Have we seen the last great footy side?

Will we ever see their likes again? Photo: Getty
Will we ever see their likes again? Photo: Getty

AS AFL season 2019 rolls into the depths of winter, one starts to ponder weighty themes.

Like, have we seen the last great football side?

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After Hawthorn’s dynasty from 2013-15, the premiership has bounced between teams that could be considered very good.

But were the Dogs of 2016, the Tigers of 2017 or last year’s Eagles truly great sides?

Or were they just very good outfits that were able to go the distance?

It was Tiger time in 2017. Photo: Getty

The Hawks had no perceptible weakness.

They were tough and hard, smooth and skillful. They could ratchet up the pressure when they needed to, slow things down when they had to.

They were a mirror image of their leaders, Clarkson and Hodge: fearsome.

They took the disappointment of losing to Sydney in one of the greatest Grand Finals of all time (2012) and turned it into a fire that won three successive flags.

Graphic equalisation in the AFL

And after beating Fremantle in 2013, they overcame the loss of the biggest star in the competition – Lance Franklin – to win the next two premierships without him.

It’s doubtful such a feat will ever be repeated.

The problem with equalisation is equalisation.

Sure, it’s great that every club has a league-mandated ability to win on any given day.

Can these Eagles boldly go where no Eagles have gone before?

But everybody needs a mountain to climb – Ali needed Frazier, and Frazier needed Ali.

Hawthorn were that mountain for a long time.

Can another team rise that high in the post-Hawks wasteland? Or is the premiership a pick ’em from here on in?

‘No soul or substance’

Football punditry is such a knee-jerk business, and always more jerk than knee.

Just have a look at those ‘nine things we learned’ bits of claptrap the football sites churn out every week.

This week’s edition, on the AFL’s official site no less, kicks off with this:

“Essendon is a team without soul or substance.” Yikes.

This after they lost to Sydney, in Sydney, by a kick. Yep, she’s a hard business this one.

Nine things we learned? To borrow a line from Yoda, this season you must unlearn what you have learned.

Essendon will be doing a fair bit of soul, and substance, searching this week.

On the WA side of things, Fremantle will be ruing some poor conversion in yesterday’s 25-point loss to the Tigers.

Richmond were there for the taking, minus the star power of Cotchin, Rance and Riewoldt, as well as highly credentialed supporting actors Nick Vlastuin and Daniel Rioli.

The Dockers gave up the first four goals of the game, and though things were back on an even keel midway through the second term, the Tigers powered away in the third quarter.

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It leaves Fremantle poised at 4-4, and they’ll be thankful they’ve got a trip to Melbourne to face a team with no soul or substance this weekend.

West Coast will head into Friday night’s clash with Melbourne at Optus Stadium buoyed by two successive wins against Gold Coast and the Saints.

Melbourne were vivisected the last time they played over here, but the few times before that they’ve been more than up for the fight.

Even minus Michael Hibberd, the Demons will fancy their chances against an Eagles side that seems to be coasting at the minute.

greig.johnston@communitynews.com.au