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Who have been the best teams in AFL history?

Mr Right new author
Roar Rookie
28th June, 2021
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Mr Right new author
Roar Rookie
28th June, 2021
1645 Reads

What is is that all football fans want and love?

We all want a premiership!

What do we want even more? Multiple premierships!

What do we also want? Quick turnarounds when our team loses a close grand final or starts slipping out of the premiership window.

No 40yo supporter who enjoys a club premiership wants to wait until they are using a walking frame before they experience their next one.

I have reviewed AFL/VFL history over the last 60 years to isolate clubs who have reached a level of success that no fair-minded supporter has any right to complain about.

My listing includes clubs that have won three or more premierships in any eight-year period. Footy fans feel almost cheated when their club has an amazing year or two and then falls away into insignificance in a very fast manner.

There are nine clubs in total. The first four were before my time so I am going to list them in chronological order. But I would love some feedback from my more senior colleagues as to their thoughts.

Year Result Ladder Home and away (percentage)
1967 Premiers MP 145.9per cent
1969 Premiers 4th 124.6per cent
1973 Premiers 2nd 117.6per cent
1974 Premiers MP 129.3per cent
1972 Runner-Up 2nd 117.7per cent


Year Result Ladder Home and away (percentage)
1968 Premiers 2ND 130.4per cent
1970 Premiers 2ND 112.3per cent
1972 Premiers MP 134.3per cent
1969 Runner-Up 4TH 124.6per cent
1973 Runner-Up 3RD 126.6per cent

Year Result Ladder Home and away (percentage)
1971 Premiers MP 153.7per cent
1976 Premiers 2ND 114.2per cent
1978 Premiers MP 153.7per cent
1975 Runner-Up MP 137.3per cent

Year Result Ladder Home and away (percentage)
1979 Premiers MP 139.6
1981 Premiers MP 130.3
1982 Premiers 3RD 127.5

The next five I have fully witnessed, so I am going to rank them in terms of greatness. My evaluation isn’t simply based on the number of premierships, it includes grand final appearances and how dominant these clubs were in their home and away seasons.

No 1. Hawthorn – The greatest period of dominance and quite frankly I do not believe it is ever likely to be matched. This is due to the fact that we now have an 18-team national competition with a draft and salary cap.


During this period there was another two standout teams so this result could have been even greater if it wasn’t for Essendon and Carlton. But they were unable to match Hawthorn for their long-term consistency.

Year Result Ladder Home and away (percentage)
1983 Premiers 2ND 128.7per cent
1986 Premiers MP 141.6per cent
1988 Premiers MP 142.3per cent
1989 Premiers MP 153.2per cent
1991 Premiers 2ND 135.9per cent
1984 Runner-Up 2ND 131.7per cent
1985 Runner-Up 3RD 130.8per cent
1987 Runner-Up 2ND 147.1per cent

No. 2 Geelong – Probably the unluckiest team not to have extended their dominance. The 2008 Geelong team is the best team I have seen not to go on and hold up the trophy in September.

Gary Ablett

(Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

Gary Ablett Jr left at the end of 2010 to join the Gold Coast and lastly, they were competing against some very strong teams in these years. St Kilda, Collingwood, Fremantle and Hawthorn all had very strong line-ups. Along with Geelong, these other four teams contained the majority of the top end talent.

Year Result Ladder Home and away (percentage)
2007 Premiers MP 152.8
2009 Premiers 2ND 127.4
2011 Premiers 2ND 157.4
2008 Runner-Up MP 161.8

No. 3 Hawthorn – Very strong percentage home and away seasons year after year tells the story. In 2011 they were leading the preliminary final with 2 mins to go before suffering a cruel 3-point loss after a strong 18-win home and away season.

They finished top four in 2016 with their key forwards ageing. Buddy Franklin was playing out of his skin for the Sydney Swans kicking 81 goals for the season. I might suggest that the 2016 title would have remained at Waverley if Buddy had remained at Hawthorn.


Year Result Ladder Home and away (percentage)
2013 Premiers MP 135.7
2014 Premiers 2ND 140.8
2015 Premiers 3RD 158.4
2012 Runner-Up MP 154.6

Alastair Clarkson

Alastair Clarkson (Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

No. 4 Brisbane – Many experts rate them as one of the greatest sides of all time and rightly so. They played an incredible brand of football. But with no minor premierships and no Home and away above 137per cent, I cannot place them any higher.

Year Result Ladder Home and away (percentage)
2001 Premiers 2ND 127.6
2002 Premiers 2ND 136.7
2003 Premiers 3RD 121.9
2004 Runner-Up 2ND 132.4

No. 5 Richmond – Probably the most interesting of all the listed teams. For Richmond fans it had been a long time between drinks. Many fans had turned to it. Their period of dominance is still in the making, so let’s see whether they can extend it?

No team in the last four seasons have been able to match them in the second half of the season or in September. Interestingly, their best home and away season was in 2018 winning the MP with 18 games at 136.1per cent before being soundly beaten by Collingwood in the preliminary final.

Not great home and away stats compared to the other great teams but they have been the best side over the last four years by a country mile.

Year Result Ladder Handamp;A
2017 Premiers 3RD 118.3
2019 Premiers 3RD 113.7
2020 Premiers 3RD 129.9


There were a some other very great teams during this period but as they could not grasp that third premiership, I could not include them. The teams that spring to mind were the Kangaroos 1996-1999 and Essendon 1983-1985. Adelaide won consecutive premierships in 1997-1998 but in my humble opinion, the previous two teams were just a little bit stronger.