With the salary cap thing, I know it is an unfair advantage on the rest of the competition but for the sake of this discussion lets try and not make it an issue.
OK, personally I thought that Brisbane were the bench mark for the whole league. They deserved the premiership 100% and in my oppinion were clearly the best team in the AFL.
Going into the year they had the pressure of being the reigning champs and as we know, it is not the easiest thing winning back to back premierships.
When looking at the ladder, Brisbane were on top for 15 rounds. They were second for 6 rounds and were 4th at the beginning of the year. Port Adelaide started slowly and dropped to 13th after two weeks. They climbed back to the top and eventually sat first for a total of 6 rounds (and eventually ended up on top). They were second for 9 rounds which means they were in the top two for a total of 15 rounds, compared to Brisbanes 21.
Port Adelaide ended the season on top of the ladder by a game. That Round 22 match could have gone either way, Port weren't clearly the better side. So IMO that (minor premiership) doesn't necessarily prove that they were better than Brisbane. If you look at the matches they played against each other, Brisbane is clearly the better side.
Round 7- Brisbane 129 v 72 Port Power- GABBA
Round 22- Port Power 90 v 84 Brisbane- AAMI
PF- Brisbane 138 v 82 Port Power- GABBA
Overall: Brisbane, 2 wins for 351 points v 1 win for 244 points, Port Power.
You mentioned that Brisbane were gifted with an easy run in the finals, but you overlooked the fact that Port Adelaide were in the pole position going into the finals. They both had a home final and Port threw theres away, whereas Brisbane grabbed the opportunity. Then when Port were given their second chance they struggled over the line before facing the Lions once again, where Brisbane gave them a complete football lesson.
You also mentioned 'Does Brisbane ever lose a final up there?' The answer is no. They don't because they take their chances by the scruff of the enck, unlike Port who already have lost 3 out of 4 home finals in their time.
Brisbane were more consistant than Port Adelaide. They never lost 2 in a row and were on top for most of the year. Their percentage was the best in the league as they scored the most points for and conceded the 2nd least points against.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how you get to the finals. All that matters is what you do in the finals. You can finish 8th and get the same result in the finals as 1st does, so the final standing doesn't mean much. What matters is how well you play in finals. This is where teams are judged. The Port Adelaide of 2001-2002 will never be judged a great team because they choked in the finals, whereas the Brisbane Lions of 2001-2002 will be judged as a great team because they succeeded when it mattered.
Brisbane deserved to be the Premiers and deserved all the hype they got, because the clearly are the best team in the competition.
IL CLUB PIU' TITOLATO AL MONDO