If statistics don’t lie, Geelong have been the best team in the AFL in the last decade.
I know, I know – they won only one premiership compared to Hawthorn, who won three, and Richmond, who won two.
Hell, they managed to make only one grand final. Sydney, West Coast and Collingwood made more.
But crunch the numbers and the Cats have had the best decade among the 18 AFL teams.
I’ve managed to dive into some stats over the last ten AFL seasons to analyse just where each of the clubs sit in a few different categories. I’ve done this by combining all the ladders from the last ten seasons.
I’ve also crunched the numbers from the finals to work out some different stats as well as a combination of both to come up with an overall picture. It makes for some very interesting reading.
So let’s take a statistical look at the 2010s to see which teams faired better than others.
A quick note: it was brought to my attention in a previous article of mine that technically the decade doesn’t end until the end of 2020. While that technically may be the case according to how calendars officially work, for most people a decade is defined as starting in a year with 0 and ending in a year with nine. That’s why we’re going to analyse this as a ‘decade’ more so than what should technically be true. Moving on…
The overall numbers
Looking at winning percentages when combining all games played – finals and regular-season matches – Geelong come out on top with a 69.17 per cent win rate. Of 240 games played they won a total of 166, finishing with a total points tally – if you are to use the standard four points for a win, two points for a draw model – of 670.
Interestingly Hawthorn, who won the most premierships this decade, finished very close behind on win percentage with 68.05 per cent. The Hawks won only two games fewer than the Cats (164) but finished with three more loses (75 compared to 72 for Geelong). Both Geelong and Hawthorn drew two games and played in 21 finals each. However, Geelong played one fewer game overall due to their match against Adelaide being cancelled in 2015 due to the tragic death of Adelaide coach Phil Walsh.
Sydney and Collingwood fall next on the list when ranked by win percentage and are the only other teams to have a percentage in the 60s, with Sydney on 63.22 per cent and Collingwood on 61.18 per cent. West Coast are next with a win percentage of 59.32 per cent, while Richmond are sixth on 56.28 per cent.
If we were to make a top eight based on overall success rate ranked by win percentage, the only two teams included despite not winning a premiership in the last decade would be Adelaide and Fremantle, who sit seventh on 54.49 per cent and eighth on 51.42 per cent respectively.
North Melbourne, who sit in ninth place, were the only other side to achieve a win percentage higher than 50 per cent and the only side that didn’t play in a grand final this decade to achieve the same feat, with 50.88 per cent their final result.
The Western Bulldogs were the lowest-ranked team to win a premiership, claiming a win percentage of 47.16 per cent in tenth place, while GWS were the lowest team to have made a grand final, with a win percentage of 43.85 per cent.
For the finals I decided to rank based on points rather than win percentage. This was due to Melbourne actually having the best win percentage of the decade given they won two of their three finals appearances since 2010.
Using the same formula of four points a win and two for a draw, Hawthorn perhaps unsurprisingly were the no.1 finals team of the decade with 48 points. Sydney came in second with 44 points, leading the decade for most played finals of any team (22) and finishing with a 50 per cent win percentage.
Despite missing the finals for several years in the middle part of the decade, Collingwood came in third due to a strong beginning and end of the era. They finished on 38 points, two points clear of West Coast who finished on 36 points and a winning percentage of 56.25 per cent.
The bottom half of the top eight were Geelong on 32 points, Richmond on 28 points, GWS on 24 points and Adelaide on 20 points.
Interestingly despite spending most of the decade on the bottom of the ladder Carlton finished higher than Melbourne, Brisbane and Essendon in the finals ranking.
Gold Coast were the only team of the decade that did not play finals.
Highest and lowest-scoring teams
Overall Hawthorn were the highest scoring team of the decade, scoring a total of 24,178 points across 241 games. They were followed by Geelong (23,709), Sydney (22,171) and Collingwood (22,112).
If we were to separate this into regular season and finals, Hawthorn would still come out on top in the regular season (22,223) and the finals (1955). Geelong would finish second in the regular season as well (21,968), while Adelaide would be the big movers in third (20,894). Collingwood would once again finish fourth (20,735). The finals see Sydney in second (1749), Geelong in third (1741) and Collingwood in fourth (1377).
On the opposite side of this are the lowest-scoring teams. Gold Coast are on the bottom of the ladder on both countrs with 14,704 points given they appeared in no finals matches. However, they finished only 27 points behind GWS on the regular season table (14,731). The Giants are also second last overall (15,560).
Overall Melbourne and Brisbane were 16th and 15th on the overall and the regular-season tables. When it came to the finals, Brisbane finished last (145), with Melbourne just ahead of them in in 16th (234) and Essendon in 15th (285).
Best and worst-defending teams
When it comes to preventing a team from scoring against them, GWS come out on top overall. The newest side in the competition conceded a total of 17,549 points across the home-and-away season and finals matches, but considering they played 55 fewer games than second-placed Sydney, it may be a slight unfair advantage. In comparison fellow expansion club Gold Coast finished 13th overall (20,581 points), ahead of the Western Bulldogs, who played 31 more games than them.
Outside of GWS the best overall defending teams were the regular crew of Sydney (18,298), Geelong (18,750), Collingwood (19,172) and Hawthorn (19,214). That translated when separating it into just the regular season as well, with Sydney (16,517) beating GWS (16,760) into first, while Geelong (16,991), Hawthorn (17,466) and Collingwood (17,888) were third, fourth and fifth respectively.
It was harder to fully compare sides in the finals due to some sides playing fewer games than others. For example, the top four sides with the fewest points scored against them were all sides that played five or fewer finals, with Brisbane (195), Melbourne (238), St Kilda (401) and Carlton (469) the top sides when ranking in the same way.
If you were to rank sides that played ten or more finals, GWS would come out on top (789) ahead of Richmond (837), Adelaide (904) and Fremantle (935). However, this still remains flawed given sides such as Hawthorn, Geelong and Sydney played nearly double the number of finals.
Overall the sides that were the worst defending teams of the decade were Brisbane (22,488), Melbourne (21,223), Essendon (21,023) and Carlton (20,733).
When looking at the total attendance of teams in the regular season only, Collingwood hands down comes out on top with an average attendance at home-and-away matches coming in at 51,654. This beats Essendon (45,068), Richmond (44,432) and Carlton (40,774), which showcases that the so called ‘big four’ still exists in the AFL.
These four sides also hold the same positions when it comes to total attendance, with Collingwood having a massive total of 11,363,956 people at their home-and-away games in the 2010s during the regular season. Essendon had 9,914,887 people attend their games, Richmond 9,775,003 and Carlton 8,970,180.
When it comes to separating the home-and-away crowds, the big four monopolise the average home crowds once again in the order of Collingwood (53,717), Richmond (48,380), Essendon (45,750) and Carlton (42,124). It also remains the same order for total crowds at home games, with Collingwood (5,908,911), Richmond (5,321,746), Essendon (5,032,533) and Carlton (4,633,625).
Things do change slightly with average away crowds, however, with Collingwood (49,591) and Essendon (44,385) in the top two ahead of Hawthorn (43,197) and Geelong (40,771). These positions remain similar in total away attendance, with Collingwood (5,455,045) and Essendon (4,882,354) once again in the top two ahead of Hawthorn (4,751,701) and Richmond (4,453,257).
Considering Hawthorn and Geelong both play home games in smaller venues (York Park and Kardinia Park), it would be interesting to see how their numbers would stack up if all their home games were played at either the MCG or the Docklands.
Adelaide come out on top when it comes to the non-Victorian sides with an overall average of 34,717 ahead of West Coast on 34,648. Both these numbers are higher than Victorian sides Melbourne (32,125), St Kilda (31,187), Western Bulldogs (28,632) and North Melbourne (27,494). Another interesting stat sees Adelaide (41,890), West Coast (39,635) and Fremantle (35,721) end with higher average home crowds than traditional sides Hawthorn (35,641) and Geelong (33,941). Again this could be put down to both Hawthorn and Geelong playing several home games a year at smaller venues.
On the opposite end of the spectrum it is no surprise to see GWS (17,948) and Gold Coast (18,603) at the bottom for lowest average attendance at home-and-away games. Brisbane is third worst (23,656) while North Melbourne is fourth worst (27,494). The same positions are held with total worst attendance across home-and-away games, with GWS (3,158,789), Gold Coast (3,683,321), Brisbane (5,204,339) and North Melbourne (6,048,688).
GWS have the worst home average (11,281) while Gold Coast have the worst away average (23,276). An interesting fact is that in the last decade both Tasmanian venues (Bellerive Oval and York Park) had a higher average crowd than GWS home games (14,251 at York Park and 12,084 for Bellerive Oval), while York Park had a higher average crowd than Gold Coast games (13,903). That’s something worth noting for the Tasmanian campaign moving forward.
There is perhaps no great surprise that Collingwood come out on top when it comes to average yearly members. Across the decade their average membership comes out at 75,012 a year, ahead of Hawthorn (68,934), Richmond (67,545) and West Coast (63,382).
At the bottom end Gold Coast are last (10,306), followed by GWS (14,069), Brisbane (24,097) and – a little surprisingly – Fremantle (33,453). The Western Bulldogs, despite winning a famous premiership in 2016, are next worst at 36,963 average members a year.
A fun little stat is to rank each team my number of senior coaches employed across the decade. To work out this stat I included caretaker coaches to arrive at the total number. So, for example, Hawthorn technically had two coaches given Brendon Bolton coached five games for the side in 2014.
Essendon, Adelaide and Melbourne all had six different coaches across the 2010s, giving them the distinct title of having the most change at the very top. Next in line are Carlton with five changes, while Port Adelaide, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Brisbane and Gold Coast each had four coaching changes.
Richmond were the only side in the 2010s to have one coach for the entire decade, and considering how close Damien Hardwick was to losing his spot on multiple occasions in that time, it’s incredible to see how well he’s paid off for the club.
The clubs with nothing
On analysing all the statistics I also included a few minor little details just to see the levels of success the clubs have had when it comes to other aspects of the game. This included looking at various major awards, such as the Brownlow, Coleman and Norm Smith medals as well as preseason competitions and the solitary AFLX competition of 2018.
With all of this in mind, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and Essendon come out as the only sides in the 2010s not to have won a single thing. That’s right, there’s absolutely nothing in the trophy case for either the Roos, Power or Bombers.
This is perhaps hardest for Essendon to swallow given they did initially win a Brownlow Medal with Jobe Watson in 2012. They also came mightily close to a preseason premiership in 2012 by making the grand final, so they could be considered unlucky to be included in this category
The cellar dwellers of the 2010s have at least a few things they can say they won. Carlton, GWS and Gold Coast each ‘won’ three wooden spoons – although we aren’t counting them as something to win here – and each also won a major award in some aspect. Carlton and Gold Coast each have a Brownlow Medal (Chris Judd in 2010 and Gary Ablett in 2013) while GWS have a Coleman Medal (Jeremy Cameron in 2019).
Other sides with a solitary win include Melbourne (AFLX trophy in 2018) and St Kilda (Norm Smith Medal for Lenny Hayes in the drawn 2010 grand final). Sides on two wins include Adelaide (preseason premiership in 2010 and AFLX in 2018), Brisbane (preseason premiership in 2013 and AFLX in 2018) and Fremantle (two Brownlow Medals for Nat Fyfe in 2015 and 2019).
If statistics don’t lie, these facts make for some interesting reading when looking at the 2010s as a decade for the AFL. While Geelong statistically might come out on top, it is a hard argument to truly make a case for them being the best side of the decade. That conversation would surely only genuinely include the likes of Hawthorn, Richmond, Sydney and Collingwood as the true great sides. Between them they account for seven of the ten premierships won and 13 of the 22 grand final appearances.
However, despite this, numbers always make for fun readings and a different take on just how a decade can be looked at.
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here