License article

One team rules them all

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''.

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


Comment are now closed