Which has been the most successful club of the AFL era?

Date: May 16, 2014 / Posted by control

This year marks the 25th season since the VFL morphed into the AFL which begs the question as to which club has been the greatest in that quarter century.

With this season less than half over let’s just restrict ourselves to the performances across the preceding 24 years.

Sadly, for some clubs the change to a nationally named competition has done little to improve their on-field fortunes with their last flags mired in the mist of time – Western Bulldogs (1954), Melbourne (1964), St Kilda (1966), and Richmond (1980).

Other clubs have entered the fray since the move to the AFL – Adelaide (1991), Fremantle (1995), Port Adelaide (1997), Gold Coast (2011) and Greater Western Sydney (2012) – while Fitzroy and Brisbane amalgamated ahead of the 1997 season.

So what criteria can be used to ascertain the most successful club since 1990?

The number of finals series contested is a starting point with West Coast leading the way with 18, including ten consecutive seasons between 1990-99 under Mick Malthouse. Next best is Geelong with 16 ahead of Sydney (15); Essendon and Hawthorn (14); North Melbourne and Collingwood (13); Adelaide (12); Carlton (11); and Brisbane and Adelaide (10).

The Lions have struggled significantly of late, placing between 10th and 15th on the ladder for the past nine seasons with the exception of 2009 when Michael Voss was able to lift them to sixth place in his first season at the helm. Sydney, on the other hand, has been a regular contender of late with ten finals campaigns in the past 11 seasons while Collingwood has contested the past eight.

The most minor premierships in the AFL belong to Essendon with five – including a hat-trick between 1999-2001. Next best are West Coast, Geelong and Port Adelaide with three apiece. Despite four successive grand finals appearances between 2001-04, Brisbane has yet to claim a minor premiership.

As far as grand final appearances are concerned Geelong has the most with seven. Collingwood has played in six although one of those was the drawn grand final of 2010. West Coast has been on the big stage five times ahead of Hawthorn, Brisbane, Essendon and Sydney (4); North Melbourne and Carlton (3); Adelaide and Port Adelaide (2).

The ultimate prize – the premiership – has been won three times by West Coast, Geelong, Brisbane and Hawthorn while Adelaide, Collingwood, Essendon, Sydney and North Melbourne have each triumphed twice with Port and Carlton each winning one.

The best home-and-away winning percentage in the AFL era belongs to Geelong at 62.7. Next best are the Eagles (54.7), North Melbourne (54.4), Collingwood (54.2) and Essendon (53.2). Despite its three consecutive premierships and four successive grand finals in the early-2000s, Brisbane’s home-and-away winning percentage is just 45.1.

The honour for the most finals appearances is jointly held by Geelong and West Coast with 42 apiece ahead of Collingwood and Sydney, both on 32.

However Brisbane has far-and-away the best winning percentage in finals matches with a mark of 68.0 from its 25 appearances. Next best are the Hawks on 57.1, followed by Geelong (53.8) and North Melbourne (53.6). Despite holding the joint record for number of finals matches in the AFL era, West Coast has a winning percentage of just 45.2 in the month of September.

When it comes to Brownlow medallists, players from Brisbane, Sydney and Essendon have triumphed on three occasions. Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong and West Coast have each supplied the winner twice.

The Coleman medal for the leading goal scorer at the end of the home-and-away season has been claimed four times by a Hawthorn player – Jason Dunstall, Lance Franklin (twice) and Jarryd Roughead. Geelong’s Gary Ablett Snr won a hat-trick of Coleman medals between 1993-95, with the Bombers’ Matthew Lloyd also a triple winner.

The most wins in the Norm Smith medal – for best afield in the grand final – has gone the way of West Coast with a total of four. Players from Geelong, Collingwood and Hawthorn have picked it up on three occasions.

The most All-Australian team representations belong to Geelong with 56, ahead of West Coast (43) and Adelaide (40).

So what does it all mean? Well, for mine, the most successful club in the AFL era has been Geelong ahead of West Coast.

First published on The Roar – www.theroar.com.au – on 15 May 20