It seems like yesteryear when the MCG was a cauldron for the big four Melbourne clubs. In fact, it was.
Traditional foes Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon and Richmond have lost their statuses as ‘powerhouses’ in the competition.
No longer are we seeing matches between these four clubs drawing 80,000 plus to games. With the exception of Collingwood and Essendon on Anzac Day, and the traditional Richmond-Carlton season opener, crowd attendances between the clubs are a reflection of their dwindling dominance.
We only need to look as recently as the game between Collingwood and Carlton on the weekend, where only 49,000 fans attended on a Saturday afternoon. Performance draws fans to games, and it is fair to say these teams have fallen below par, with arguably the exception of Richmond.
Up until round 19, Carlton is ranked between 15th and 16th for disposals, contested possessions, uncontested possessions, goals and marks. Yet worst of all, the Blues rank last for tackles, with 10 below the competition average.
The countless Friday night games the club has been given has all but highlighted the dismal performances the club has put in. This in turn has resulted in fledgling crowds, with membership sitting at 47,305; it sees their figure sit 13,000 below Essendon’s.
What produces membership is high expectation. Collingwood and Richmond have always been powerhouses off the field: both clubs have over 70,000 members for 2015 and continue to grow despite their lack of recent success.
If only these clubs were as consistent on field as they were off.
Collingwood’s six losses in a row this season has seen them drop dramatically out of the top eight, only scraping a win against Carlton on the weekend. Richmond’s inconsistencies, on the other hand, see them throw a spanner in the works each week: losing to teams below them and defeating those above.
Despite this, the Tigers have looked the most promising out of all four teams. Their fan base and club character drive the hype behind them becoming contenders instead of pretenders.
It has been well documented how well Richmond perform against the top teams, having beaten Fremantle, Sydney, Fremantle and Hawthorn this year. But their losses against clubs below them undo all their hard work and take some of the roar out of the Tiger army.
The argument Carlton and Essendon fans still throw up against their rivals of “we’ve won the most premierships” is starting to appear irrelevant as other clubs close in. With Collingwood currently sitting on 15, Hawthorn is slowly closing in on 12 and seems destined to add another to their collection in the near future.
Out of the big four, Collingwood and Essendon have won one premiership each this century: the next time one of these four teams appears in a grand final seems a distant time away.
Challenges to the big four Melbourne clubs began during Geelong’s dominance starting from 2007. As it is now, Hawthorn is the powerhouse of the AFL with 73,000 members, second behind Collingwood and on the brink of winning three premierships in a row. Even the revamped Western Bulldogs currently possess more hype and character compared to Carlton and Essendon.
As Carlton look to rebuild after a year to forget, Essendon look to rebrand after recent controversies, Collingwood look to regroup after their mid season slump and Richmond look to rejuvenate the hype surrounding them, other AFL clubs are growing in dominance on and off the field.
Gone is the power Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon and Richmond possessed during the latter part of the 20th century. No longer are the traditional four Melbourne clubs the biggest of them all.