It wasn’t too long ago that the Brisbane Lions went from zero to hero in the space of four years.
Their team between 2001 and 2004 is regarded as one of the greatest and most dominant teams in the AFL’s history. During that time, they won three out of four flags, making the grand final on each occasion. Their team was faultless and if a team did beat them, it usually meant that the Lions were down 50% on their usual output. With a midfield that included Voss, Black, Lappin and Akermanis, they were virtually unbeatable.
Now, six years on, they are once again a threat and will be challenging for another premiership.
2009 review: The appointment of Michael Voss as senior coach before the season began was greeted with mixed emotions. It was a big risk because he had barely done an ‘apprenticeship’ with another club; therefore he lacked experience in the coach’s box. However, Voss was a great of the game and his knowledge of the game was undeniable.
By the end of the season, Brisbane fans would’ve been thrilled with the rookie coach’s achievements. The Lions finished sixth at the end of the home-and-away season and earned themselves a home final. Even more impressively, Brisbane came from 30 points down in the last quarter in that final to defeat Carlton in a gutsy and determined victory. Their 51 point loss against the Western Bulldogs the following week was disappointing and at odds with their performance throughout the season.
Two players stood out for the Lions in 2009. They unveiled a star of the future in Daniel Rich who played 24 games for the season and won the NAB AFL Rising Star award. His hardness at the ball and long kicking into the forward 50 was crucial to the Lions’ success throughout the year.
But the emergence of Mitch Clark in the ruck cannot go underestimated. His outstanding aerobic capacity and athleticism added a unique dimension to the Lions’ midfield and he was extremely unlucky to miss out on All-Australian selection.
Player to watch in 2010: Very few players will receive as much media scrutiny as what Brendan Fevola will this season.
His time with Carlton had its fair share of ups and downs and despite his talent and achievements on the field, the Blues had had enough by season’s end. Years of controversial off-field incidents, such as a fight in an Irish Pub, a short affair with Lara Bingle and that infamous drunk Brownlow Medal parade led to his eventual sacking.
However, Fevola’s talent on the field is unquestionable. During his 187-game career with Carlton, he booted 575 goals with very little support from his teammates in the forward line. Opposition teams even tried triple-teaming the big full forward in an attempt to cage his impact. But Fevola’s class shone through, out-marking multiple opponents in contests and finding space to lead into when it seemed like there was none.
Fevola is incredibly lucky that Brisbane have granted him a second chance and now that he has joined a club with potential to win a flag, Fevola has the chance to take his game to a new level. If he is kicking goals, applying relentless defensive pressure and communicating well with his midfield and fellow forward Jonathan Brown, we can expect the Lions to be a threat when September rolls around.
What to expect in 2010: Big things!
Never before has a side recruited so aggressively during AFL trade week. Along with Fevola, the Lions welcomed versatile key position player Brent Staker (West Coast), hard-bodied midfielder/small forward Amon Buchanan (Sydney) and rebounding defenders Xavier Clarke (St.Kilda) and Andrew Raines (Richmond) to its already impressive list. Voss’ intentions are clear. He wants a premiership sooner rather than later.
It will be fascinating to see how Brown and Fevola will work in tandem. They are both big guys who like to make their presence felt on a football field. If they can work well together, opposition defences are bound to struggle.
For Brisbane to take the next step, they need to be able to defeat the likes of St.Kilda, Geelong and the Western Bulldogs and, with the list they’ve got this year, they are more than capable of doing that. Expect the Lions to surprise many throughout the home-and-away season but it will be September before we find out if the Lions are the real deal.
Final ladder position: 4th