Just how well have the Victorian clubs fared since the national competition was launched? GEOFFREY HARRIS takes a look and it’s not a pretty picture:
Australian Football’s national competition has been a huge winner on so many fronts, but at a high price to fans of traditional Victorian teams. The move towards a national league began more than 30 years ago, expanding to 18 clubs this decade – 10 of them still in Victoria.
But this century only four of those 10 clubs have won more games than they’ve lost.
Geelong and Hawthorn have been super-successful, with win rates of 65.4 per cent and 59 per cent respectively and seven premierships between them (the Hawks four, the Cats three) in the past decade.
Collingwood, despite plumbing depths now, remains well “in the black” this century.
North Melbourne is the fourth most successful Victorian club in this time, although its win rate has dropped perilously close to falling into the red.
Among those “in the red” this century are clubs that traditionally have been powerhouses during the lives of most of today’s fans – Essendon, Carlton and, for those a little older, Richmond.
The “wooden spooner” is Melbourne, which only the elderly can now remember as the competition’s benchmark under Norm Smith in the 1950s and early 60s.
St Kilda is mid-pack, a legacy of coming close to a second premiership under Ross Lyon before he exited for Fremantle.
The Western Bulldogs, perennial underdogs before last year’s fairytale flag, have won more games than the Tigers, Blues and Demons this century.
Now those who resent Victoria as the traditional powerbase of Aussie Rules might point out that only one AFL premiership has been won by a club from another state in the past decade (Sydney 2012).
But six consecutive flags won earlier this century at the MCG went interstate – three in a row to Brisbane, then Port Adelaide, Sydney and West Coast.
And, while Victorians dreaded not only that happening but, heaven forbid, two interstate clubs playing off in the grand final in Melbourne, the all-interstate deciders in 2004, 05 and 06 produced some of the most memorable last Saturdays in September.
But, even if only one premiership has been won in the past 10 years by a team from outside Victoria, five other grand finals in that time – including the past four – have had an interstate participant (Port Adelaide 2007, Fremantle 2013, Sydney 2014, West Coast 2015 and Sydney again last year).
And Blind Freddie can see that an era of domination by Greater Western Sydney, just six years old, looms after platters of top draft picks.
Footy has rebounded strongly in South Australia after a spell in the doldrums, one or both of the teams from Western Australia are usually in contention, and the Sydney Swans are the most consistent finalists – and could be again after a 0-6 start this year.
Brisbane is a long, long way from the superpower it was in the early noughties, but green shoots of talent – especially in young key position players – are emerging.
And what if Gold Coast, just a year older than GWS and with its surfeit of talent from high draft picks, ever gets its act together?
Author: Geoff Harris
Motor racing – of all sorts – and Australian Football are the sporting passions, even obsessions, of GEOFF HARRIS, the journo known to family, friends and Sun News-Pictorial, Herald Sun and sportshounds.com.au colleagues as Harry.