Best and Worst AFL Teams 2005 - 2015: A MoSSBOD Perspective

In the last blog on this part of the site I introduced the MoSSBOD Team Rating System, the defining characteristics of which were that it Rated teams based on Scoring Shot Production and Concession and that it provided both a Defensive and an Offensive Rating for all teams.

Today I want to explore the history of those Ratings across the last decade to see what MoSSBOD has to say about the strongest and weakest Offensive and Defensive teams across that period.

Before I do that though I want to introduce the notion of a "Combined" Rating, which I define simply as the simple average of a team's Offensive and Defensive Ratings at any point in time. I've included this metric in the new chart below as the line in black.

To create the tables that follow I've determined each team's average Offensive, Defensive and Combined Rating at the end of every game they played during a season and then used these season averages to create lists of the Top and Bottom 25 teams.

In the first set of tables we look at Top 25s.

On the left we have the 25 teams whose Combined Rating were highest for a season and find that, on that metric, the Collingwood team of 2011 was the highest Rated we've seen since 2005. There's a considerable distance to the second-best team, the Pies of 2010, though the latter can at least lay claim to a Premiership, unlike the Pies of 2011 who, incidentally, entered the 2011 Grand Final with a Combined Rating slightly below the team that beat them, the 2011 Cats. They also appear on the list, in sixth place.

The table is, as you'd expect, littered with Minor Premiers (although I know some readers dislike that term), Premiers and Runners-Up, but it also includes the Blues of 2012 whose peak Rating in that year places them 21st on the list. They attained their peak Combined Rating of +5.33 at the end of Round 3 in that year after a 3 and 0 start and a 60-point win over the Pies, having come into the season with a Combined Rating of +2.92. Their season fell away after this game though and they eventually finished 10th on the ladder with a Combined Rating of +1.99.

Also included in this and in all of the tables are the teams of 2015 as Rated at the end of Round 14. Three teams from this year have placed themselves, for now, amongst the Top 25: Hawthorn, West Coast and Sydney. Fremantle, surprisingly perhaps, has not made the list.

They have, however, appeared as one of the Top 25 Defensive teams of the modern era, their current average Combined Rating of +4.06 ranking them 12th. Top of that list are the 2009 Minor Premiers and Runners-Up, St Kilda, whose +5.73 average Combined Rating is almost half a Scoring Shot higher than any other team in the era.

The Saints of 2009 did benefit from playing in a season where the average number of Scoring Shots was only 24.6 per team per game, some 0.7 below the all-season average, but it seems reasonable to conjecture that they might have had at least some causal part in that lower Scoring Shot average.

Sydney's defensive dominance across the entire era is very evident in this table with the teams of 2006, 2007, 2012, 2013, 2014, and the current team, all making appearances. Three Geelong teams also make the list (2008, 2009 and 2011), as do three Adelaide lineups (2005, 2006 and 2007), and three Fremantle lineups (2013, 2014 and 2015). The tendency for dynastic cycles - that is, for contiguous periods of excellence - is apparent in the performances of these more exceptional teams.

It's interesting to note that, while five of the first six places on the table are filled by Runners-Up, it's not until we get to the 9th-placed Pies of 2011 that we come to a Premier.

Those same Pies are also prominent on the list of the 25 highest-Rated Offensive teams where they sit in 1st-place, a smidgen ahead of the 2012 Hawks. Those two teams are Rated almost a full Scoring Shot higher than any other team of the era.

One notable feature of this table is that, while the first top half is filled with teams finishing 1st through 5th on the ladder, a relatively larger number of teams that eventually finished in low ladder positions (ie 8th to 15th) occupy places in the bottom half of the list.

The table also suggests that Offences are prone to dynastic cycles, with each of the Cats teams from 2007 through 2011, each of the Hawks teams from 2012 to 2015, and a number of teams in one season and then the next (eg Collingwood, Richmond and the Western Bulldogs) all making the list.

Next, and lastly, we look at the Bottom 25s.

What we mostly see, as we'd expect, is a mirror-image of what we saw for the Top 25s.

In the left-hand table, which is based on Combined Ratings, we find seven of the 10 Spoon recipients from the relevant period and no team that finished higher than 14th on the home and away season ladder.

The GWS teams from 2012 and 2013 both make the list, though the 2014 and 2015 versions are absent. The other recent entrants to the competition, the Gold Coast, appear in their 2011, 2012 and 2013 guises, are missing in their 2014 incarnation, but have again reappeared in their 2015 form.

Melbourne teams, though, have made most appearances, their 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014 forms all earning a spot. Gold Coast aside, the Brisbane Lions are the only other team to appear more than twice, they appearing in 2011, 2014 and 2015.

GWS also occupies two of the top four spots designating the lowest Defensive Ratings of the period (and another, further down), their Ratings in 2013 almost a full Scoring Shot worse than the second-placed Dees of 2013. Four other Melbourne teams, those of 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012, also make the list.

There are also three Lions teams (2006, 2014 and 2015), three Gold Coast teams (2011, 2012 and 2015), three Carlton teams (2006, 2007 and 2008), and three Richmond teams (2007, 2010 and 2011) on the list. No other team makes more than two appearances.

The teams on this list all come from ladder positions 11th or lower, excepting the Dogs of 2009 who finished 9th. Their final competition position was bolstered by a very much above-average Offensive performance, their average Rating of +2.25 the second-highest of all teams that year, behind only the season's Runners-Up, West Coast.

And, finally, reviewing the list of the lowest Offensively Rated teams , we find it headed by the Dees 2014 side and including five Spoon recipients. It also includes six Melbourne teams in total: that 2014 team, as well as the teams of 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2015.

The Brisbane Lions are the only other team to appear more than twice, they earning a spot in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.


Across all six lists:

  • Geelong appears 15 times in the "Highest" lists and never in the "Lowest"
  • Hawthorn appears 13 times in the "Highest" lists and only once in the "Lowest" 
  • Sydney appears 8 times in the "Highest" lists and never in the "Lowest" 
  • Collingwood appears 7 times in the "Highest" lists and never in the "Lowest" 
  • Carlton appears 7 times in the "Highest" lists and three times in the "Lowest" 
  • Melbourne appears 17 times in the "Lowest" lists and never in the "Highest" 
  • Gold Coast appears 9 times in the "Lowest" lists and never in the "Highest" 
  • The Brisbane Lions appear 9 times in the "Lowest" lists and never in the "Highest" 

In that sense, the competition of the last decade has had its overall winners and losers. Just 13 teams have appeared at least once in the "Highest" lists and only seven have appeared more then three times, while 15 teams have appeared at least once in the "Lowest" lists, nine on more than three occasions.

Overall, the Draft appears to be levelling the playing field for teams generally, but the nature of the sport, the relative skills of the various franchises, and the stability of lists has allowed some differences in ability to persist from one season to the next.