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Matthews backs Lions over Cats as AFL era's best

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Lions better than Cats: Matthews

Lions triple premiership winning coach Leigh Matthews says "I would have backed our team" to beat the Geelong side which also won three flags.

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It's arguably a game of threes that determines which team is the best of the AFL era.

Come the 22nd season of AFL football two clubs – Geelong and Brisbane Lions – had each won three premierships.

In 2007 a VFL/AFL record 119-point grand final win over Port Adelaide stamped Geelong as a side for the ages. An epic win over St Kilda followed in 2009, before the Cats turned the tables on the Magpies last year.

The victorious Brisbane Lions after the 2003 Grand Final victory.

The victorious Brisbane Lions after the 2003 Grand Final victory. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

At the start of the decade, however, another maiden premiership win – the first of three consecutive flags – elevated the Lions as Queensland's favourite sons in 2001.

A comfortable, 50-point victory over the Magpies completed the hat-trick in 2003.

It was the first time in more than 40 years that a club had won three VFL or AFL premierships in a row.

But which team – the Lions of the early 2000s or the Cats of the late 2000s – would take the silverware in a fantasy match?

With sustained excellence as his yardstick, AFL legend Leigh Matthews has argued it would be the Lions.

In Brisbane today Matthews said the hat-trick of flags and four straight grand finals from 2001-04 gives his former team the edge on their southern feline counterparts.

"I would've backed our team," he said. "You often have a premiership era. The longest premiership era in my time in footy is the Hawthorn decade. From '82 to '91 they could have won the premiership any one of those 10 years but most premiership windows are five or six years.

"[But] none of the other teams – even the Hawthorn team of that era – could win three in a row.

"The ability to actually come up and get to the final day and win it in the three consecutive years – whatever you think of this now, you'll think more of it in the decades to come because history says it just doesn't happen."

Matthews has two lasting memories of the Lions' 2003 premiership. One is the stellar performance of midfielder Simon Black against the Pies (his game high 39 possessions earned him the Norm Smith Medal).

The other he would rather not have.

"About 45 minutes before the siren was about to start the game we didn't know who our 21st player was going to be; that was when Nigel Lappin was very uncertain . . . that close to the game," he said.

Lappin played the game with a broken rib.

"I wouldn't like to have gone through that uncertainty again," Matthews said

6 comments

  • When a Player of the Century expresses an opinion, you'd like to think he had a pretty fair frame of reference.
    Aside from being a Lions fan, I'd have to agree - even though watching Geelong these days play (when they're ON) is mighty attractive - Hawks too ...
    Shame the AFL cap system is virtually designed to demolish quality teams as soon as they have success.

    Commenter
    wimax
    Location
    SEQld
    Date and time
    December 06, 2012, 9:58PM
    • Broken rib and punctured lung, if I remember correctly? He stayed in hospital after the grand final and returned to Brisbane later.

      Geelong may have won 3 premierships in the same era as the Lions, but they weren't back to back to back - nor were they even in the 2010 GF to string three of them together - the Lions made 01, 02, 03, and 04, only losing the fourth by two quarters.

      Commenter
      TeeJay07
      Date and time
      December 07, 2012, 1:32PM
      • I tend to agree with you but as a Geelong supporter there are somethings that are not recorded in the statistics, Geelong have never had a draft pick lower than 7, never had a priorty pick, but they traded to get that lower pick than 7, that I beleive was in the 1990's, Geelong never has had any salary cap relief unlike Brisbane. Geelong built their up from mid draft selections and of course some very fortunate father/son picks.
        A friend of my mine a Richmond supporter(we all make mistakes) saw the three Geelong/ Brisbane GF wins and he said that all the Geelong wins were way above any of the Brisbane wins. Maybe it was the buzz around the ground, lots more Geelong supporters than Brisbane ever had, especially on 07 and 11. In 07 he said that you could in the first 5 minutes that nothing was going to stop Geelong and the skill and demeanour and ground atmosphere was unbelievable it would bew after 44 yeras. He said the 11 win was probably the greatest as it was close all day then Geelong just blew Collingwood away in the last quarter and the noise around the ground was something he has never experienced before.
        It is every hard to compare the two sides, in many ways I think that the Geelong and Brisbane should be ranked together as truly great sides non better than the other.

        Commenter
        terry
        Date and time
        December 07, 2012, 4:27PM
    • Probably the only way to separate them would be their win-loss record in home and away games during their reigns. Geelong has lost about 20 games in the past five years so that alone would make them the greatest team of all.

      Commenter
      Laurie Mills
      Location
      Bowen
      Date and time
      December 07, 2012, 9:50PM
      • How can you even compare the two. Brisbane had the advantage of having a much larger salary cap than everyone else besides Sydney. Also Brisbane got to play 11 home games during the home and away season as well as the chance to play finals in Brisbane. Geelong only has at most 7 home games a year and no finals.

        Commenter
        J
        Location
        WA
        Date and time
        December 08, 2012, 8:50PM
        • What, the ex-Brisbane coach reckons his team was better than another team? There's a newsflash.

          Cats were better for longer, more dominant, and changed the way the game was played.

          Brisbane were aided by a merger and a very generous salary cap.

          In the end, who cares? I'm a pretty happy Cat man.

          Commenter
          jazzyjools
          Location
          Melbmania
          Date and time
          December 10, 2012, 1:02AM
          Comments are now closed
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