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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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    AFL 2015

    Round 1
    Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
    CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
    Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
    MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
    SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
    BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
    WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
    Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
    STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
    ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
    FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
    Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
    HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 2
    Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
    WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
    Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
    RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
    GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
    COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
    GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
    PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
    Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
    GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
    ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
    NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 3
    Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
    COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
    Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
    CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
    ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
    SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
    NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
    BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
    Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
    HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
    GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
    WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 4
    Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
    RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
    Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
    STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
    ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
    GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
    PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
    FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
    Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
    BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
    GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
    WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 5
    Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
    Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
    RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
    SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
    GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
    NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
    WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
    Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
    MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
    STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
    ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
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    Round 6
    Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
    COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
    Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
    NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
    WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
    GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
    GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
    MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
    FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
    Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
    PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 7
    Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
    Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
    ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
    HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
    CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
    SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
    WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
    Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
    WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
    RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
    BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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    Round 8
    Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
    GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
    Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
    GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
    GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
    HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
    FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
    Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
    MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
    PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 9
    Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
    SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
    Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
    HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
    MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
    WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
    RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
    ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
    Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
    BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
    COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
    WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 10
    Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
    FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
    Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
    GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
    ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
    PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
    Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
    GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
    NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
    STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
    Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
    MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 11
    Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
    PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
    Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
    GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
    WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
    NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
    Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
    COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
    STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 12
    Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
    ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
    Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
    RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
    Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
    GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
    WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
    Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
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    Round 13
    Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
    FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
    Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
    SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
    Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
    BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
    STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
    Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
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    Round 14
    Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
    SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
    Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
    COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
    Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
    GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
    WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
    MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
    Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
    ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
    FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 15
    Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
    PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
    Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
    Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
    WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
    NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
    WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
    Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
    HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
    BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 16
    Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
    NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
    Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
    GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
    GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
    COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
    SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
    FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
    Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
    MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
    PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
    STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 17
    Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
    Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
    ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
    RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
    ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
    BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
    Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
    WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
    MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
    WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 18
    Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
    HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
    Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
    GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
    COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
    SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
    CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
    GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
    Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
    PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
    ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
    FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 19
    Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
    Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
    WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
    BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
    GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
    WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
    Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
    MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
    GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
    STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 20
    Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
    SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
    Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
    ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
    NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
    PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
    GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
    BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
    Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
    RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
    WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
    FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 21
    Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
    HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
    Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
    GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
    GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
    STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
    ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
    Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
    NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
    CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
    WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 22
    Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
    GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
    Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
    GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
    HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
    NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
    ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
    GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
    Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE ($2.05)vs WCE ($1.80) 13:10Adelaide Oval
    STK ($4.50)vs SYD ($1.22) 15:20ES
    FRE ($1.08)vs MEL ($8.50) 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 23
    Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs NTH 19:50ES
    Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
    GEE ($2.00)vs ADE ($1.75) 13:05SS
    BRI ($4.60)vs WBU ($1.18) 13:45G
    PTA ($1.75)vs FRE ($2.00) 15:50Adelaide Oval
    HAW ($1.01)vs CAR ($15.00) 16:40MCG
    SYD ($1.07)vs GCF ($7.50) 19:20SCG
    WCE ($1.11)vs STK ($6.25) 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs GWS 13:10ES
    COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
    View All Fixtures
    AFL 2015
    Overall standings
    Team P W L D % Pts
    Fremantle 20 16 4 0 122.19 64
    West Coast Eagles 20 15 4 1 150.85 62
    Hawthorn 21 15 6 0 156.77 60
    Richmond 21 14 7 0 121.39 56
    Sydney Swans 20 14 6 0 118.16 56
    Western Bulldogs 21 14 7 0 116.76 56
    North Melbourne 21 13 8 0 109.08 52
    Adelaide Crows 19 12 7 0 116.41 50
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