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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

114 comments

  • 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...

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

      Commenter
      Gaz
      Location
      Yarrawonga
      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?

      Commenter
      stuartsoftail
      Location
      mel
      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.

      Commenter
      Hardfelt
      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

      Commenter
      Bomber fan
      Location
      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.

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

      Commenter
      rps
      Location
      Melbourne
      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.

      Commenter
      BeachBoy
      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

      Commenter
      $keptic
      Location
      Melbourne
      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.

    Commenter
    Steve-o
    Location
    bacchus marsh
    Date and time
    May 13, 2013, 1:50PM

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