Coming off an impressive semi-final appearance in 2009, Lions coach Michael Voss jumped into trade week like a kid in a candy store, making sure to get his hands on everything he possibly could. So when controversial full-forward Brendan Fevola became available, it was no surprise he ended up in a Lions jumper.
Throughout the whole preseason, footy experts speculated whether Fevola and captain Jonathon Brown would be able to work productively in the same forward line. That theory was quickly thrown out the window in the first round against West Coast, when the Coleman medallist’s teamed up for 17 scoring shots (eight goals and nine behinds), which ended up being half of the Lions’ total score.
The next three rounds saw the powerful forward duo put through 24 goals between them, as the Lions started the season with four straight wins – their best start since 2002.
However, dreams of making the top eight in 2010 were quickly dashed when a round five loss to Melbourne triggered a horrendous losing streak. They won just one of their next 12 games, including a eight in a row – the worst in the club’s history.
The Lions struggled through the second half of the season with an injury list that could have fielded its own side. They ended the 2010 home-and-away season in a mere 13th spot, after spending a month in the top four at the start of the season.
There is no doubt veteran’s Simon Black and Luke Power will be crucial to the Lions’ success in 2011. With 536 games and 366 goals between them, the triple premiership duo both head into their 13th season. Moving further into their thirties, Black and Power will need to provide stability through the Lions’ midfield for success to be possible. Black is a strong inside midfielder who will be utilised in that exact same position. While Power will have to inject some experience into the Lions’ forward line, which currently lacks stability.
THREE MOST IMPORTANT GAMES FOR 2011:
Round 1 – v Western Bulldogs, Sunday 3 April at Etihad Stadium
Coming off what will be an intriguing contest against Fremantle at home, the Lions will travel to Melbourne to take on Justin Sherman’s Bulldogs. It will be fascinating to see how Sherman, who played 114 games in his time with the Lions, fairs against his old teammates after he requested a trade at the end of 2010. This match will be one to watch too with Brown and Barry Hall expected to go head-to-head in a goal kicking shootout.
Round 7 – v Gold Coast, Saturday 7 May at Gabba
The Lions’ 2010 best and fairest winner Michael Rischitelli wasted no time in bailing on the Lions in last year’s trade week. After being used as potential trade bait in 2009 as part of the deal that lured Fevola up north, Rischitelli signed with the Suns after an outstanding 2010 season with the Lions. Along with Jared Brennan, the former Brisbane boys will look to prove their critics wrong in new colours.
Round 22 – v Collingwood, Saturday 20 August at MCG
Both of these teams will likely be playing for a top eight spot when they meet in round 22. Brisbane has surprised Collingwood in previous seasons, taking two of its last three encounters. This one could be a little more crucial than most people think.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2011:
The Lions’ recent off-season troubles have been extremely well documented in the media. Not only has the club had to deal with the whole Fevola saga, but they also had to sack Albert Proud for a string of undisciplined acts. Those incidents were exactly what the Lions didn’t need heading into a season they already know is going to be difficult.
In the AFL, a large portion of team success comes down to luck with injuries and the ability of the future leaders of the club. In the Lions’ case, the time has come for the next generation of players to shine.
Players such as Daniel Rich, Todd Banfield and James Hawkesly are immensely talented who have the potential to do great things in the future. These types of younger players need to have more impact and game time in 2011, otherwise the club won’t move forward.
While the Lions will probably lose more games than they win, the development of the younger players for future success is the most important thing. However, if Brown, Black and Power all fire and stay fit for the majority of the season, expect the Lions to make a slight challenge and be in the finals race till late in the season.
Dyson Baker is a second year Bachelor of Business (Sport and Leisure Management) student. This is his first piece for upstart.