The Lions will roar again, soon
After a poor 2005, many people have written off the Brisbane Lions as premiership contenders in the
foreseeable futures. However, as Nick Mockford reports, it may not be time to do so just yet.
When Richard Hadley went down with his second knee in as many seasons, and Nigel Lappin was ruled out for two
months with ankle ligament damage, Brisbane Lions fans would have been forgiven for thinking that, after all
their recent success, the Football Gods were reacting their revenge.
To be honest, how many football fans would be unhappy about that? It seems that, since their amazing
three-peat and another Grand Final appearance in 2004, they have become a target.
Numerous people attribute their Premiership run to nothing more than AFL concessions and favouritism, and
the joy among many supporters – particularly Collingwood’s – upon seeing the once mighty Lions slip down the
table and out of the finals in 2005 has been very noticeable.
In a strange way, they see is as justice. Slowly but surely, the team from Queensland’s capital has been
roped back to the rest of the pack. Injuries have taken their toll, while the Gabba is not the fortress it
once was, and just two years removed from being hailed as arguably the greatest team ever, they are merely
just another side.
It is, however, astonishing to see the amount of tipsters who have the Lions outside their final eight
calculations. You see, form is temporary, but class is permanent.
For starters, the big name on everyone’s lips coming into season 2006 is Jonathan Brown. The burly
centre-half forward remains the game’s most dominant presence when he is on, and turned in some outstanding
performances in an injury and suspension riddled 2005. If he can stay on the park, watch out.
Do the names Akermanis, Black, Johnson, Michael, Leppitsch, Power and a belated Lappin mean anything? All
are among the finest players in their league, and all will be alongside Brown in the new season.
Of course, that doesn’t include the veteran heads of Michael Voss and Clark Keating, both of whom will play
smaller – but valuable nonetheless – roles off the bench.
There is the return of Jamie Charman, who, after establishing himself as one of the league’s most promising
talents in 2004, damaged a knee and missed most of last season. If he stays healthy, the Lions automatically
have a top five ruckman on their books.
Mitchell Clark has looked a real find in the preseason, and if he can hold down a spot in the forward line,
it releases the ever-present and versatile Daniel Bradshaw to play a key defensive role if required. Then
there is also Jared Brennan, who defines the term x-factor. If he can play at least fifteen games, it gives
Brisbane a genuine element of unpredictability.
Of course, while people laughed at their slide in 2005, many failed to notice the positives to come out of
the season. A number of young players were blooded, and it gives the Lions one of the more established young
lists in the competition.
Names like Josh Drummond, Jed Adcock, Daniel Merrett, Joel MacDonald, Troy Selwood, Justin Sherwood and
Anthony Corrie all came into their own, and there is no reason why they won’t continue to evolve in one of the
best systems in the land in terms of nurturing young talent.
When you add promising youngsters Clark, Michael Rischitelli and Cameron Wood to the mix, and gritty
role-players in Tim Notting and Robert Copeland, the result is one of the most balanced lists in the
competition, and one that has gone through transition in textbook style.
Of course injuries will wreck any team’s chances at a flag, and in the last eighteen months, Brisbane has
probably had more than any other team, at least to key players. However, with so many younger players coming
through as a result of the opportunities given, a clean slate health wise could spell trouble for fifteen
So write Brisbane off at your own risk, as they still have, pound for pound, one of the most talented lists
in the competition. They also have easily the most battled-hardened, and in a year where a clear premiership
stand-out isn’t emerging, seeing Voss and Leigh Matthews holding up the Premiership cup for the fourth time
in six years isn’t totally unfeasible.
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