The rankings (from best to worst) of the 127 VFL/AFL premiership teams

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Dan26

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This exercise is now in its 22nd consecutive year. More than two decades! Some on here weren't born when this first started.

Time to see where the latest premiership team fits in to the list. I use my own knowledge from the time of have spent watching football combined with anecdotal, statistical, and written accounts from the early years to rank the 123 premiership teams. I use relativity, taking into account the standard of the competition at the time, so as to not disadvantage teams from the past who were not competing in a national competition, with the resources and professionalism of modern day clubs.

Collingwood won the 2023 premiership. Their 16th premiership. They had:

  • a 21-5 season.
  • a percentage from 26 games of 124.8%
  • Three finals victories by 7, 1 and 4 points for a percentage during the finals of a 106% (Melbourne in 2021 was 213% for comparison, Geelong of 2022 was 191%)
  • 1st on the ladder at end of H&A season
  • The 4th best attack
  • The 3rd best defence

Collingwood continued on from their stunning 2022 season, improving to win the 2023 premiership. They were a united, attacking team, who boldy started their attacks from the half back line zig-zagging and moving the ball quickly to take advantage of predictable opposition defences. They had an unnerving belief to close out close games, done through a tight-knit defence (when ahead) or by continuing to attack and move the ball quickly (when behind). While not known for crushing teams, they had as much belief in their gameplan as perhaps any team in modern history. I rank them as the 84th best premiership team off all time, and the 10th best Collingwood premiership team of their record-equalling 16.

Their 5 losses were:

1. vs Brisbane by 33
2. vs Melbourne by 4
3. vs Carlton by 17
4. vs Hawthorn by 32
5.Vs Brisbane by 24




1.) Essendon 2000. This team earnt the right to be called the greatest in VFL-AFL history with a 24-1 record, a percentage of 163.9 from 25 games, winning three finals by an equal-record combined 230 points with margins of 125, 45 and 60 and a percentage versus the finalists of 160% - 20% higher than any other team in the modern era has managed. At no stage did they look like losing, with even their one loss being narrow, after having 27 more inside 50's, with the Bulldogs having to tactically change the way the sport was played. The Essendon team of 2000 did everything that you could ask, in order for them to be called the best ever. As close to being unbeatable as a team has ever been in VFL-AFL history, with the closest challenge being.....

2.) Collingwood 1929. This team went 19-1 over 20 matches with a percentage of 159.5. They had champions on every line, and were regarded as the greatest combination to have played to that point. The ONLY team to ever be unbeaten in the H&A season. Collingwood fans may label them the best ever VFL-AFL side – I put them at number 2 out of 127. A 62 point loss to Richmond in the finals costs them the number one position on my list. Gordon Coventry was the first to person to kick 100 goals (124) and the Pies completed the treble with Albert Collier winning the Brownlow.

3.) Melbourne 1956. The Dees were at their zenith this year with an 18-2 record and a percentage of 149.4%. Coached by the VFL-AFL coach of the century, Norm Smith and with champion players such as Barassi, Adams, Cordner and Beckwith leading the way, the 1956 Melbourne side was their best side in the most dominant era by one club in VFL-AFL history. A side that could turn it on at will. Many old-timers suggest this was the type of team who could have gone undefeated if they really wanted to.

4.) Hawthorn 1989. The Hawthorn side of ’89 was their best in one of the most powerful eras in history. The Hawks reached their zenith in ’89. They went 21-3, with a percentage of 149.5, had champions everywhere and at their best, were simply unstoppable. I rate them the 4th best of 127 premierships sides. However, unlike Essendon of 2000, or Collingwood of 1929, they didn’t quite have the aura of being totally invincible. Their loss to the Bears holds them back a spot.

5.) Essendon 1950. Tempted to put them higher, but number 5 is fair enough. Here was a team that was near invincible. Just look at their record: 19-1, with a percentage of 159.2. With Coleman at his peak, Dick Reynolds and Hutchison lurking, this was the best Essendon side in their golden era. At the time, many rated this side alongside the 1929 Magpies team as the best of all time.

6.) Geelong 2007. A fantastically dominant team in '07, winning the Grand Final be a record margin, having a percentage for the year over 160% from 25 games. Only great teams can do that. A team, who used skillful, attacking "corridor" midfield play, complimented with a group of players in the mid 20's who have played over 100 games giving them the perfect mix of youth and experience. 21-4, a percentage over 160% and three finals wins by a total of 230 points.

7.) Geelong 2011 A dominant team who didn't have any flat-spots finishing 22-3 with a percentage of 157%. The second oldest premiership side in history meant a wealth of mature bodies and experience. 3 easy finals wins, and a tough defence. More of a long kicking game plan with a defensive edge to it than the flags sides of 2007 and 2009, but perhaps a little less dominant overall than the 2007 side which is ranked one spot higher

8.) Carlton 1908. Carlton’s first golden era produced three great sides, the best of which was the 1908 side. Jack Worrall became the first ever coach, and propelled the Blues to 19-1, with a percentage of 173.7%. Old timers still hold this side as the greatest, and if modern coaching techniques were applied, no doubt they would still be hard to beat in the present day.

9.) Melbourne 1955. Marginally behind the 1956 side, this Melbourne side went 17-3 with a percentage of 150.3%, and showed the makings of a team that would continue to dominate for years to come. The 1955 Melbourne side was heralded as one of the all time greats. A great even spread of talent with no reliance on individuals - a hallmark of the Melbourne teams of this era

10.) Hawthorn 1988. Only behind their ‘89 team due to their inferior defence which conceded 200 points more than the ’89 model. This great team was ruthless, skilled and efficient, and amassed a 21-3 record. Many believe they peaked in ’88, but I believe the Hawks reached their absolute zenith in 1989. Deserve their ranking as the 9th best out of 127.

11.) Collingwood 1927. After losing the Grand Final in 1925 and 1926, this side was ready to peak. They amassed a 17-3 record, with many superstars, proving they could be a champion team and a team of champions. With Coventry kicking 97 goals, and his brother winning the Brownlow, the 1927 side featured the Magpies greats close to their best.

12.) Geelong 1952. Although other teams have amassed superior records, this Geelong side was still one of the greatest in history. They won the premiership in the middle of an unbeaten run that would stretch to 26 consecutive games into the following season, and their attacking, free-flowing style of play became a Geelong tradition. Their 18-2-1 record (140.2%) was a testament to their greatness. Geelong’s best ever side until 2007.

13.) Carlton 1995. This great side had it all - experience, hardness, skill, and a willingness to win. Amassing a 23-2 record with a percentage of 140.6% they played with a professionalism that no club had previously matched. Incredibly, did not lose to a finalist all year. They didn’t quite have the same aura of invincibility as some of the sides in the top 10, but their almost unbeatable record alone ensures them a high ranking.

14.) Carlton 1979. With a 21-3 record and a percentage of 138.9%, and three narrow, spaced losses, this team didn’t have any obvious weaknesses. They nearly blew it in the Grand Final, but their performances through the year were worthy of one of the all time great sides. A rampant mosquito fleet, with a bevy of big name stars all over the field.

15.) Essendon 1985. Sheedy's team peaked to such an extent that they blew away the opposition with a 21-3 record, and were hailed as one of the great sides of all time. With no apparent weaknesses, a top ruckman, onballers, options everywhere in attack, and a solid defence, this side ranks as one of the greats. Their three losses were all substantial which takes a little away from them, but I still rate them at number 15 out of 127.

16.) Collingwood 1928 Slightly behind their 1929, and 1927 sides the '28 side was one of the greats but perhaps not that far ahead of the other contenders that year. Finished with a 17-3-1 record, and a percentage of 132.5%. Right smack-bang in the middle of the Magpies most famous era. Won the Grand Final by 33 points. Gordon Coventry kicked 89 goals.

17.) Melbourne 1960 This Melbourne side amassed a 16-4 record but with the players at their disposal, that record arguably didn’t do them justice. This was a side that could have easily gone through the season losing only one or two games. In their 7th consecutive Grand Final, they kept Collingwood to only 2.2.14.

18.) Essendon 1911 Under the guidance of the first super-coach, Jack Worrall, who previously led the Blues to three consecutive premierships, the Same Old's as they were known at the time amassed a 17-2-1 record with a percentage (including finals) of 173.3%! The two losses were by 3 and 8 points. Unlucky not to be higher.

19.) Melbourne 1959 Another Demons super-side from their golden era. Not talked about in the same breath as 1955, 56, but this side, along with 1960, were at roughly the same level. The team has a 15-4-1 record from 20 games, winning two finals by 44 and 37 points

20.) Carlton 1907 A great side that would become even better one year later. This side topped the ladder with a percentage of 155.7%. Coached by the first VFL coach, the great Jack Worrall, the Carlton 2007 side was one of the greats.

21.) Geelong 2022. Written off as too old too slow, the 2022 Cats bounced back with the best attack, best defence a percentage of 149%, and a thumping grand Final victory. Bigger, stronger, more versatile, consistent with no obvious weaknesses.

22.) Hawthorn 1986 Just when it seemed the era was coming to and end in 1985, the experienced ruthless Hawks bounced back in 1986 to finish minor-premiers with 18 wins, and crushed Carlton by 42 points in the Grand Final. The difference between a young Jason Dunstall kicking 77 goals from 22 games in 1986, compared to his 132 in 1988 and 138 in 1989, is essentially the difference between the rankings of where those teams sit compared to this one.
________________________________________________________
23. Essendon 1962
24. Geelong 1937
25. Fitzroy 1913
26. Fitzroy 1899
27. South Melbourne 1933
28. Collingwood 2010
29. Hawthorn 2015
30. Melbourne 2021
31. Essendon 1901
32. Geelong 1925
33. Port Adelaide 2004
34. West Coast 1992
35. Richmond 1974
36. Hawthorn 1971
37. Fitzroy 1898
38. Carlton 1906
39. Collingwood 1902
40. South Melbourne 1909
41. South Melbourne 1918
42. Essendon 1984
43. Richmond 1967
44. West Coast 1994
45. North Melbourne 1996
46. Hawthorn 2013
47. Geelong 2009
48. Brisbane 2002
49. Richmond 1932
50. Collingwood 1930
51. Hawthorn 2014
52. Melbourne 1957
53. Melbourne 1964
54. Essendon 1946
55. Geelong 1951
56. Collingwood 1936
57. Geelong 1931
58. Collingwood 1903
59. Carlton 1914
60. Collingwood 1919
61. Carlton 1915
62. Hawthorn 2008
63. Brisbane 2001
64. Richmond 1980
65. Carlton 1981
66. Carlton 1972
67. Essendon 1949
68. Carlton 1982
69. Geelong 1963
70. Hawthorn 1961
71. Hawthorn 1983
72. Carlton 1987
73. Richmond 1934
74. Brisbane 2003
75. Richmond 2020
76. Richmond 1969
77. Melbourne 1939
78. St.Kilda 1966
79. Collingwood 1953
80. Carlton 1968
81. Hawthorn 1991
82. Sydney 2012
83. Richmond 2017
84. Collingwood 2023
85. Carlton 1947
86. Richmond 2019
87. Richmond 1920
88. Essendon 1923
89. West Coast 2018
90. Essendon 1942
91. Melbourne 1926
92. Richmond 1973
93. Essendon 1965
94. West Coast 2006
95. Melbourne 1941
96. Fitzroy 1905
97. Fitzroy 1944
98. Carlton 1970
99. Carlton 1938
100. Richmond 1943
101. Collingwood 1935
102. Collingwood 1990
103. Collingwood 1958
104. Essendon 1924
105. Melbourne 1940
106. Hawthorn 1978
107. North Melbourne 1975
108. Hawthorn 1976
109. Western Bulldogs 2016
110. North Melbourne 1977
111. Essendon 1993
112. Collingwood 1910
113. Essendon 1897
114. Adelaide 1998
115. Fitzroy 1904
116. Fitzroy 1922
117. Adelaide 1997 (like any flag side they were good, but there were many better)
118. Sydney 2005 (workmanlike, needed everything to go right)
119. Essendon 1912 (stole it off South Melbourne)
120. Melbourne 1948 (stole if off Essendon)
121. Carlton 1945 (percentage of only 106% and came from 4th, as war ended.)
122. Footscray 1954 (a modest win-loss record in a very even year)
123. Kangaroos 1999 (Worst defence of the top-10 teams. Percentage of 115%)
124. Richmond 1921 (stole it off Carlton)
125. Collingwood 1917 (war years)
126. Melbourne 1900 (came from 6th and helped by finals system)
127. Fitzroy 1916 (war years. Won wooden spoon and flag)
 

Pie thon

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Great effort in compiling such a long history

That top 3 is quite hard to argue against. I only see a successful 2008 Geelong side snatching 1 or 2

Fitzroy 1916 is a clear last

I think maybe the lack of interstate presence up higher may cause a stir, perhaps Brisbane, but I do agree with you that a minor premiership should hold a strong weighting on rankings
 

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Dan26

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I think maybe the lack of interstate presence up higher may cause a stir, perhaps Brisbane, but I do agree with you that a minor premiership should hold a strong weighting on rankings
Remember that only 12 of the 127 places are non-Victorian teams, so by virtue of being outnumbered obviously Victorian teams dominate the list because there are simply more of them. The non-Victorian teams are spaced quite evenly throughout the list. West Coast of 1991 probably would have been a top-10 team had they won it, if you look at their dominance that year. None of the other non-Victorian teams won more than 17 home and away games in their premiership years.
 

Danw0w

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So a side winning a grand final by 89 points after 12 consecutive wins is worse than Collingwood, who fluked their way to a premiership by a combined margin of 7 points less than our closest finals win?

Think you need fo work on your formula.
 

Dan26

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So a side winning a grand final by 89 points after 12 consecutive wins is worse than Collingwood, who fluked their way to a premiership by a combined margin of 7 points less than our closest finals win?

Think you need fo work on your formula.

Translation: Rank the team I barrack for higher.
 

Dan26

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No explanation, just a smart ass comment.

We won the grand final by 89 points bruv, you reckon there are 85 premiers better than that?

Its funny how it's always about the team the poster goes for.

That year is quite easy to justify. The Tigers finished 3rd with a percentage of 113%. They were always going to be towards the bottom of the list. Yes I know there are lot of other variables to consider but at the end of the day, they were always going to be 2/3rds of the way down the list, which is more than reasonable, even taking into account a big Grand Final win against the weakest team to make a Grand Final in modern times (which was not the Tigers fault admittedly, but there is more to the year than just the one Grand Final match)
 

Fadge

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Welcome back, Dan26 - this update has been much anticipated!

But I must say, whilst I usually rate your opinion on these rankings, you have let yourself down this time.

No consideration of the fact Collingwood were 16 and 2, and had the top 4 (and actually top 2) locked away prior to some meaningless home and away losses?

Quality of opposition - 2021 premiers, in addition to a team who have now finished in the top 6 for 5 consecutive years (and this Brisbane team was clearly the strongest iteration of that team).

You also have a number of teams who didn't finish top of the ladder, had lesser home and away win/loss records, AND lost a final above this Collingwood 2023 team.

Surely win/loss is a more important measure than percentage?

I don't need or expect any justification - you do a great job with this list - but just needed to vent.

Grrrrrr.
 
Whoever is responsible for giving Dan a suspension during a period of his highly anticipated rankings should reconsider priorities. Sometimes it boggles the mind to realise some people here don't truly appreciate how good these rankings are. Forbes wouldn't have published that article a couple of years ago about these rankings if they weren't truly great.

SEN had a couple of callers enquiring about them and wanted to know if they are being released this year. They'll no doubt have their first good night sleep in over a week tonight seeing the 2023 edition of the premiership rankings finally released.
 

Mr Meow

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So a side winning a grand final by 89 points after 12 consecutive wins is worse than Collingwood, who fluked their way to a premiership by a combined margin of 7 points less than our closest finals win?

Think you need fo work on your formula.
Mine had Richmond 2019 ahead and fairly well ranked due to finals domination. They along with Melbourne 2021 and Geelong 2022 absolutely stormed home over the last 2-3 months.
 

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Mr Meow

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Welcome back, Dan26 - this update has been much anticipated!

But I must say, whilst I usually rate your opinion on these rankings, you have let yourself down this time.

No consideration of the fact Collingwood were 16 and 2, and had the top 4 (and actually top 2) locked away prior to some meaningless home and away losses?

Quality of opposition - 2021 premiers, in addition to a team who have now finished in the top 6 for 5 consecutive years (and this Brisbane team was clearly the strongest iteration of that team).

You also have a number of teams who didn't finish top of the ladder, had lesser home and away win/loss records, AND lost a final above this Collingwood 2023 team.

Surely win/loss is a more important measure than percentage?

I don't need or expect any justification - you do a great job with this list - but just needed to vent.

Grrrrrr.
Melbourne have been so disappointing since though, back to back straight sets.

Brisbane were considered choke artists until this season when in reality, they did only need to beat Carlton at the Gabba to make a grand final. Unfortunately they're still only considered a big scalp at the Gabba and I felt that way when Geelong faced them last year too.

GWS given their sensational late form, home and away, I'd rate as the best win of that finals series. Even though they didn't do anything of note in 2022.
 

Fadge

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Question to Dan26:

What would you rank higher?

A team with a 3/1 record in finals with a higher percentage, or

A team with a 3/0 record in finals with a lower percentage?
 

Danw0w

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That year is quite easy to justify.
Nah not really. We kept a side to 3 goals in a grand final. No other team in the modern era has been close.

Its funny how it's always about the team the poster goes for.

That year is quite easy to justify. The Tigers finished 3rd with a percentage of 113%.
I forgot premierships were won in august? Are you arguing that we are that low in the rankings because we lost a few games in the first half of the season when we had injuries?

How about the actual side that won it in September? The one that had a finals percentage of 200%? This side is worse than one that won by a combined margin of 12 points??

against the weakest team to make a Grand Final in modern times (which was not the Tigers fault admittedly, but there is more to the year than just the one Grand Final match)
The same "weak" side that was gifted the most talent the afl has ever seen?? Oh nevermind their percentage was low so they can't have been any good..
 

Fadge

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Melbourne have been so disappointing since though, back to back straight sets.

Brisbane were considered choke artists until this season when in reality, they did only need to beat Carlton at the Gabba to make a grand final. Unfortunately they're still only considered a big scalp at the Gabba and I felt that way when Geelong faced them last year too.

GWS given their sensational late form, home and away, I'd rate as the best win of that finals series. Even though they didn't do anything of note in 2022.
Melbourne disappointing since, finishing top 4 in home and away in both seasons, with close finals losses in all finals?

Carlton were a team that 'stormed home' to use your terminology, in the same way that you rate premiership teams who 'stormed home' over the last 2 to 3 months of the season relatively high.

GWS also had great form leading up to the finals.

All three of Collingwood's finals wins were against quality opposition, and they went 3/0 to win the flag.
 
I reckon every year there is someone who seems to think performances in years following a premiership should hold weight as to how the premier is ranked.

Just to reiterate, Melbourne going out in straight sets in 2022 and 2023 has no effect on their 2021 ranking.

I.e. If Melbourne's 2021 season had a performance rating of 91.2, it will always be a 91.2. Their performance the previous year or following year does not change that.
 

Danw0w

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Mine had Richmond 2019 ahead and fairly well ranked due to finals domination. They along with Melbourne 2021 and Geelong 2022 absolutely stormed home over the last 2-3 months.
Yep two very good sides that had nearly unstoppable finals series. I may or may not agree but I wouldn't be outraged if someone ranked them higher than 2019 Richmond.
 

Fadge

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I reckon every year there is someone who seems to think performances in years following a premiership should hold weight as to how the premier is ranked.

Just to reiterate, Melbourne going out in straight sets in 2022 and 2023 has no effect on their 2021 ranking.

I.e. If Melbourne's 2021 season had a performance rating of 91.2, it will always be a 91.2. Their performance the previous year or following year does not change that.
Agree.

This is why the dynasty teams should be rated in isolation, as opposed to being upgraded due to the collective results.

In saying that, I think the Hawthorn 2014 flag team is one of the top 3 premiership teams of the past decade, together with Geelong 2022 and Collingwood 2023.
 

Mr Meow

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Melbourne disappointing since, finishing top 4 in home and away in both seasons, with close finals losses in all finals?

Carlton were a team that 'stormed home' to use your terminology, in the same way that you rate premiership teams who 'stormed home' over the last 2 to 3 months of the season relatively high.

GWS also had great form leading up to the finals.

All three of Collingwood's finals wins were against quality opposition, and they went 3/0 to win the flag.
Definitely. Reminds me a bit of Hawthorn straight setting twice in quick succession 2016/2018 - but they did get a dynasty in the bank first.

Carlton lost expected scores in both finals win and were then found out against a side that was more clinical. They pulled their season around well but it was GWS who were more impressive and over the finals series that was reinforced.

It was another even but weak field, which is why two sides straight setted from the top 4. So it depends if your definition of "quality" is 5 competitors all around 7/10, or 2 at 9/10 and 3 at 5/10. For me the latter is tougher as you have to beat two excellent sides. Collingwood in 2010 would be an example of that.

If the winning margins were big then that would be accounted for but they were all close, thrilling games. Which means for sure Collingwood showed resilience and character to get over the line each time, but it diminishes what could be considered "dominance". % is important as there are too many variables that could change results with really small margins. A side with a shopping WL record AND outstanding % will always be considered as more dominant than a side who won a stack of classic close matches.
 

Mr Meow

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I reckon every year there is someone who seems to think performances in years following a premiership should hold weight as to how the premier is ranked.

Just to reiterate, Melbourne going out in straight sets in 2022 and 2023 has no effect on their 2021 ranking.

I.e. If Melbourne's 2021 season had a performance rating of 91.2, it will always be a 91.2. Their performance the previous year or following year does not change that.
I agree, you can't retrospectively downgrade a dominant season simply because a side imploded after. I was only referring to Melbourne 2022/2023 in terms of how strong were they as a challenger to the sides those seasons. And Melbourne 2022/2023, especially come finals, was simply an inefficient and discombobulated machine compared to their outstanding 2021 finale.
 

Fadge

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A side with a shopping WL record AND outstanding % will always be considered as more dominant than a side who won a stack of classic close matches.
This is something I violently disagree with.

Classic case in point - last year's finals series.

Melbourne entered the finals series as Geelong's toughest challenger, with a percentage of 130%, whilst Collingwood were written off due to their lowly home and away percentage of 104%.

We all know who Geelong's toughest challenger was in that finals series, don't we?
 
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This would be incredibly hard to do, from the OP it looks like it is not purely formula / model based, which means there's an element of opinion and subjectivity which makes it tricky to get alignment, you'll basically just invite opinions.

You'll never get consensus, and there's a million different ways to do it, but it's a much better job than I could ever do so well done Dan.
 

Fadge

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It was another even but weak field, which is why two sides straight setted from the top 4. So it depends if your definition of "quality" is 5 competitors all around 7/10, or 2 at 9/10 and 3 at 5/10. For me the latter is tougher as you have to beat two excellent sides. Collingwood in 2010 would be an example of that.
No sure you can use the fact two sides straight setted as justification for it being a week field.

Port Adelaide obviously ran out of gas at finals time, but you have to be a good team to win 13 straight during the season.

Melbourne shot themselves in the foot to straight-set. It was always going to be about that first final against Collingwood, and with better conversion in that game we could quite easily be talking about them as premiers. Just ask Steven May...

But Carlton and GWS both had as good a formline as any team that had entered a finals series, and were going to be very dangerous to any opposition.

And I've always said this iteration of the Brisbane team is the strongest it has been since it started contending 5 years ago.

This batch of finals teams is possibly the strongest batch we have seen for many years.

As a point of comparison, look at the formline of the Western Bulldogs leading into the 2021 finals series. They lost their last three games of the home and away series to drop out of the top 4, but they still made the Grand Final that year, and Melbourne get highly rated because 'finals percentage'...
 

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