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Fremantle’s defeat of Melbourne reminds us how hard it is to build an AFL dynasty

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Roar Guru
30th May, 2022
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With Melbourne’s unbeaten 2022 run ending in Round 11 with a heavy defeat to Fremantle, can Melbourne rebound and go on to win another flag?

While I personally think they can, Fremantle are now a genuine threat should they finish in the top four.

Melbourne’s defeat after their 17-match winning record is a reminder that perceived dominance can end rather quickly.

History shows Geelong winning an incredible 23 matches during the 1952-53 seasons before losing five of their last eight matches during the 1953 season, including the grand final to Collingwood. 

Quite simply, it is very hard to dominate any football league for successive seasons given the mental, physical and organisational prowess needed week after week to excel in such a competitive game.


This appears even harder in the professional AFL era with a salary cap and draft, which enhances the prospect of a team’s fortunes rising or falling very quickly.

Max Gawn

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

This is why very few teams dominate a single home-and-away season, as indicated by 125 years of VFL/AFL history since 1897.

Champion team exceptions that went on to win the flag include Essendon 1950 (17-1 record), Geelong 1952 (16-1-2), Melbourne 1956 (16-2) and Essendon 1962 (16-2).


Winners include Hawthorn 1971 (19-3), Carlton 1979 (19-3), Essendon 1985 (19-3), Hawthorn 1988 (19-3) and 1989 (19-3), Carlton 1995 (20-2), Essendon 2000 (21-1) and Hawthorn 2013 (19-3).

With the inception of the AFL in 1990, however, home-and-away dominance has been less important as an indicator of premiership success with quite a few dominant teams not winning the premiership after only Essendon 1948 (16-1-2) and Collingwood 1973 (19-3) did not during the VFL era.

Those that did not go on to win the premiership include West Coast 1991 (19-3), Geelong 2008 (21-1), St Kilda 2009 (20-2), and Collingwood 2011 (20-2) which lost to a very good Geelong in the grand final which also achieved an outstanding home-and-away record (19-3).

Even winning successive premierships is hard.


Prior to 1960, 14 teams won at least two successive premierships, including Carlton with three in a row (1906-1908), Collingwood with four (1927-1930), and Melbourne three (1939-1941) and again (1955-1957).

Since the 1960s, another 60-year period, eight teams have won successive premierships: Richmond (1973-74), Carlton (1981-82), Essendon (1983-84), Hawthorn (1988-89), Adelaide (1997-98), Brisbane (2001-2003), Hawthorn (2013-15) and Richmond (2019-20).

So what are Melbourne’s chances to win another flag in 2022?

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)


Will the loss ease the pressure on the Demons? Will the return of key players make an immense difference for Melbourne to reassert their prowess as the team to beat? Or will the Fremantle victory prove a key turning point in the 2022 season?

In 2000, as an Essendon supporter, I was one of many relieved when they lost their first match in Round 21 to the Western Bulldogs, before rampaging through the finals series with victories over North, Carlton and Melbourne by 125, 45 and 60 points.

But looking at Fremantle’s defeat of Melbourne last Saturday, I was very impressed with Fremantle’s balance of size, power, toughness, speed and skill.


The fact that Fremantle have defeated three top-six teams this season (Carlton, Geelong and Melbourne) shows that they are more than capable of beating any team on their day.

But given recent losses to Gold Coast and Collingwood, the key for Fremantle will be whether they can win enough matches to gain a top-four finals position to give themselves a double chance.

Finishing fifth to eighth will make it that much harder, especially in the seventh and eighth positions.

As for Melbourne, they start the rest of the season a game clear, and a win against the Swans at the MCG and a Fremantle home victory against Brisbane next week could have the Demons again two games clear in top position.

It will be an interesting Round 12 given the Western Bulldogs are also building momentum again and may challenge Geelong, who at times can play some exceptional footy.

Like all the AFL teams, Melbourne still have some tough matches ahead in their remaining 11 games: Sydney, Collingwood, Brisbane, Adelaide, Geelong (away), Port Adelaide (away), Western Bulldogs, Fremantle (in Perth), Collingwood, Carlton and again Brisbane away.

However, it would take an extraordinary collapse for Melbourne not to finish in the top two in 2022, even if they drop a further three to four games given that other top teams are likely to lose a number of games.

Simon Goodwin

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

With a double chance and games to be played in Melbourne, the odds certainly favour a Melbourne grand final berth at least.

Sure, Fremantle looked the goods on Saturday, thumping Melbourne, and perhaps a few other teams may also prove dangerous as the AFL enters the second half of the home-and-away season.

But there are a number of reasons why Melbourne can rebound to challenge for a second successive premiership.

Melbourne have very good depth with their reserves team Casey being unbeaten and two games plus percentage clear in the VFL.

While it is true that the Demons’ forward line is not as spectacular as the forward lines of Fremantle, Brisbane, Carlton, Geelong and St Kilda in terms of possessing powerhouse forwards, they have proven good enough to constantly kick winning scores.

But if you can match Melbourne’s midfield (which is led by superstar players Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca), you will have a much greater chance of offsetting Melbourne’s excellent defence structure (led by Steven May and Jake Lever).

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The difficulty of winning successive flags is made evident by the rise and fall of the mighty Essendon team of 2000, who lost only one game that year to arguably represent the best ever single-season performance, only to fall short the following year.

If we look at the 2001 season when Essendon fell to the physical Brisbane Lions in Round 10, Brisbane trailed Essendon by three games with a 4-5 win-loss record. Yet they won 16 successive games including the grand final against the Bombers.

On their defeat of Melbourne last Saturday, Fremantle also have the potential to build greater consistency and defeat Melbourne’s best team should they meet in the grand final.

What do Roarers think? Will Melbourne rebound, will Fremantle go on with it, or will another team emerge to also show how hard it is for any team to dominate after Melbourne won their first ten games of the 2022 season and had previously smashed Brisbane, Geelong and the Western Bulldogs during the 2021 finals series?