Quick Glance at 2011: What went wrong, what went right?
2011 was a year to forget for Brisbane, in fact their worst season since 1997. They finished 15th (3rd last) but four wins was not a true reflection of their efforts. In Michael Voss’s third year as head coach, they did manage a number of respectable performances. To be precise, they lost seven games by three goals or less, which was resilient under the circumstances. They were cruelled by long-term injuries to key-position players from very early on in their season. ‘Captain courageous’ Jonathan Brown, full-back Daniel Merrett and rebounding defender Josh Drummond missed the bulk of the season and exposed the frailties of a young and inexperienced outfit.
On the flipside, it gave the opportunity for Voss to unearth new talent for Brisbane to rebuild for years to come. Perhaps their most improved player was ruckman Matthew Leunberger, who came of age by showing he has the capacity to be more than competitive with the other big men. Of the 2011 debutants, Patrick Karnezis was most eye-catching. He scored 17 goals in 11 games, showed he can take a grab and almost has a cult-following already. Voss will be hoping the lively Karnezis can fill the void left by Mitch Clark who was lured to Melbourne by a ‘tempting’ offer.
Jonathan Brown is the captain and spiritual leader of the team. His courageous style is something to be admired but we’ve seen the flipside of that as well over the last two seasons. Over that period, Brown has only taken part in 26 of a possible 44 games because of injury and subsequently resulted in the Lions declining towards the lower end of the ladder in both seasons. Voss will be hoping luck is on Brown’s side this time round as he is capable of individual brilliance and that can inspire confidence in his younger teammates.
At the other end of the field, Daniel Merrett is regarded as one of the best spoilers in the AFL. Usually manning the opposition’s most dangerous forward each week, Merrett provides structure and stability to the Lions’ spine. He is the ‘general’ down back and by bringing his reliability, strength and experience to the table, holds the backline together.
Most important games and why.
Round 1 v Melbourne: The Lions ought to be prepared for an emotional Melbourne side who will play inspired football after Jim Stynes’ tragic death. Mitch Clark’s defection to the Demons will only add further spice.
Rounds 4 and 17 v Gold Coast: Last season, Brisbane were embarrassed after losing the first ever ‘Q Clash’ to their fledgling understudies, albeit by only eight points. The Lions did restore order later in the season though, thrashing the Suns by 62 points. With state bragging rights on the line, Brisbane will want to win both derbies this year to certify who the better team is.
What to expect in 2012.
After finishing in the bottom-four for the last two seasons, the Lions are surely due one way, up. A frustrated Voss called for an end-of-season review and has now set strict performance expectations. Even though it probably makes it easier to finish out of that dreaded bottom four now that another newbie in GWS have joined the competition, I do expect the Lions to build on their four wins from last year. Something they don’t need is Jonathan Brown injured again. He ought to maintain his trademark courage but needs to be sensible as well, especially when running back with the flight of the ball.
Besides Brown, the only remaining Premiership player from their glory days (2001-2004) is Simon Black. With 296 games of experience in the mid-field, it could be the veteran’s last season. Expected to take over from his mantle is Tom Rockliff, who won last year’s best and fairest at Brisbane. He has a tremendous work rate, wins plenty of the ball, especially in heavy traffic, and can help Voss employ a more positive and crisp style of play. This said expect the Lions to finish in the middle part of the bottom 10.
Predicted ladder finish: 11-14