Sure. I do the same analysis (of the ladder) and come up with this.
Three teams in Terril were simply below par. In an eight team conference, four teams had twelve wins or more, three teams managed just 6 wins. So three teams out of eight won just 25% of their games.
You quoted Altona, so will I. They beat four teams from the other conference and only two from their own.
All of the teams they beat from the other conference ended the season with better records than them, that does not necessarily means they upset good teams - it points to the Watson conference being weaker overall.
In Watson, three teams ended with 8-14 records, while four more had 12-10 records. That might look very competitive, but what it points to is one conference being weaker than the other top to bottom. This is strongly reinforced by the fact that the second placed team in the conference had only 12 wins, while second place in the other had 16. And the GF teams came from one conference as well (although I think this was am anomaly).
Of course 8 wins is only four from a finals berth. The league created 8 finals positions for 16 teams by creating two conferences!
Had this been a 12 team competition 8 wins would probably have been 5-7 wins off a finals berth.
A few months ago we had a good discussion on here, including some guys who played in the league, who basically acknowledged the league was different in 2012, but could not say it was definitively better. Some better talent sure, and good tough games, but the style changed etc.
I stand by my comments at the time that Geelong making the grand final, with the same coach, and losing I think 5 of their top 6 players, says a great deal about where D1 was at in 2012 compared to 2011.
I think btw in any one year that you can have a great set of teams even in a two conference structure. Its time that is the test and the numbers decree that a 16 team competition will not be as strong as a 12 team competition.