Team MARS Ratings Performance By Decade and Overall: 1897 to 2012

In the previous blog on the topic of all-time MARS Ratings I explained the process I used to derive team Ratings across history and then identified those teams that had achieved the highest (Essendon) and lowest (Fitzroy) MARS Ratings ever. We know then which teams have burned brightest - and which flickered dimmest - across VFL/AFL history. In this blog I want to explore more extended bursts of talent or apparent lack of it.

This PDF, in which time runs down the page, records: 

  • The team with the highest MARS Rating at any point in time, and what that Rating was. This is shown in the leftmost columns. Each row in the PDF relates to the MARS Ratings at the end of a particular round, and a missing team name in the column for a given round implies that the same team still occupies that position as did previously.
  • The teams with the second- and third-highest Ratings, and the team with the lowest Rating at any particular point in time. 

Let's review the data firstly on a decade-by-decade basis.


In this short timeframe we witness four leaders on MARS Ratings, but Essendon occupies the top spot for the largest contiguous time period in leading for most of 1898. Geelong and Fitzroy are also frequent leaders over the four seasons though they tend to lead for shorter periods. Melbourne is the fourth and only other team that takes a turn at leading, though it bobs to the top for only a handful of rounds.

St Kilda becomes the lowest-Rated team by the end of Round 3 in 1897, a position it clings onto until late in 1903, bolstered by a dogged inability to win games during this extended period. It took the Saints until 1900 before they secured their first competition points and they won only one game more before the end of season 1902.

Geelong and Carlton are the only other teams to hold the lowest Rating during this period and they each manage it for just one round.


During this decade six teams occupy top spot at different periods. Essendon leads the pack from around the middle of 1901 to mid-1902, shortly after which the Pies take over and lead until late into 1904. Over the remainder of the decade Fitzroy, Collingwood, Carlton and Sydney (South Melbourne) have bouts of extended leadership, and Geelong manages a single week at the top.

Taking the decade as a whole, Carlton leads for about 40% of rounds and Collingwood for about 30%.

At the other end of the Rating ladder, five teams occupy last spot at various stages during the decade. It's mostly Sydney (South Melbourne), Melbourne and St Kilda until about mid-1908 after which Richmond and Geelong predominate. 

In total across the decade, St Kilda occupies last position for over 50% of the rounds and Melbourne are there for about 25% more.


Seven teams - a new record - assume top Rating status during this decade, most-common amongst them Collingwood and Sydney (South Melbourne) who, between them, lead for over one-half of the rounds.

Sydney, Carlton and Essendon swap the lead from the start of the decade until about the end of 1913, then Fitzroy and Geelong battle for it until early 1915. Fitzroy, Collingwood and Carlton then share leadership until about the end of 1918, after which we see the Sydney (South Melbourne), Collingwood and Carlton teams vie for the Number 1 Rating for the remainder of the decade. Richmond also have some extended periods at the top towards the end of the decade.

University and Essendon dominate bottom spot during these 10 seasons. Combined they're in this position for almost 60% of rounds. Geelong, Melbourne and St Kilda also spend considerable periods of time with the lowest MARS Rating, while Richmond makes a handful of fleeting appearances in mid-1915.


Again we have seven different teams occupying the top spot on MARS Ratings sometime during the decade but it's Collingwood who are there for the longest combined periods. They're number 1 over 50% of the time. Essendon is the next most-frequent leader, filling in for the Pies in about 20% of the rounds. These are the only two teams to enjoy extended periods in the top position during this decade.

Amongst the other teams, Geelong and Carlton are the only ones to be first for 10 rounds or more in total during the decade while Fitzroy, Melbourne and Richmond all make cameo appearances in first position.

Hawthorn dominates the foot of the ladder in this decade, lying last almost 40% of the time including an unbroken stint from mid-1925 to mid-1929. Geelong, the Kangaroos (North Melbourne) and St Kilda each occupy last spot about 15% of the time during the decade with Carlton, Melbourne and Richmond making up the remainder of the time in this position.


Six teams occupy top spot during this decade with three of them - Collingwood, Geelong and Sydney (South Melbourne) - doing so for roughly equal periods and collectively spanning almost 70% of the time.

Sydney is the only team to enjoy an extended period at the top during the decade, leading from mid-1934 to the end of 1936, though Melbourne does finish the decade with an lengthy period of dominance from early in the 1940 season.

Just five teams spent any time propping up the ladder during this period, foremost amongst them the Kangaroos (North Melbourne), who spend just a little less than 50% of the time in that position, including an extended period that starts in mid-1929 and runs through to early-1932. Hawthorn was the next most-frequent occupant of the cellar, resting there for about 30% of the decade including a protracted stint from mid-1933 to early-1935. Sydney sit last for about 15% of the time, and St Kilda and Fitzroy also have very brief periods in that position.


A record eight teams topped the MARS Ratings during this decade though Essendon clearly dominated by being there over 50% of the time. The Dons were ranked first at least once during every season of the decade and finished the decade having been top since late in 1949. Richmond and Carlton are the only other teams to spend a significant proportion of the time in first, each dwelling there for about 10-15% of the time. Collingwood, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Sydney and the Western Bulldogs (Footscray) were the only other teams to occupy top spot at some point during the decade.

In contrast, only four teams held last position at some point during the decade, Geelong, Hawthorn and St Kilda each held it around one-third of the time, while the Kangaroos (North Melbourne) held it for less than 5% of rounds. Looking at streaks, Hawthorn held last spot for most of seasons 1941 and 1942, while Geelong dominated the position from around 1942 to the end of 1945. Later St Kilda spent long periods in last from about early-1947 to mid-1949 before surrendering the spot to Hawthorn for the remainder of the decade.


Six teams held top spot sometime during this decade but it was a decade dominated by Melbourne, who led for about 60% of the time. Geelong led for about 30% of the time, leaving Collingwood, Essendon, Richmond and the Western Bulldogs (Footscray) to fight amongst themselves for the remaining scant opportunities at the top.

No single team dominated the competition until about mid-1952 when Geelong assumed the top Rating and held onto it almost exclusively until the end of 1954. By mid-1955 Melbourne had commenced its period of extreme dominance, which saw it hold top spot from then until the end of the 1961 season.

Also during this decade, eight teams occupy last position. Hawthorn and St Kilda spending most time there and, between them, accounting for over 50% of the period. Hawthorn spends much time there from the start of the decade through to about the end of 1953, and St Kilda is something of a fixture in the position from about mid-1954 to mid-1956.

Geelong and Richmond are the next most-frequent occupants of last position, each there about 10-15% of the time, with Fitzroy, the Kangaroos (North Melbourne), Sydney (South Melbourne) and the Western Bulldogs (Footscray) accounting for the remainder of the decade.


A record-equalling eight teams hold the highest Rating at some point during this decade, Melbourne most-often at about 25% of the time, though not all that much more frequently than Collingwood, Essendon, Richmond and St Kilda. Carlton, Geelong and Hawthorn round out the full list of eight some-time leaders.

At the conclusion of Melbourne's extended period of dominance, which came at the end of season 1962, no single team was able to remain with the highest Rating for any significant length of time, though Essendon and Melbourne did manage a couple of longish stints during the decade.

Fitzroy all but owned lowest Rating for the decade sitting there for about 60% of the time including an uninterrupted period from mid-1963 to mid-1967. Six other teams spent portions of the time in last, the Kangaroos (North Melbourne) and Sydney (South Melbourne) most of all, each spending around 10-15% of the time there. Hawthorn, Melbourne, Richmond and the Western Bulldogs (Footscray) were the only other teams to spend time in last place.


Only six teams occupy top spot during the course of this decade, Hawthorn most of all at just over 35% of the time, and Carlton next-most often at just over 30%. Collingwood, the Kangaroos (North Melbourne) and St Kilda are the other teams to occupy the angel's traditional location.

During the decade only Hawthorn and Carlton lead for any extended periods. Hawthorn leads from early 1971 to early 1972, and Carlton leads for all of 1979 and for the early parts of 1980.

At different times, eight teams occupy last, Sydney (South Melbourne) and St Kilda most often at about 20-25% of the time each. The Kangaroos (North Melbourne), Melbourne and Fitzroy are the next-most frequent spoon-holders, resting there for about 12-18% of the time each. Collingwood, Essendon and Geelong are the remaining teams to occupy last spot, though they all do so only briefly and infrequently.

Periods of extended occupancy in last place were exhibited by the Kangaroos (North Melbourne) who were there for most of 1971 and all of 1972, and St Kilda who were there for the latter parts of 1979 and all of 1980.


This decade again saw eight teams atop the Ratings ladder. Almost 50% of the time, however, it was Hawthorn that led, and for about another 40% of the time it was either Carlton or Essendon. Collingwood, Fitzroy, Geelong, the Kangaroos (North Melbourne) or Richmond also held first position at some stage during the decade, though none did so for more than 9 rounds.

Despite Hawthorn's general dominance across the decade, it wasn't until late in the decade that the Hawks could string together an extended period at the top unchallenged. They led from early 1988 until about mid-1990.

Just six teams occupied last position during the decade, with St Kilda doing so about 45% of the time, Richmond a little less than 20%, Brisbane about 15% and Melbourne about 10%. Sydney and the Western Bulldogs also sit last for brief periods.


Extraordinarily, 12 teams were top-Rated at some point during this decade, including West Coast for about one-third of it. Carlton, Essendon, Geelong and the Kangaroos (North Melbourne) each held top spot for between about 10 and 15% of the time, while Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hawthorn, Sydney and the Western Bulldogs also held position 1 for brief periods.

Perhaps not surprisingly given the large number of leaders, no team held top spot for an extended period except for Essendon, whose period of dominance commenced in early 2000 and extended through until early in 2002.

Last spot on the MARS Rating ladder was as competitive as first spot during this decade, and 13 teams held it at some point. Fitzroy (who lasted only until the end of 1996) and Sydney dominated in this position, between them occupying it for over 50% of rounds. Brisbane, Fremantle and Melbourne were the only other teams to sit in last for extended periods. Adelaide, Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs were the other teams to make brief appearances in last position. 

Only Sydney and Fitzroy sat last for lengthy time periods, Sydney doing so from mid-1992 to late-1994, and Fitzroy from late-1994 until their demise at the end of 1996.


The previous decade's competitiveness wasn't quite matched in the 2001-2010 decade, which saw only eight teams take top Rating. Geelong was the team most often at the top, sitting there almost one-third of the time. The next-most frequent inhabitant was Brisbane, who sat there for a little over 25% of the time.

Adelaide, Essendon, Port Adelaide, St Kilda and West Coast each sat in first place between about 5% and 10% of the time, while Collingwood flitted there for just three rounds.

Just three teams managed extended periods in first position: Essendon, continuing its domination from late in the previous decade, held first position throughout 2001; Brisbane - surrendering the lead only briefly and occasionally to Port Adelaide - led mostly from mid-2002 to early-2005; and Geelong, leading from mid-2007 to mid-2009.

Seven teams held low Rating during the decade, including Carlton for about 40% of it, and Melbourne, Richmond and St Kilda for about 15% to 20% of the time each. Fremantle, Hawthorn and West Coast were the only other teams to occupy last position.

Only Carlton and Melbourne managed lengthy contiguous periods of time in last during this decade, Carlton holding down last from early 2006 to early 2008, and Melbourne doing so from early 2008 to the end of 2009.


Four teams have occupied first during these two seasons: Carlton and Geelong (both briefly), Collingwood and Hawthorn.

Four other teams have held last: Gold Coast (for over 60% of the time), GWS, Port Adelaide and Richmond.


One way to summarise MARS Ratings on a team-by-team basis for each decade and overall, is to look at the proportion of time within each decade (and, in the final rows of each table, across all decades) each team had the highest and the lowest MARS Rating.

(Please click on the image for a larger version.)

Overall, it turns out, the team that has spent the largest proportion of time with the highest MARS Rating is Collingwood, who have been in first place almost 16% of the time across the entire history of VFL/AFL. Next best is Essendon on just over 13%, then Carlton on about 11%.

Fremantle, Gold Coast, GWS and University are the only teams never to have been highest-Rated.

St Kilda is by far-and-away the team that's spent most time lowest-Rated, having been in that position for a remarkable 23% of the time across the entire 116 year history of VFL/AFL. After them it's Hawthorn on about 11%, then Fitzroy, Melbourne, the Kangaroos (North Melbourne) and Sydney (South Melbourne), all on around 9% to 10%.


Another view of each team's performance in each decade can be obtained by averaging their MARS Rating at the end of every round in that decade (noting that team's retain their Rating for the remainder of any season in which they bow out prior to or during the Finals).

This view suggests that: 

  • Carlton were the team of the decades 1911-1920, 1931-1940, and 1971-1980
  • Collingwood were the team of the decades 1901-1910, 1921-1930, 1951-1960, and 2011-2012
  • Essendon were the team of the decades 1897-1900 and 1941-1950
  • Geelong were the team of the decade 2001-2010
  • Hawthorn were the team of the decade 1981-1990
  • St Kilda were the team of the decade 1961-1970
  • West Coast were the team of the decade 1991-2000 

It also suggests that the all-time most consistently highly Rated teams are, in order: Collingwood, Carlton and Essendon.

The most consistently lowly Rated teams (during their existence) have been GWS, Gold Coast and University.