Agree with this, with the caveat that the Saints did beat Collingwood in their first meeting in 2010 (before the Pies won the return H&A game).That’s a good way to look at it. The problem with these types of rankings is it’s largely based on the actual GF result, with scant regard for everything that came before it. So if it’s a ‘close’ GF then the opponent is seen as high quality, and if they have an off day and get pantsed then they are not.
Example: Saints of 2010 v Adelaide of 2017.
Saints finished 3rd with a 15-6-1 record and percentage of 121%. 8th in points for, 1st in points against. During the season lost to eventual Premiers Pies by 48-points. Won 2 x closely fought finals leading into GF by 4 points and 22 points.
Lost GF replay by 56 points. Were dominated in first GF and very lucky to get a draw.
Crows finished top with 15-6-1 record. Lost last 2 games of H&A when top spot was already locked away. Percentage of 136%. 1st in points for (250 points BETTER than next best - 4th in points against). Beat eventual Premiers Richmond by 76-points during season. Won their 2 x lead in finals by 36 points and 61 points. Were warm favourites leading into GF.
So people understandably mix the 2010 Saints (average top-4 record with % of 121%, flogged by premiers during season, close fought lead in finals wins etc….) with the Saints of 2009.
So everything during the season and during finals points to Adelaide being a more dominant GF team than the Saints. The ‘lucky’ draw the Saints got in a game the Pies largely dominated makes them look like a really strong GF loser. The replay was a far better reflection of the Saints credentials as a GF loser based on H&A performance, their game against the eventual Premier during the season, and their lead-in finals wins.
Across entirety of 2009-10, Saints went:
19-0 with percentage of about 165%
Then from R20 2009…:
20-10-2 with percentage of about 115%
So they were absolutely dominant for 19 x H&A games. Then they regressed to a stock standard finals team and GF loser from then onwards.
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Like you said, the Saints 2010 team tends to be overrated in a number of these historical-comparison threads due to a) the classic drama of the drawn GF, and b) the tendency to bracket the team with the far stronger 2009 iteration. If you look at the 2010 season in isolation, the Saints were fairly stock-standard as far as grand finalists go.
My list, fwiw, is:
1. Geelong 2008 (clearly the best team in the comp until fluffing their lines on GF day)
2. Saints 2009 (fantastic side and marginally better than the Pies of 2011, due to the Saints' three losses being by a collective 19 points)
3. Collingwood 2011 (outstanding for most of the season, but weren't at their best in the finals)
4. Hawthorn 2012 (very strong from round 10 onwards, with a percentage of 169 across their final 16 games - including finals - and their two losses during that stretch being by a collective 12 points)
5. Sydney 2014 (thumped on GF day, but their record between round 5 and the Prelim was excellent - 18 wins from 20, with their two losses by a collective 13 points)
6. Fremantle 2013 (impressive team when you look at their record: 16-1-5, even after effectively throwing their final H&A game by resting half their side, followed by a QF win in Geelong. Probably a bit underrated due to their lack of scoring power and an underwhelming GF in general)
7. West Coast 2015 (a little bit like the Swans in 14 - poor on GF day, but a strong season until that point, going 16-1-5 and a percentage of 148. Two easy finals wins at Subiaco leading in to big dance, too, including thrashing the eventual Premiers in the QF)
8. Sydney 2016 (a touch underrated, I feel, due to losing to what's not widely regarded as a strong Premier. But the home and away season was great - 17-5, percentage of 151, and they did win an away PF win over Geelong. Only below Freo and West Coast due to losing their qualifying final)
9. Saints 2010 (as previously stated, they tend to be overrated due to the GF draw and the association with the 2009 vintage. But still a strong side that came painfully close to pinching a premiership against a better team, ala the Hawks in 2008)
10. Adelaide 2017 (a good season - 15-1-6, followed by two big finals wins - that was undermined somewhat by an easy GF loss. Weren't quite as strong in the H&A rounds as the higher-ranked teams that also suffered big GF defeats - Swans 2014 and Eagles 2015)
11. Sydney 2022 (good season - 16-6, plus an impressive away QF win against the reigning Premiers - that unfortunately also ended with a GF thrashing. I have the Saints 2010 and Crows 2017 marginally ahead of them, despite each winning one less game, as I just felt their best footy was superior to anything the Swans showed)
12. Collingwood 2018 (their H&A season was unremarkable for a grand finalist - 15-7, percentage of 120 - and they did lose their QF. But they deserve credit for a stunning preliminary final showing)
13. Bulldogs 2021 (very good until round round 20, collapsed in the final 3 rounds to miss top 4, then found their best form in the finals - at least until halfway through the 3rd quarter of the GF! A hard side to place really, as there was a huge gulf between their best and worst footy)
14. Geelong 2020 (another hard team to assess given the shorter, COVID-affected season, but they never really had a Premiership look to them, in my eyes, even though they were in front at half-time in the grand final! I thought their 2019 and 2021 teams were superior).
15. Port Adelaide 2007 (15-7 H&A record, and probably wouldn't have reached the GF if not for the Eagles' midfield being decimated late in the season)
16. GWS 2019 (a heroic finals series - after an underwhelming 13-9 season - appeared to take a lot out of them physically prior to the GF, although in fairness the Tigers were in magnificent form in the second half of that season. The Giants' 2016 and 2017 teams were superior)