporter and the pain will be evident on their face. If they had won this grand final, their era would’ve yielded four premierships instead of three and would’ve also most likely included a ‘three-peat’ instead of no consecutive premierships at all. Ouch.

    So did they blow it? I don’t think so.

    The Hawks had a freakishly talented side in 2008. After smashing Port Adelaide by a record margin in the 2007 grand final Geelong were expected to go back-to-back in 2008. In the grand final the bookies had installed them firm favourites against the younger Hawks, who seemed to have come from nowhere in recent years to suddenly find themselves in the big dance.

    How could these young upstarts possibly bother the all-conquering Cats? One word: x-Factor.

    X-factor is very hard to define. I’d say it has something to do with performing almost impossible feats when it matters most. This Hawks 2008 line-up had it in spades. They were younger, but not too much younger.

    They still had plenty of senior players around, though, with the likes of their spiritual leader and Brownlow medalist Shane Crawford and the powerfully versatile key position player Trent Croad. Sadly, though maybe fittingly, for both of these club stalwarts the 2008 grand final would be their last game.

    At the other end of the spectrum the Hawks had the amazingly talented Cyril Rioli playing his first season. Speaking of x-factor, they had a mercurial medium-sized forward with a penchant for imaginary shotguns by the name of Mark Williams on the list. He kicked a game-high three goals without even firing an imaginary shot – his shotgun celebration had been banned earlier in the season by Alastair Clarkson.

    Then you had Stuart Dew, an experienced recruit whose awe-inspiring third quarter purple patch was one for the ages. There’s that x-factor again.

    When you also take into account that Coleman medalist Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughhead, Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis, Grant Birchall, Campbell Brown and Brad Sewell had just entered their prime, the level of talent starts to look frightening.

    Geelong didn’t blow it in the 2008 grand final; they were simply beaten by a better side – a side whose same core group of players, although faltering in missing the finals in 2009, would ultimately go on to reach four more grand finals and win three more premierships in succession.

    That’s why Alastair Clarkson’s men are ranked as high as third on the all-time list of the great AFL eras.

    So there you have it. I chose not to go into the details surrounding all 12 eras on the list, but I am satisfied with my ranking method, which was to sort by total premierships won first, then by premierships won in succession.

    Any feedback is welcome – please leave a comment!

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    The Crowd Says (96)

    • February 20th 2018 @ 3:19am
      mattyb said | February 20th 2018 @ 3:19am | ! Report

      I really don’t agree with combining VFL and AFL records,and if people are going to do so the WAFL and SANFL need to be considered,which brings East Fremantle and Port Adelaide into the reckoning.

      For the sake of the exercise I’d say your list is spot on. Melbourne would inarguably have had the most dominant era,and are rightfully in first place.
      Collingwoods 4 in a row has never been matched so it’s hard to ignore.
      Hawthorn is a good inclusion,and with the resent success they’ve had under Clarkson people do seem to forget how good they were under Jeans for some reason.

      Richmond’s success under Hafey is also probably worth an honorable mention. They are probably a little like the Geelong side under Thompson though and should have possibly tasted more success than they did considering the team they had.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 10:26am
        Blue said | February 20th 2018 @ 10:26am | ! Report

        VFL/AFL is one continuous comp. this has been discussed many, many times. Ask the AFL.

        If you want to look at different comps you could equally well look at Vermont in the EDFL., who went years without a loss?

        • February 20th 2018 @ 2:33pm
          guttsy said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

          VFL did’t always have the best teams or the best players going, like the AFL does today and has done so pretty much since 1990 when the Adelaide Football Club entered the national competition.

          If you want to hand out accolades like which team was best or who were the best players prior to 1990 and don’t consider South Australia, West Australia and Tasmania then your analysis is at best incomplete and at worst your conclusions are wrong.

          It shouldn’t surprise anyone looking at the AFL today that elite level football in this country has a rich history not only in Victoria but also outside Victoria.

          • Roar Guru

            February 21st 2018 @ 2:52am
            Peppsy said | February 21st 2018 @ 2:52am | ! Report

            But this isn’t about the greatest teams in any competition, it’s about the greatest teams in AFL/VFL history. Including other states in that conversation is the same as asking “Who was the greatest team in the English premier League?” And getting a response of “Real Madrid”. Nobody’s saying they weren’t better, just that they don’t meet the requirements of the question.

      • Roar Pro

        February 20th 2018 @ 10:30am
        Darren McSweeney said | February 20th 2018 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        The VFL clubs and the AFL clubs are the same teams. Their records still stand, as the clubs still play.

        No SANFL or WAFL clubs have teams that are a current team in the AFL. If we include SANFL and WAFL, we might as well include VFA/VFL also, VAFA and country football.

        Port Adelaide does not count, as the AFL team was a new creation. The SANFL Port Adelaide club still exists as a separate team playing in that competition. Yes, I know they are the one entity, but they are separate teams of separate players with separate coaches and therefore are not the same team.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 11:08am
          mattyb said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

          Darren,I just don’t consider the VFL and AFL the same thing.
          If you do that’s fine.
          I did still carry out the exercise in accordance to the authors criteria and agree with his top 3 while mentioning Hafeys Tigers as an honorable mention.
          The AFL do consider league’s like the SANFL and WAFL for the AFL hall of fame though, which I think is great..

          • February 20th 2018 @ 12:45pm
            Reservoir Animal said | February 20th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

            Whatever the differences between the VFL and AFL, and there are plenty, it is impossible to say the WAFL and SANFL deserve as much reference in this argument as the VFL does. That is because the AFL superseded the VFL, took most of the clubs, players and umpires with them, continued (for a while) to be administered by the same people, and carried the same season and event format with the aim to keep to all traditions for as long as it was in the competition’s interest to do so.

            The WAFL and SANFL, on the other hand, continued as the separate entities they always were with all of their own clubs, players, umpires and administrators, and also stuck to their traditions for as long as they felt it was in their own interest to do so. The people who ran these comps would ideally ignore the AFL and just cherry-pick AFL ideas when it suited them.

            Had the WAFL and SANFL agreed to work with the VFL to create a joint national competition that superseded all of their own, then MattyB’s argument might carry some weight. But never once were SANFL or WAFL administrators seriously interested in sacrificing their own comps for the national good, making it justifiable that the AFL views them in a different light.

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2018 @ 1:49pm
            JamesH said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

            The AFL is just a continuation of the VFL, mattyb. What you consider it to be doesn’t change the fact that it wasn’t a new, separate competition.

            The VFL was re-badged as the AFL in 1990, by which time three interstate teams (Sydney, West Coast and Brisbane) had already been competing in the competition. In fact, the participation of those clubs was what prompted the name change.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 11:11am
          Kaiden said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:11am | ! Report

          Don’t the Victorian sides have the same thing as Port Adelaide in reference to the AFL team being seperate to the VFL teams now despite being under the one entity? Genuinely asking, because I’m not sure haha

          • February 20th 2018 @ 1:00pm
            mattyb said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            Kaiden,your correct. The modern day Victorian AFL sides do have sides representing them in the current VFL competition.
            Kind of makes,it hard to understand how the VFL is the AFL when there is actually a competition called the VFL that contains the clubs that used to play in the VFL.

            • Roar Pro

              February 20th 2018 @ 1:46pm
              Darren McSweeney said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

              Easy. The AFL is the successor to the original VFL.

              The 14 clubs that existed in the VFL in 1989 were the 14 clubs that started the AFL in 1990. There was no change to the system, competition, venue, location, calendar, administration at that time. There were no new clubs, no old clubs left. It was a change of name.

              Its the equivalent of saying that Footscray and the Western Bulldogs are different clubs.

              The current VFL is the successor to the original VFA. It changed its name about 10 years after the VFL changed their name.

              Around the same time, the AFL removed their reserves competition. The VFA, as it was at the time, came to an agreement that would allow some junior/reserves clubs to enter their competition. Some clubs did, others joined forces with existing VFA clubs.

              If the original VFL and the AFL are distinct, the original VFL competition would still exist. It does not because the AFL is the VFL with a different name.

              • Roar Guru

                February 20th 2018 @ 1:54pm
                Paul Dawson said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

                I understand all that, I just don’t buy into it. Talk about the flags you’ve won since 1990 vs interstate teams in a competition called the AFL, Carlton and Essendon can talk about 16 flags but all people see is an old club who’s been the worst side in the AFL era, and another club who hasn’t won a final in well over a decade. Plus two clubs who are so desperately insecure about their lack of success that they tried to cheat the salary cap and the drug code because what the country needs a 17th flag for old entitled clubs, and never mind the health & reputation of the game.

                Victorian sides should be grateful the interstate teams joined. By not being able to just win flags on a platter against impoverished amateur hour Victorian rivals they’ve lifted the overall standards and professionalism of the game immensely. Winning a flag in the modern era is a far greater and more difficult achievement than it ever was in yesteryear.

              • February 22nd 2018 @ 8:03am
                Rob said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

                By that logic the Eagles flags on 92 and 94 are redundant because it was SO LONG AGO i have mates who barrack for the eagles in their mid 20s who wernt born. Game is very different now.

                As it is diffrent now to the 1950s.

                Maybe the key is counting eras that start from the scrapping of recruiting zones – after all its stuff like that as much as anything that lead to certain clubs struggling for years.

              • Roar Guru

                February 20th 2018 @ 2:27pm
                Dalgety Carrington said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

                Yes and no. Hopefully, it’s a lot more than just changing a name, that it’s a changing of mindset (in those that matter). You’d hope that what they’re aiming for is a truly national competition (that’s as inclusive as possible), not just a VFL+ , which pays lips service to non-Vic clubs so that they can be milked as cash cows.

        • Roar Guru

          February 20th 2018 @ 12:18pm
          Paul Dawson said | February 20th 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

          Yeah, I just don’t care about anything that happened before 1990.

          Much the same way I don’t count George Lohmann as the greatest bowler of all time – yes he took 112 wickets at 10.75, but it happened in the 1880’s/90’s on uncovered wickets, against scratch national sides. If you just look at the bare numbers and ignore the context it’s a simplistic reactionary view.

          By all means cling to flags won in the ye olden days before Australia became a nation and the AFL was just a gleam in Demetriou’s granddad’s eye, but don’t expect everyone else to agree with you or care in the slightest.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 12:46pm
            Pope Paul VII said | February 20th 2018 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

            Spot on about Lohmann. The greatest bowler of all time was actually S F Barnes.

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2018 @ 2:06pm
            JamesH said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

            Paul, the teams playing in the AFL in 1990 were the exact same teams playing in the VFL in 1989. There was a national draft in 1986 and a salary cap in 1987. Picking a year solely because the governing body changed a ‘V’ to an ‘A’ is about as arbitrary as it gets.

            Great feats in past eras still deserve recognition, whether or not you personally care about them. The players of those eras could only play the opponents that were put before them, at the venues that were available, using the resources they were provided.

            All sports competitions have gotten better with time and increased professionalism. The 2000 Bombers lost only one game – how many would they win in 2018? Not many, if any.

            Using 1880s cricket as an analogy for pre-1990 footy is a stretch, though.

            • Roar Guru

              February 20th 2018 @ 2:13pm
              Paul Dawson said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

              I like how you spend your whole post patiently explaining that old sports deserves recognition and it’s arbitrary to cut it off before finishing with an arbitrary dismissive comment about an old sport you don’t agree with.

              Each to their own jimmy

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 9:09am
                JamesH said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:09am | ! Report

                There’s nothing arbitrary about my last comment. I’m not dismissing 1880’s cricket, I’m just saying that trying to compare such vastly different eras (and different sports to boot) isn’t helping your argument.

                The article isn’t saying that the players in the 1927-30 Collingwood team were some of the best ever; it’s arguing that, for their time, they were the third most dominant team in the competition’s history.

                That history doesn’t cease to have any meaning because the players weren’t as good as they are now, or because they didn’t travel to Subiaco twice a season… Pauly.

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 10:42am
                Paul Dawson said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

                It’s an analogy James, not a scientific formula.

                History is in the eye of the beholder, and I behold an irrelevant old team from 90 years ago that doesn’t have any further meaning beyond the answer to a sports trivia question.

            • Roar Guru

              February 20th 2018 @ 2:17pm
              Cat said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

              The national draft and salary cap both changed dramatically from their first years. Also it took a few years for the effects of each to be felt on clubs lists (ie: clubs who had strong zones prior to the draft already had stronger lists than those teams with weak zones that the draft replaced. It is not until several years of drafting goes by that club lists start to reflect it rather than the previous structures).
              There is also the change in finals structure to consider.
              There is no cut and dried perfect year to delineate the differences but 1990 is the best of the lot.

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 9:16am
                JamesH said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

                Cat, that assumes that there is some kind of need to delineate in the first place. Why does there have to be an arbitrary cutoff point, prior to which (apparently) nothing matters?

                There have been changes to the competition right throughout its history, in terms of teams, venues, equipment, rules, money, finals systems, States and more. Some were more significant than others but so what?

                Respecting and analysing the history of the competition is not the same as clinging to past glories, which my own side has been guilty of for much of this century.

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 9:47am
                Cat said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

                What does winning a flag in the early 1900’s have to do with winning one in the 2010’s? Nothing. That is why. It’s funny you mention the ‘history of the competition’ versus the ‘history of Aussie Rules Football’. I’ve always found it interesting how clubs like Melbourne and Geelong have celebrated being 150 years old (or older now) yet flags only matter since the VFL was created largely by the same clubs that made up the VFA.

                IMO it is time to move VFL accomplishments into the ‘history of Aussie rules’ and out of the ‘AFL competition’.

                Most reasonable people rightly agree it is near impossible to compare players from different eras. If you can’t reasonably compare two individual players from different eras, how can you reasonably compare two entire teams from different eras?

                Simply put winning a bunch of flags in ‘Ye Olde Days’ doesn’t provide one iota of evidence that a team is capable of doing it with the current rule set or something even reasonable close.

                The VFL/AFL’s salary cap has been quite successful in terms of parity: since the cap was introduced in 1987, each of the 17 teams has played in a Preliminary Final, 16 teams have played in a Grand Final, and 13 teams have won the premiership.

                Another major statistic in regards to the success of the VFL/AFL’s cap is that the three richest and most successful clubs, Carlton, Collingwood and Essendon, who won 41 of the premierships between them from 75 Grand Finals in the 90 seasons between 1897 and 1986 (83.3% of all Grand Finals for a 45.6% premiership success rate), have only won six of the premierships between them from eleven Grand Finals since (32.3% of all Grand Finals for a 19.4% premiership success rate).

                That is pretty compelling statistical evidence the game has radically changed and made what happened back then irrelevant to today.
                Can’t buy a flag, let alone decades of sustained success anymore.

          • February 22nd 2018 @ 8:07am
            Rob said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:07am | ! Report

            You cant white wash history just cause you support a franchise not a football club.

            Guess the Americas Cup or the moon landing never happened because they were before 1990.

            Oh and we can scrap every flag won between 1990 and 2000 too cause theres people who wernt born then. Maybe we should only count premierships EVERYBODY was alive to see…

            • Roar Guru

              February 22nd 2018 @ 8:29am
              Cat said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report

              Ok Mr butt hurt snowflake, no one is saying lets get rid of history. That is a straw man argument. No one, except you, mentioned anything about people being ‘alive’. No one is talking about anything other than Aussie Rules footy so why bring things like sailing and space into it? They are straw men too.
              Instead of setting up more straw men, why don’t you actually put forward a case why old VFL flags are relevant to today? There is quite a compelling case that clearly shows the VFL was radically different from the modern game, so much so, any comparisons are moot.

              The fact that 3 clubs absolutely dominated the VFL shows how unfair and imbalanced the old days were. It was no where near an equal chance for all. The only thing that mattered in the old VFL was how big your wallet was. That simply does not cut it any more. Hence why the ‘Big 3’ haven’t much to show for themselves in the AFL years and fight tooth and nail to keep counting their dusty, moth eaten old flags.

        • February 21st 2018 @ 7:10pm
          me too said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

          Port Adelaide Power ARE the original club. They were forced by the afl to change their name and colours due to the clash with collingwood. No different than North becoming the kangaroos, south becoming sydney, footscray becoming western bulldogs. Except that Port didn’t change cities like south – they changed competitions. The sanfl insisted that port still field a team in their comp, port originally had no intention of doing so, but eventually conceded, so created a new port magpies team. That is the history. The claim that the Magpies and Power are the same club is a recent invention by the club to unite two groups of supporters as many old timers had switched allegiance to the new sanfl club.
          Regardless – Port’s sanfl premiership tally can’t be included in any discussion of vfl/afl history, any more than geelong can try and insert their old vfl(vfa) tally – they are seperate competitions, regardless of some teams competing in one then the other.

        • February 22nd 2018 @ 7:56am
          Rob said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:56am | ! Report

          Im pretty sure your wrong – the current Port Adelaide is the same Port that was around in the SANFL – they had been trying to get into the VFL since the early 80s (as it was the premier competition at the time).

          When Port Adelaide did finally get acceptance into the AFL the SANFL then created the Port Adelaide Magpies to fill their place.

          Thats the way i understood it anyway…

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2018 @ 4:31pm
        Col from Brissie said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

        The history books show Collingwood as the only team to have won four premierships in a row but it should be mentioned that they actually lost to Geelong in the 1930 final but under the system in place at the time as the top finishing side during the season they had the right to challenge and subsequently won the replay the following week.

        Compare that to Carltons 3peat 1906-1908 and the fact that in 1909 Carlton beat South Melbourne in the final but as South Melbourne had finished on top of Carlton by percentage they challenged and the following week defeated the Blues by 2 points.

        No complaints as that was the system in place at the time but how close was Carlton to have been the only team to have won four in a row.

        • Roar Guru

          February 20th 2018 @ 4:48pm
          Cat said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

          Also goes to show how ridiculous it is to compare flags from those completely different systems to today.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 5:31pm
            mattyb said | February 20th 2018 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

            Not sure it’s ridiculous,difficult would probably be a better term of phase.

        • Roar Rookie

          February 20th 2018 @ 7:08pm
          Paul P. Mark said | February 20th 2018 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

          Good points Col and unknown to many. But you can only go by what the rules were at the time. All clubs knew what might happen in each circumstance.

          I also find it most interesting that there have only been two seasons in which a grand final was not played (the first season in 1897 and also 1924 – and Essendon was declared the premier in both as per below, but they still must count.

          In the inaugural season 1897, a round-robin finals series was contested with no grand final being played. Essendon was awarded the premiership and Geelong the runners-up.

          Again in season 1924, an experimental round-robin finals series was contested with no grand final being played. Essendon was awarded the premiership and Richmond the runners-up.

        • February 21st 2018 @ 9:30am
          Reservoir Animal said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

          The system came about because the VFL’s founding fathers wanted high rewards given to the team who qualified on top. The previous VFA did not really have a finals series, and many in the VFL would’ve refused to have one had certain concessions not been made in favour of the top team.

          By the time of the Collingwood era it was obvious the finals system in use had many problems (not just those relating to the right-of-challenge situation) so it was agreed to change it to the McIntyre Final Four- a system that basically treated 1st and 2nd as equal but was still seen as fairer by most clubs.

      • Roar Rookie

        February 20th 2018 @ 7:30pm
        Paul P. Mark said | February 20th 2018 @ 7:30pm | ! Report

        I certainly believe the VFL and AFL should be considered the same competition. I suppose it is indeed relevant that the AFL-era is roughly when the salary cap was introduced and the league began to go fully professional and national, but it is officially the same competition since 1897 which has naturally evolved.

        But I agree you do only have to look at State of Origin results from pre-AFL days to see that sides containing almost entirely WAFL or SANFL players regularly defeated the best of the VFL, at home at least.

        Even Adelaide entering the League in 1991, and shell-shocking eventual premiers Hawthorn to the tune of 86 points at Football Park in round one, was an indication of how strong the SANFL was – that inaugural Crows side had only three players with any prior VFL/AFL experience. (Grantley Fielke, Bruce Lindner, and Tony McGuinness).

        • February 20th 2018 @ 8:31pm
          Aligee said | February 20th 2018 @ 8:31pm | ! Report

          Go further back to around the 1900’s and Kalgoorlie could produce teams arguably as good as any VFL team.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 9:22pm
            Pope Paul VII said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:22pm | ! Report

            You got some stats on that Al?

            • February 20th 2018 @ 9:58pm
              Aligee said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:58pm | ! Report

              Kalgoorlie had their own seat and full voting rights on the National Football council until 1919 as did Perth, it was considered on par with the WAFL until the 1920’s,

              A few well known footballers from Kalgoorlie, although not these days of course as they are forgotten in the annals of time are
              Charlie Tyson who Captained Collingwood and North in the 1920’s, his 5 brothers and Father also played at high levels
              Ted Rowell who played for Collingwood in the early 1900’s and at one stage was
              acting/playing coach,
              Hugh Gavin who captained Essendon in 1904,
              Nipper Truscott inducted into the Australian football hall of fame,
              John Quinns senior, Port Adelaide Captain in 1904/5.

              The list goes on and on, many great Vic and SA footballers not to mention from Tassie etc were lured to Kal on the back of huge money, jobs and GOLD.

            • February 20th 2018 @ 10:49pm
              Aligee said | February 20th 2018 @ 10:49pm | ! Report

              Just another useless bit of info …. WA’s first 200 VFL player Ted Pool … “His two years of senior football on the WA Goldfields (with Kalgoorlie City) have served him well in Melbourne.

              “He saw Charlie Tyson (the 1926 captain of Collingwood) play in Kalgoorlie, and also he knew
              Ferguson, McDiarmid and Leahy of the Geelong club who were originally from the Goldfields.”
              Pool was aged 20 when he reached Melbourne, by train, in the summer of early 1926.

              • February 20th 2018 @ 11:11pm
                Pope Paul VII said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:11pm | ! Report

                Thanks Al, fascinating stuff.

      • Roar Rookie

        February 20th 2018 @ 9:30pm
        Paul P. Mark said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:30pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the feedback Matty. I was close to writing a bit on Hafey’s Tigers, especially because he is such a legendary coach. Looking at their sequence, they eventually went back-to-back but had some stumbles along the way including a fifth and sixth finish.

        With quite a few of these eras, especially Geelong as I mentioned, IF you swap just one runner-up for a flag, the era goes from great to immortal because it not only adds a flag but also creates a succession of them.

        But the key word there is “IF”. And you also don’t know if a club could have handled the extra pressure of shooting for true greatness. Even if Geelong had’ve beaten the Hawks in ’08, it doesn’t mean they would’ve still won in ’09. An off-season of back-slapping vs hunger for atonement.

        Butterfly effect!


      • February 22nd 2018 @ 5:25pm
        republican said | February 22nd 2018 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

        ………fair point.
        I always loved watching the SOO because it exposed this Victorian/ACT footy supporter to the WAFL & SANFL, which was a revelation at times. In fact I preferred to watch both these states to the big V, who while very effective in terms of results, were far less scintillating to watch.
        I appreciated the very distinctive way in which each played and this included Tassie in the early days, very much influenced by respective physical environments I suppose………

    • February 20th 2018 @ 3:50am
      Blue said | February 20th 2018 @ 3:50am | ! Report

      Blues 79-82 wasn’t too shabby? 3 flags aren’t enough?

      • Roar Pro

        February 20th 2018 @ 10:31am
        Darren McSweeney said | February 20th 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        79-82 was only 4 years. Not long enough to constitute an era for this exercise.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 12:47pm
          Reservoir Animal said | February 20th 2018 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

          Also, that Blues side was never as feared or dominant as the other candidates, save for some parts of the ’79 season. Not to mention their two coaching changes in this time and the embarrassing internal upheaval of February 1980.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 1:34pm
            mattyb said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

            RA,those things kind of make them a more dominant side though because the players had to deal with adversity.
            I can also assure you that the side of that era was very much feared by other clubs in that era.
            Most of the players built up a massive reputation as big game players,and this was known and understood by everyone?

    • February 20th 2018 @ 8:22am
      andyl12 said | February 20th 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      Anyone- Geelong fan or not- who challenges the legitimacy of the 2008 Grand Final result is just a resentful whinger. Premierships are won by playing the best football in September (which Geelong hadn’t done, even prior to GF day) and not by scoring cheap wins on fortressed home grounds. So the article writer is right that Geelong’s era doesn’t rival Hawthorn’s.

      There is a stronger case for Brisbane since they managed a three-peat, but their era still lacked a fourth flag and they had other advantages like higher salary caps, Gabbatoir ferociousness and the lure of SEQ’s sunny climate at a time when youngsters were moving there en masse.

      So, once emotion is taken out of it and people get over any anti-Hawthorn bias they might have, Clarko’s Hawks are rivalled only by the 1927-30, 1955-60 and 1983-91 sides in the GOAT arguments.

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2018 @ 11:00am
        Paul Dawson said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:00am | ! Report

        Yeah, nah, Lions were a better side Andy. But hey, you keep going with that emotive argument that you’re saying other people can’t have.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 12:46pm
          andyl12 said | February 20th 2018 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

          Hey Paul D how about giving us some evidence instead of just snapping back with your emotions?

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2018 @ 2:05pm
            Penster said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

            Ah Paul, I enjoy your posts but the Hawks competed in 4 grand finals in a row from 2012 – 2105 inc, winning 3 in a row, lost to Swans in 2012.
            The Lions were an incredible side, given what they achieved with their outpost status.
            On the criteria above, the Hawks are hands down better than the Cats during the 2008 – 2015 period – the Cats competed in 4 over 5 years for 3 wins and never managed B2B let alone a 3Peat. Geelong runs a solid 3rd against the Hawks & Lions using above criteria re “era”.
            Interesting that the author has VFL era as his 1,2,3 and AFL as honourable mentions. The criteria doesn’t allow for increased number of teams in the comp, or the AFL’s equalisation measures, making sustained success much harder by design in the modern era.

            • Roar Guru

              February 20th 2018 @ 2:09pm
              Paul Dawson said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

              Haha, my turn for a brain fade. Yesterday Tom said Lever went to Essendon, today I forgot 2012 existed.

              I always liked Geelong more, I liked the way they played the game, raw, up the guts and fast. Geelong was like watching a driveby shooting, Hawthorn was death by strangulation.

              I think Hawthorn were a very good side and 2014 was the most complete performance I’ve seen from anyone in a grand final – but if the Lions had played the Hawks in 2013 & 2015 it would have finished 2-1 to us 😉

              Given it’s impossible to compare players & teams from eras I see no reason to walk away from saying the Lions were a tougher, meaner and better side.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 2:53pm
            andyl12 said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

            “If the Gabba is a fortress, so is the G for the Hawks, I mean, Clarkson always went on about how it was their home deck.”

            MCG clubs don’t get a fortress. A majority of their home games are against sides who only travel half an hour in a bus to get there, and many of them are against other sides who call the ground home.

            One wonders how strong that 2001-03 Brisbane side would’ve been if they’d had to share the Gabba with four other co-tenants or if they’d had to share their local market with eight other teams.

            • February 21st 2018 @ 1:06pm
              mattyb said | February 21st 2018 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

              Andy,Victorian clubs needing to share the MCG is because there are to many Victorian clubs in the competition.
              This means it’s irrelevant to clubs outside of Victoria,and an issue that needs to be sorted out inside our state.

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2018 @ 3:33pm
            Paul Dawson said | February 20th 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

            hey andy, given you’ve been here for well over 5 years saying hawthorn are the greatest side of all time I don’t think you’re worth trying to convince otherwise

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2018 @ 12:27pm
        Cat said | February 20th 2018 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

        … by scoring cheap wins on fortressed home grounds …

        Yeah, that explains why Geelong also has the best away record and best away percentage.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 1:27pm
          mattyb said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

          Gene,if we’re going to use Andy’s argument I’d actually put Geelong higher on the list,and good on them for having their own home ground in an overly saturated market. It’s easy for city folk to not realise what Geelong not only do for the Geelong community,but what they do for communities in country Victoria hundreds of km surrounding the Greater Geelong area.

          Using Andy’s argument we need to include Hawthorn winning their premierships while playing home GFs against interstate sides despite ladder positions. We also need to include the compromised drafts that kept Hawthorn ahead of the pack.

          We need to include Jock McCale employing his Collingwood players at the brewery so he could give them Saturday mornings off so they didn’t need to work before the game like other clubs. He could also offer employment during tough times to the best players of that era.

          We need to include Melbourne’s connection with the MCC meaning they had access to a wealth of footballing talent through out of season cricketers.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 2:51pm
            andyl12 said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

            Not to mention COLA and the advantages it gave the Swans, the “Bondi lure” factor, the one-team-town or two-team-town factors that sides outside Melbourne have, and the fact no Victorian team has achieved so much success the hard way.

            • Roar Guru

              February 20th 2018 @ 4:14pm
              Paul Dawson said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

              The “hard way” – you mean like how Hawthorn squealed like stuck pigs for years and years when the powers-that-be wanted to take the Mornington zone off you because you were hogging all the good players?

              Honestly hearing hawthorn fans in 2018 talking about how they did it the hard way is like listening to Gina Rinehart talk about being a self-made billionaire.

              • February 21st 2018 @ 7:36am
                andyl12 said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:36am | ! Report

                Pauly- interesting that you’ll bring up the pre-1990 era when it suits you.

                Some facts that may hurt:

                *The zoning was brought in to stop sides like Richmond and Carlton from poaching every good youngster in the country years before they were VFL-ready. If anything it equalised the comp.
                *A majority of clubs voted for Hawthorn to have its zone, and voted for us to retain it time after time. Clearly they felt that any advantages it gave us were countered by bigger advantages that they got.
                *At the end of the 1960s Hawthorn had one flag. Collingwood had 13, Essendon had 12, Melbourne had 12, Carlton had 9, and most clubs had more money than Hawthorn. We had no patriarchy or inheritance to fall back on, just a willpower and work ethic that allowed us to rise above the others even as the game became increasingly professional and money started to matter much more. But no, in your mind we got there the easy way.

                P.S. You and Gina have many things in common. One being that she wants Australia’s grassroots to give in to corporate interests by paying them $2 a day. And you want football’s grassroots to give in to corporate interests by playing Grand Finals in family-unfriendly timeslots.

              • Roar Guru

                February 21st 2018 @ 10:49am
                Paul Dawson said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

                No Andy, I just can’t be bothered getting upset about the grand final starting two hours later. You misrepresent me as usual. I have no view on it beyond saying that the chicken little scaremongering arguments made by traditionalist diehards like you are a joke.

                You’re prepared to die in a ditch over a grand final starting at 5pm instead of 2:30pm – honestly I think you need some new interests.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 3:28pm
            Brian said | February 20th 2018 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

            i never saw Andy argue that 3 was greater then 4

            • February 21st 2018 @ 7:36am
              andyl12 said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:36am | ! Report

              Hear hear.

    • February 20th 2018 @ 1:34pm
      Brian said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

      Hawks 83-91 were the greatest. Only team to dominate when the nations best played in the one competition.

      In the 1920s the VFL was hardly even clearly dominant in victoria over the then VFA. The melbourne era was better but it was still a 12 team Victorian affair. The port adelaide team may well have beaten Melbourne. It was not till the 1960s and 1970s that the best players from WA and SA played in the VFL.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 2:38pm
        Pope Paul VII said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

        South Melbourne were known as the Foreign Legion in the 1930s. The VFL was the place to be.

    • Roar Pro

      February 20th 2018 @ 1:52pm
      anon said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

      Brisbane is the best since Hawthorn of the 80’s.

      Won three GF’s in a row against Melbourne teams at the MCG. Might have won 4 in a row if they weren’t forced to play their home prelim at the MCG on a Saturday night in 2004.

      Hawthorn from 2013-15 got lucky playing interstate teams at the MCG on GF day.

      Geelong played great footy, but the association with Dank, Dean Robinson and Bomber Thompson makes me question the legitimacy of their achievements.

      I mean, the evolution at Geelong from 2006 to 2007 was simply incredible. Haven’t really seen a turnaround like that in the sport. Usually improvement much more linear.

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2018 @ 2:20pm
        Paul Dawson said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

        Nice theory but Dank wasn’t engaged by Geelong until 2009.

        A more correct theory would be that Dean Robinson had done a superb job at Manly Sea Eagles in the years he’d been there and the hiring of him to supervise Geelong’s fitness program in 2007 was a turning point in the club’s fortunes.

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2018 @ 2:25pm
        Cat said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

        If you take 2006 as the outlier and include 2005, Geelong’s progression is rather linear, similar to the Tigers if you leave their 13th place finish in 2016 as the outlier. Who knows how it would look if Nick Davis didn’t do the near impossible to lift the Swans in the 2005 semi, Geelong may have had another odd number premiership. But if Geelong goes all the way in 2005, maybe 2006 wouldn’t have been a down year and the famous review never happens and everything thereafter is changed. Who knows.

        • Roar Pro

          February 20th 2018 @ 2:48pm
          anon said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

          Maybe your definition of linear differs from mine.

          2002 9th
          2003 12th
          2004 4th
          2005 6th
          2006 10th
          2007 1st (Dean Robinson comes on board, shatter single season and finals records in the process)
          2008 1st (shattering home and away records set the previous season)

          They went from middling team not really going places to one of the most dominant of all time in 8 months.

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2018 @ 4:13pm
            Cat said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

            So 4th and 6th are ‘middling’ now? You are deadset a joke. I’ve heard of ‘massaging numbers’ before but you suck at it.
            2001: (9 wins) No finals
            2002: (11 wins) No finals
            2003: (7 wins) No finals
            2004: (15 wins) Prelim final (lost to one of the all time best teams – Brisbane)
            2005: (12 wins) Semi Final (lost to Nick Smiths heroics and eventual premiers)
            2006: (10 wins) No final
            2007: (18 wins) GF (winner)
            2008: (21 wins) GF (loser)
            2009: (18 wins) GF (winner)
            2010: (17 wins) Prelim final (lost to eventual premiers)
            2011: (19 wins) GF (winner)

            The real ‘jump’ happened between 2003 and 2004, but of course you don’t have a conspiracy theory for that one so you conveniently ignore the the obvious progress a bunch of young and still inconsistent kids were making prior to 2006.

            • Roar Pro

              February 20th 2018 @ 6:04pm
              anon said | February 20th 2018 @ 6:04pm | ! Report

              2004 is bit of an outlier with 15 wins.

              They dropped in 2005 to 12 wins which mean you barely scrape into the 8 most seasons.

              2006 they fell back again.

              2007 just came out of nowhere. Must have had a good summer before that season. Good diet I guess. They must have some good steaks in Geelong.

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2018 @ 4:19pm
            Paul Dawson said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

            Goes to show how good Robinson was at his fitness programs, doesn’t it.

            I love how you’re trying to desperately innuendo this flag up the pole but you haven’t got the guts to actually come out and say it.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 3:25pm
        Brian said | February 20th 2018 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

        Given the Lions were thrashed in 2004 its hard to imagine the travel would have impacted the game that much. In truth its Port who probably deserved more then one flag for their 2001-2005 era.

        • Roar Pro

          February 20th 2018 @ 3:33pm
          anon said | February 20th 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

          Scores were level just minutes before 3/4 time.

          Lions got run over. Most likely due to having to play a “home final” on the MCG less than 7 days before.

      • February 22nd 2018 @ 8:22am
        Rob said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Cats missed finals in 2006 but they had played in a few finals series before that 1 ordinary year.

    • Roar Guru

      February 20th 2018 @ 2:26pm
      Mango Jack said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

      The introduction of the salary cap in 1987 must be considered, as this move made it that much harder to retain talent for periods of time.

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