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One team rules them all

Geelong players celebrate after winning the 2009 grand final.

Geelong players celebrate after winning the 2009 grand final. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Leigh Matthews was a legendary player and highly successful coach of one of the greatest teams of the modern era, so it's understandable he would fly the flag for his Brisbane Lions outfit that won three straight premierships from 2001-03.

So much so that in a weekend discussion about where Geelong now ranks among the all-time greats, Matthews said that while the Cats had lasted longer, ''the Lions team of 2002-03 would eat that Geelong team of Friday night''.

Cats lead the way ... the best result from 150 matches.

Cats lead the way ... the best result from 150 matches. Photo: Rogers Results

Strong words, and I think fairly contentious. Yes, Brisbane was a powerful unit with superstars the calibre of Michael Voss, Simon Black, Jason Akermanis, Jonathan Brown, Nigel Lappin and Alastair Lynch. But Geelong has Joel Selwood, Steve Johnson, Jimmy Bartel, Corey Enright, James Kelly, Tom Hawkins, Harry Taylor and Andrew Mackie.

The key difference for Matthews was the five players in the Cats line-up yet to play 10 senior games. Brisbane at its peak certainly had far more experience. But was its second tier as effective as the likes of Geelong's next rung of Mathew Stokes, Allen Christensen, Mitch Duncan and even the rawer Steven Motlop and Billie Smedts are proving? That's debatable.

But what Matthews definitely did have right was the point about longevity. Brisbane's golden era lasted just four years and crashed spectacularly. Geelong's now spans seven years and, as the successful introduction of new blood and an unbeaten 7-0 record this season underlines, it shows no signs of abating.

Between 2007 and now, the Cats have won three premierships and are clearly in line for a fourth, contested four grand finals and had five top-four finishes from six seasons.

And it's on that basis Geelong has a very sound argument that not only has it been better than Brisbane, but any other side in the history of league football.

From its last 150 games, Geelong has won 125, for a staggering winning percentage of 83.3. For the next highest figure, you have to travel all the way back to the 1920s, and Collingwood's 79.7 per cent, the Magpies having won 119 and drawn one of 150 games between 1925 and 1932.

Then comes an earlier great outfit in Carlton, which between 1905-13 won 79 per cent of its games, and a latter-day champion team, the Hawthorn colossus of the 1980s, which also won 79 per cent of games from 1983-89.

Melbourne, meanwhile, won an amazing five flags in six seasons from 1955-60, and comes in at 78.7 per cent. Matthews' Brisbane Lions, meanwhile, ranks only ninth on the list with 71.7 per cent, below Richmond (1927-35), Essendon (1944-51) and Fitzroy (1898-1906).

Every one of those examples, bar Geelong and the Brisbane Lions, even that of the Hawks, came in an era without equalisation measures such as the draft and salary cap, or in Hawthorn's case having taken full effect.

Hawthorn was a tremendously consistent team, which contested eight grand finals in nine years and won five of them. But even the Hawks had the benefit of fewer genuinely competitive rivals, with five of those premiership play-offs against Essendon or Carlton.

The Brisbane Lions win plenty of kudos for their three flags in a row, something Geelong failed to do. But the Cats were one win shy of achieving the same feat. The cruel irony was that their 2008 team - which lost only two matches all year, and one was the grand final to Hawthorn - was probably the most potent it has fielded in this amazing run.

The Lions never once finished the home and away rounds in their premiership seasons on top of the ladder. The most games they won in a season in the 2001-04 period was 17. The Cats between 2007 and last year won 18, 21, 18, 17, 19 and, in the relatively disappointing 2012, 15.

Even the Collingwood and Melbourne teams of the 1920s and '50s that won more flags couldn't boast the sort of amazing winning consistency Geelong has these past seven years.

Sorry, Leigh, your Brisbane sides certainly couldn't. If the Cats win a fourth premiership this season, there surely can be no room left for debate. But already there's ample evidence that Geelong, as its theme song goes, really is ''the greatest team of all''.

For more statistical data on best and worst results, go here


  • So just to confirm Rohan, you're happy to rate which team is the greatest of them all based only on their win percentage, not on premierships?
    3 in 6 is great, but can't compare to 3 in 3 if talking of great sides. neither can it compare to 4 in 7, inlcuding 7 grand finals, or 5 in 9 years for that matter.
    That cruel irony doesnt really matter because they proved themselves not the hardest side that year. Brisbane did for three straight years. In fact, outside of being able to beat easy teams consistently that year, they didnt have either the best performed run into the final series, or the better performed final series, even ignoring the grand final...

    Date and time
    May 13, 2013, 1:23PM
    • Collingwood - four in a row. won't be beaten

      Date and time
      May 13, 2013, 1:53PM
    • Why is everyone so quick to forget that didn't Brisbane have nearly an extra MILLION DOLLARS in their salary cap for those years (or whatever Andrew called it back then,) same as what Sydney are getting now, (extra money in the salary cap) the reason they can afford TIPPET as well a paying a bucket load for Mumford. I never forget poor Eddie Mcguires comments when they lost x 2 GF, that it was not a 'Level Playing field' back then.

      If Geelong had that extra dosh they could have kept Ablett and Mumford and THEN you would have seen utter domination of the competition!!
      Instead the Cats have done it purely without any extra help from the AFL. Surely this counts for something?

      Date and time
      May 13, 2013, 1:53PM
    • Some of your arguments in favour of Geelong fall flat. As regards Hawthorn not having enough competition - are not Melbourne, GWS & Suns the current equivalent easy beats? Equally, the fact Brisbane never finished top of the table is testament to their strength in then going on to win 3 in a row. The Cats easily accounted for Port in their inaugral win of this era (were their any other real threats that year?), were outclassed in 08, were lucky to knock off the Saints & only reappeared again in 2011, with no guernsey last year. If u are judging on lost chances & statistical potential, then perhaps. But we all know that it's the silverware in the cupboard that is the absolute arbiter of greatness. 3 out of 5 is good, not great.

      Date and time
      May 13, 2013, 2:18PM
    • Since the AFL (not VFL) began in 1990, Geelong have not dropped below 12th position on the ladder (after r. 22). As far as I'm aware, all other teams have placed lower than 12th position since 1990

      Bomber fan
      Clayton, Victoria
      Date and time
      May 13, 2013, 2:51PM
    • @ stuartsoftail ... Andrew was not in charge of the AFL when Brisbane Bears entered the competition. Your point is well made but facts are lacking. I believe Ross Oakley was in charge then.

      Date and time
      May 13, 2013, 3:04PM
    • You can prove anything with statistics

      Date and time
      May 13, 2013, 4:00PM
    • Collingwood's four in a row doesn't count. They didn't win four Grand Finals in a row. They lost finals but got the right to rematches. Not even Eddie could get away with what they got away with.

      Date and time
      May 13, 2013, 4:09PM
    • Silly comparison in many regards. As a club, yes right up there with the best, given the last 6-7 years.

      As a team, it is a different story. Brisbane in it's 3-4 years consisted of mostly the same group of players.

      Since the Cat's premiership in 2007, the following players are no longer at the club:

      Darren Milburn, Matthew Scarlett, Tom Harley, Cam Ling, Cam Mooney, Mark Blake, Gary Ablett, Brad Ottens, Shannon Byrnes, David Wojinski, Nathan Ablett and Steven King.

      May have got 1-2 wrong, but you get the picture

      Date and time
      May 13, 2013, 4:22PM
  • In the Cats 100 year history they have only won 6 premierships 10 less than Essendon on top wouldn't go as far as to say there the greatest team of all.

    bacchus marsh
    Date and time
    May 13, 2013, 1:50PM

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    2014 Home and Away

    Round 1
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    GWS 99 vs SYD 67 Report Report Stats
    GCF 87 vs RIC 69 Report Stats
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    CAR 87 vs PTA 120 Report Stats
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    GEE 119 vs ADE 81 Report Stats
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    NTH 60 vs ESS 99 Report Stats
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    HAW 139 vs BRI 91 Report Stats
    STK 68 vs MEL 51 Report Stats
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    WCE 134 vs WBU 69 Report Stats
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    RIC 98 vs CAR 86 Report Stats
    Fri, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
    ESS 86 vs HAW 90 Report Stats
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    STK 95 vs GWS 88 Stats
    PTA 127 vs ADE 73 Report Stats
    FRE 87 vs GCF 39 Report Stats
    SYD 69 vs COL 89 Report Stats
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    BRI 68 vs GEE 93 Stats
    MEL 30 vs WCE 123 Report Stats
    WBU 54 vs NTH 83 Report Stats
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    Round 3
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    HAW 137 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
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    WBU 100 vs RIC 98 Report Stats
    ADE 71 vs SYD 134 Report Stats
    GCF 114 vs BRI 61 Stats
    WCE 83 vs STK 58 Report Stats
    COL 76 vs GEE 87 Report Stats
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    GWS 79 vs MEL 47 Report Stats
    NTH 97 vs PTA 90 Report Stats
    ESS 138 vs CAR 57 Report Stats
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    Round 4
    Fri, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
    RIC 72 vs COL 110 Report Stats
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    CAR 58 vs MEL 81 Report Stats
    PTA 159 vs BRI 46 Report Stats
    GWS 83 vs WBU 110 Report Stats
    GEE 107 vs WCE 32 Report Stats
    GCF 49 vs HAW 148 Report Stats
    Sun, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
    SYD 48 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
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    Round 5
    Thu, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
    BRI 63 vs RIC 106 Report Stats
    Sat, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
    COL 93 vs NTH 58 Report Stats
    SYD 92 vs FRE 75 Report Stats
    WCE 56 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
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    Sun, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
    ADE 137 vs GWS 72 Report Stats
    MEL 78 vs GCF 86 Report Stats
    WBU 91 vs CAR 119 Report Stats
    Mon, 21 AprTimes shown AEST
    GEE 106 vs HAW 87 Report Stats
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    Round 6
    Fri, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
    COL 83 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
    STK 79 vs BRI 82 Report Stats
    FRE 61 vs NTH 74 Report Stats
    Sat, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
    GCF 134 vs GWS 94 Report Stats
    CAR 92 vs WCE 89 Report Stats
    MEL 38 vs SYD 69 Report Stats
    Sun, 27 AprTimes shown AEST
    WBU 83 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
    RIC 52 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
    PTA 107 vs GEE 67 Report Stats
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    Round 7
    Fri, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR 70 vs COL 104 Report Stats
    Sat, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
    HAW 175 vs STK 30 Report Stats
    GWS 97 vs PTA 132 Report Stats
    ADE 67 vs MEL 70 Report Stats
    BRI 44 vs SYD 123 Stats
    ESS 73 vs WBU 65 Report Stats
    Sun, 04 MayTimes shown AEST
    NTH 77 vs GCF 120 Report Stats
    GEE 81 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
    WCE 54 vs FRE 73 Report Stats
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    Round 8
    Fri, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
    SYD 107 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
    Sat, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
    PTA 94 vs FRE 76 Report Stats
    BRI 57 vs ESS 65 Report Stats
    MEL 83 vs WBU 99 Report Stats
    Sun, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
    WCE 188 vs GWS 77 Report Stats
    Mon, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK 69 vs CAR 101 Report Stats
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    Round 9
    Thu, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
    ADE 76 vs COL 55 Report Stats
    Fri, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS 64 vs SYD 114 Report Stats
    Sat, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
    RIC 74 vs MEL 91 Report Stats
    NTH 125 vs BRI 38 Report Stats
    FRE 96 vs GEE 64 Report Stats
    Sun, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK 87 vs GCF 125 Report Stats
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    Round 10
    Fri, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
    GEE 111 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
    Sat, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
    GWS 41 vs RIC 154 Report Stats
    COL 109 vs WCE 101 Report Stats
    PTA 100 vs HAW 86 Report Stats
    Sun, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
    GCF 119 vs WBU 74 Report Stats
    CAR 81 vs ADE 76 Report Stats
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    Round 11
    Thu, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
    SYD 148 vs GEE 38 Report Stats
    Fri, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK 54 vs COL 140 Report Stats
    Sat, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
    MEL 75 vs PTA 95 Report Stats
    BRI 98 vs CAR 91 Report Stats
    ESS 104 vs RIC 54 Report Stats
    Sun, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
    ADE 109 vs GCF 77 Report Stats
    WBU 51 vs FRE 89 Report Stats
    HAW 94 vs GWS 87 Report Stats
    WCE 44 vs NTH 82 Report Stats
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    Round 12
    Fri, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE 107 vs CAR 102 Report Stats
    Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW 123 vs WCE 79 Report Stats
    PTA 129 vs STK 59 Report Stats
    WBU 87 vs BRI 95 Report Stats
    GWS 66 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
    Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
    GCF 74 vs SYD 109 Report Stats
    FRE 90 vs ADE 50 Report Stats
    NTH 116 vs RIC 88 Report Stats
    Mon, 09 JunTimes shown AEST
    MEL 28 vs COL 61 Report Stats
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    Round 13
    Fri, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR 90 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
    Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
    RIC 85 vs FRE 105 Report Stats
    SYD 98 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
    WCE 103 vs GCF 100 Report Stats
    BRI 80 vs GWS 125 Report Stats
    ADE 109 vs NTH 73 Report Stats
    Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE 133 vs STK 37 Report Stats
    COL 98 vs WBU 106 Report Stats
    ESS 77 vs MEL 78 Report Stats
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    Round 14
    Fri, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
    RIC 51 vs SYD 62 Report Stats
    Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
    PTA 128 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
    HAW 115 vs COL 86 Report Stats
    GCF 118 vs GEE 78 Report Stats
    FRE 105 vs BRI 22 Report Stats
    ESS 101 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
    Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
    GWS 100 vs CAR 92 Report Stats
    STK 70 vs WCE 103 Report Stats
    MEL 66 vs NTH 107 Report Stats
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    Round 15
    Fri, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE 89 vs ESS 80 Report Stats
    Sat, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW 116 vs GCF 63 Report Stats
    STK 73 vs RIC 117 Report Stats
    FRE 88 vs WCE 81 Report Stats
    SYD 106 vs GWS 60 Stats
    BRI 70 vs NTH 66 Report Stats
    Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
    WBU 91 vs MEL 85 Report Stats
    ADE 99 vs PTA 76 Report Stats
    COL 91 vs CAR 76 Report Stats
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    Round 16
    Fri, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
    NTH 108 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
    Sat, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC 79 vs BRI 54 Stats
    GWS 72 vs ADE 140 Report Stats
    GCF 80 vs COL 75 Report Stats
    MEL 34 vs FRE 97 Report Stats
    PTA 60 vs ESS 62 Report Stats
    Sun, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR 151 vs STK 66 Report Stats
    WCE 51 vs SYD 79 Report Stats
    GEE 69 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
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    Round 17
    Fri, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
    ADE 92 vs HAW 104 Report Stats
    Sat, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
    MEL 36 vs GEE 102 Report Stats
    NTH 92 vs STK 33 Report Stats
    WBU 94 vs GCF 66 Report Stats
    BRI 64 vs WCE 76 Report Stats
    SYD 122 vs CAR 51 Report Stats
    Sun, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC 126 vs PTA 106 Report Stats
    ESS 103 vs COL 39 Report Stats
    FRE 136 vs GWS 60 Report Stats
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    Round 18
    Fri, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR 109 vs NTH 86 Report Stats
    Sat, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
    STK 118 vs FRE 60 Report Stats
    GWS 87 vs GEE 94 Report Stats
    Sun, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
    PTA 72 vs MEL 69 Report Stats
    WBU 94 vs ESS 101 Report Stats
    Fri, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
    WCE 42 vs RIC 59 Report Stats
    Sat, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
    BRI 110 vs GCF 56 Report Stats
    HAW 104 vs SYD 94 Report Stats
    Sun, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
    COL 82 vs ADE 98 Report Stats
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    Round 19
    Thu, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
    FRE 83 vs CAR 78 Report Stats
    Fri, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
    SYD 79 vs ESS 57 Report Stats
    Sat, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE 105 vs WCE 136 Report Stats
    RIC 89 vs GWS 62 Report Stats
    GCF 117 vs STK 64 Report Stats
    NTH 79 vs GEE 111 Report Stats
    Sun, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
    MEL 51 vs BRI 74 Stats
    HAW 107 vs WBU 45 Report Stats
    COL 76 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
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    Round 20
    Fri, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
    RIC 95 vs ESS 77 Report Stats
    Sat, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
    GWS 51 vs NTH 126 Report Stats
    CAR 97 vs GCF 58 Report Stats
    HAW 115 vs MEL 65 Report Stats
    PTA 58 vs SYD 84 Report Stats
    GEE 81 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
    Sun, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
    BRI 63 vs ADE 168 Report Stats
    STK 99 vs WBU 122 Report Stats
    WCE 126 vs COL 66 Report Stats
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    Round 21
    Fri, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
    CAR 76 vs GEE 82 Report Stats
    Sat, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
    SYD 127 vs STK 56 Stats
    GCF 47 vs PTA 56 Report Stats
    ESS 77 vs WCE 74 Report Stats
    COL 56 vs BRI 123 Report Stats
    ADE 69 vs RIC 79 Report Stats
    Sun, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
    NTH 111 vs WBU 61 Report Stats
    MEL 34 vs GWS 98 Report Stats
    FRE 110 vs HAW 91 Report Stats
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    Round 22
    Fri, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
    PTA 140 vs CAR 37 Report Stats
    Sat, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
    NTH 101 vs ADE 94 Report Stats
    ESS 108 vs GCF 89 Report Stats
    GWS 67 vs COL 75 Report Stats
    WCE 119 vs MEL 53 Report Stats
    HAW 94 vs GEE 71 Report Stats
    Sun, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
    BRI 48 vs FRE 106 Report Stats
    WBU 67 vs SYD 130 Report Stats
    RIC 98 vs STK 72 Report Stats
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    Round 23
    Fri, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL 56 vs HAW 121 Stats
    Sat, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
    CAR 90 vs ESS 90 Stats
    FRE 105 vs PTA 97 Stats
    SYD 65 vs RIC 68 Stats
    NTH 123 vs MEL 93 Stats
    GEE 143 vs BRI 81 Stats
    Sun, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
    GCF 99 vs WCE 151 Stats
    ADE 141 vs STK 62 Stats
    WBU 109 vs GWS 115 Stats
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    AFL Finals Round 1
    Fri, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
    HAW 104 vs GEE 68 Report Stats
    Sat, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
    SYD 93 vs FRE 69 Stats
    NTH 93 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
    Sun, 07 SepTimes shown AEST
    PTA 132 vs RIC 75 Report Stats
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    AFL Finals Round 2
    Fri, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
    GEE 92 vs NTH 98 Stats
    Sat, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
    FRE 83 vs PTA 105 Stats
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    AFL Finals Round 3
    Fri, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
    SYD 136 vs NTH 65 Report Stats
    Sat, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
    HAW 97 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
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    AFL Finals Round 4
    Sat, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
    SYD 74 vs HAW 137 Report Stats
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    AFL Home and Away
    Overall standings
    Team P W L D % Pts
    Sydney Swans 22 17 5 0 142.88 68
    Hawthorn 22 17 5 0 140.78 68
    Geelong Cats 22 17 5 0 113.77 68
    Fremantle 22 16 6 0 130.40 64
    Port Adelaide 22 14 8 0 129.92 56
    North Melbourne 22 14 8 0 117.04 56
    Essendon 22 12 9 1 106.34 50
    Richmond 22 12 10 0 105.77 48
    View all
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