The best and worst teams of the AFL era

We’ve rated every team before and after every game using our Elo ratings system and created an interactive graph containing all the AFL-era ratings. This is part of a series of posts highlighting interesting facts from the history of AFL ratings.  

Which team was the best of the AFL era? Our Elo ratings suggest an answer that might be surprising: the 2011 Collingwood Magpies. The 2011 Pies reached a peak Elo rating 1794 after beating Port Adelaide by 138 points in Round 20, 2011. They narrowly beat the best scores recorded by the 2000 Bombers (1788) and the 2008 Cats (1783).

If we measure teams’ quality using their average Elo ratings over the whole season, the 2011 Pies still come out on top, with a season average of 1763 Elo points. The 2011 Cats, who of course beat Collingwood in the Grand Final, also had one of the ten best seasons of the AFL era, with an average rating of 1715 over the year.

The worst seasons of the AFL era are dominated by the recent expansion teams. The GWS Giants’ first three seasons were among the ten worst of the AFL era, with Gold Coast responsible for two of the top ten. Brisbane’s 2016 season also makes it into the bottom ten, with the Lions rated about as poorly as Fitzroy in their second-last season.

Over the whole AFL era, from 1990 onwards, Geelong has had the highest average Elo rating of 1589. They beat out Hawthorn and West Coast, who tied for second on 1551. Other than the recent expansion teams and the defunct Fitzroy Lions, Melbourne has had the lowest average rating in the AFL.

Geelong’s record is impressive – their highs have been very high and their lows haven’t been too bad. Maybe they really are the greatest team of all.

Read more: How our ratings work | 2017 ratings and projections | Tips for upcoming games

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