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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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    AFL 2015

    Round 1
    Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
    CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
    Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
    MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
    SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
    BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
    WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
    Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
    STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
    ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
    FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
    Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
    HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
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    Round 2
    Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
    WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
    Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
    RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
    GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
    COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
    GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
    PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
    Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
    GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
    ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
    NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
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    Round 3
    Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
    COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
    Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
    CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
    ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
    SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
    NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
    BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
    Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
    HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
    GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
    WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
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    Round 4
    Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
    RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
    Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
    STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
    ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
    GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
    PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
    FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
    Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
    BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
    GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
    WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
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    Round 5
    Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
    Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
    RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
    SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
    GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
    NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
    WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
    Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
    MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
    STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
    ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
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    Round 6
    Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
    COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
    Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
    NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
    WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
    GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
    GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
    MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
    FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
    Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
    PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
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    Round 7
    Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
    Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
    ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
    HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
    CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
    SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
    WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
    Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
    WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
    RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
    BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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    Round 8
    Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
    GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
    Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
    GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
    GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
    HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
    FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
    Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
    MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
    PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
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    Round 9
    Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
    SYD 122 vs CAR 62 Stats
    Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
    MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
    WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
    RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
    ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
    BRI vs STK 13:10G
    COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
    WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
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    Round 10
    Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
    FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
    Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
    GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
    ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
    PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
    NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
    STK vs HAW 16:40ES
    Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
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    Round 11
    Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
    GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
    WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
    NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
    Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
    COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
    STK vs MEL 16:40ES
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    Round 12
    Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
    Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
    GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
    WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
    Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
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    Round 13
    Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
    FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
    Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
    Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
    BRI vs ADE 16:35G
    STK vs WBU 19:20ES
    Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
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    Round 14
    Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
    Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
    COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
    Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
    GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
    WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
    MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
    Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs STK 13:10ES
    ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
    FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
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    Round 15
    Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
    Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
    WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
    NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
    WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
    HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
    BRI vs SYD 16:40G
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    Round 16
    Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
    Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
    GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
    COL vs WCE 16:35ES
    SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
    FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
    PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
    STK vs RIC 16:40ES
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    Round 17
    Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
    Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
    ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
    RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
    ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
    BRI vs NTH 19:20G
    Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
    WBU vs COL 13:10ES
    MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
    WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
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    Round 18
    Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
    Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
    COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
    SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
    CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
    GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
    Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
    ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
    FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
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    Round 19
    Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
    WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
    BRI vs GCF 16:35G
    GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
    WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
    GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
    STK vs FRE 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 20
    Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
    Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
    NTH vs STK 14:10BA
    PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
    GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
    BRI vs CAR 19:20G
    Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
    WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
    FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
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    Round 21
    Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
    Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
    GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
    GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
    STK vs GEE 19:20ES
    ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
    CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
    WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 22
    Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
    Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
    HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
    NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
    ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
    GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
    Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
    STK vs SYD 15:20ES
    FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 23
    Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
    COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
    RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
    HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
    GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
    SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
    MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
    BRI vs WBU 00:00G
    PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
    WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    AFL 2015
    Overall standings
    Team P W L D % Pts
    Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
    Sydney Swans 9 7 2 0 134.49 28
    West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
    GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
    Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
    Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
    Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
    Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
    View all
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