After Richmond brought Brisbane’s winning streak to an end in the final round at the MCG, the Lions have the opportunity to return the favour two weeks later in the biggest game played at the Gabba for a decade. This one looms as the game of the weekend with a home Preliminary Final on offer for the winner.
It hasn’t been a happy time for the Lions against Richmond in recent times, having lost the last five meetings as part of a 13 game run of outs against them. In fact, of the last 19 games between the two teams Brisbane have tasted victory just the once.
Finals Experience of Youthful Exuberance?
The Tigers are finals hardened having played deep into September the past two seasons in contrast, the Lions will have 14 players tasting finals for the first time. Brisbane have risen to every challenge though in 2019 and swept almost all before them.
Richmond have had to overcome a long injury list at stages throughout the season to position themselves for an assault at a second flag in three years. While they will be looking to make amends for their shock exit in 2018, Chris Fagan will be making sure that his team knows that there is no law that says you have to lose one to win one.
As always the battle in the middle will play a big role in deciding the winner of this one. Two players who will be heavily relied upon their teams to tilt the scale in their favour will be Dion Prestia and Lachie Neale.
Prestia has been sensational since transferring to the Tigers from the Suns in 2017, spectacularly so in the last month and a half. The 26-year old has recorded 30+ touches in each of his last six games.
Neale, in his first season for the Lions since moving east from Fremantle, has been one of the Lions best players. Throughout his career, whether as a Docker or a Lion, he has particularly enjoyed playing Richmond and has collected 35+ touches in his four games against them, including 51 last start.
With the game expected to be played on a hard track in perfect spring time conditions, expect these two to play a prominent role in this one.
Home Ground Advantage
For the first time since July 6th, Richmond will leave their comfortable confines of the MCG. This could be telling given the vast difference in their form at home and away combined with Brisbane’s imposing performances at the Gabba
While Richmond has put together an 11-2 record at the MCG, they are 5-4 away from the home of football. The Lions have gone a long way to rebuilding the ‘Gabbatoir’ reputation of their home ground having lost just one home game and winning their last eight games at the Brisbane Cricket Ground. That said, the Tigers too have won their last eight games at the venue.
We meet again.
Brisbane and Richmond are well acquainted with each other with being just two weeks since their last clash in the final round of the season. When they meet on Saturday night it will be the fourth time this century that final round opponents met again in the first week of the finals.
Of the three previous times it has occurred, the winner of the last round encounter has repeated the dose in the finals just once. Which bodes well for the Lions in their quest to qualify for a home Preliminary Final.This omen gets worse for Tigers fans, with the two teams on the wrong end of a finals reversal of fortunes being the Richmond teams of 2001 and 2015.
Charlie Cameron v Dylan Grimes
The Lions excitement machine was well kept by the Tigers All-Australian defender in Round 23. Cameron was driven to distraction by Grimes’ lock down job on him and was unable to provide the spark that his team has so relied upon this season. He is sure to face similar attention this time around and if he cannot find a way to make an impact it will make it difficult for the Lions to prosper in their return to the finals.
Tom Lynch v Harris Andrews
It might have been a slow start for Tom Lynch in 2019 but it is these games that he was brought to Punt Road for and it will be these games that success or otherwise of his recruitment will be determined. It wont be easy for him though, with the Lions young gun Harris Andrews sure to make things difficult for the former Suns skipper all night long. Whoever wins this match up may well go a long way to deciding the winner of this game.
It will be a full house in attendance for this one with Lions fans flocking to the Gabba with hopes of urging them on to their first finals win in a decade. They have been impressive all season long at home and will take a lot of beating. The Tigers have had to overcome injuries and a mid season slump to finish the season the hottest team in the competition. Hard to pick a winner here but home ground advantage might prove decisive.
Brisbane by Eight Points.