One the hardest exercises undertaken by any critic is to compare teams from different eras and to quantify what success means in real terms. My overall parameter for this exercise is the AFL era 1990 to 2022 and to formulate which club/s have been the most successful overall.
My formula is as follows:
50 points Premiership
10 points Runner-up
2 points Preliminary Loss
1 point Other Final Appearances
# 2010 drawn Grand Final and Replay is viewed as one game.
The formula being utilised is arbitrary and winning the Premiership must carry substantial points in comparison to the Runner-up. Also, teams that consistently make Preliminary Finals and/or make up the 8 deserve some credit, as sustained success is vital to any club’s membership numbers and media coverage, eg: Friday night games.
Aside from Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney who entered the competition in 2011 and 2012 respectively, the only clubs not to taste the ultimate success since 1990 are Fremantle, who entered the competition in 1995, and St Kilda, though both have made Grand Finals.
Known Interstate Variables
Clubs to enter the AFL after 1990 are, Adelaide (1991), Fremantle (1995), Port Adelaide (1997), Gold Coast (2011) and Greater Western Sydney (2012), while the club now known as the Brisbane Lions, the amalgamation of the Brisbane Bears and Fitzroy, came into existence in 1997. Except for the Brisbane Lions, each of the new clubs will receive 1 point for each year after 1990 they started in the AFL, for example, Adelaide gets 1 point, Fremantle 5 points and Port Adelaide 7 points. For the sake of this exercise, GWS gets 10 points and the poor old Suns are excluded as they have no known measurable variables – in other words, they haven’t had any success.
In 1990 the finals system was still a Top 5 system before the Top 6 McIntyre System was adopted for the years 1991 to 1993. There was only one Preliminary Final in each of these years.
Between 1994 to 1999 the AFL operated under the guise of the Top 8 McIntyre System (which was a flawed system) before adopting the current AFL Top 8 Finals System, which is a lot fairer to teams finishing in the Top 4. 1994 also saw the introduction of the two Preliminary Finals.
Interesting Side Notes – Making the Top 4 and Interstate Teams
Over a 33-year period, 91 percent of all Grand Final winners have finished inside the Top 4. Adelaide in 1997 and 1998 and the Western Bulldogs in 2016 are the only teams to win the flag from outside the Top 4.
Non-Victorian teams have won 12 flags during the AFL era and been Runner-up on another 13 occasions. There have only been three All-Non-Victorian Grand Finals – Brisbane v Port Adelaide in 2004, and Sydney v West Coast in 2005 and 2006.
Analysis of Ratings or Which Clubs Give Bang for your Buck?
The major anomaly to come out of this analysis is Richmond, with three flags, being ranked seventh overall, below the Sydney Swans and Collingwood, with two flags each. No matter how much the above values were changed, the result remained the same. I even asked HB for advice as to the values.
The overall consistency of the Swans and the Pies means they have given their supporters better ‘bang for buck’ than the sudden success of the Tigers. Having said that, it is hard to quantify how much pain is associated with nine granny losses between the Swans and the Pies compared to Richmond’s three successes without tasting defeat. I’d probably rather be a Tiger as defeat is a very bitter pill to swallow, very bitter (5 friggin times).
The top four is self-explanatory really, with Hawthorn’s five cups just beating their rival Geelong to the top billing. The West Coast Eagles have been a juggernaut and the stand-out Non-Vic team, both on and off the field (they will overcome their present situation quickly), while the Lions’ dynasty of the early 2000s and contemporary finals appearances has secured their place in the top four.
Essendon are the real surprise packet as most plaudits forget how good they were in the 1990s before the walls came tumbling down for whatever reason in the 2000s. The other embattled club since the turn of the century, Carlton, sit low on this table and their supporters have lacked even the mid-range success of other clubs – no wonder they are upset.
At the bottom end of the scale, the performance of the GWS in a very short span of time has been impressive and makes for miserable reading for the beleaguered Dockers and Saints.
The Positive of the AFL Era
Over a 33-year period all AFL clubs, except Gold Coast, have made a Grand Final and multiple Preliminary Finals, which means the AFL system is working. Given the above analysis it is reasonable to expect that at some point in the future all clubs will have another chance at glory, with the question remaining; do they grab it?
It must give some hope to Saints and Dockers fans – some hope!
Ps: This analysis may upset some people. It is unintended as the numbers are doing the storytelling. The compiling of this data was long, hard, and draining and if there is the odd mistake, please forgive the poor writer.
The Grand Final winners and runner-ups are accurate, however, allow a margin of error of plus or minus one for the rest.