Wowee. Almost every fan in the land would’ve agreed that the Brisbane Lions were looking primed to make a push into the top 8 in 2019, but nobody would’ve guessed that they’d miss out on being minor premiers by mere percentage.
What Went Right?
Injuries – there were not many of them, the Lions had the least amount of games missed due to injury in the league. No doubt the medical team at the Lions will be the envy of the league, with soft tissue concerns almost non-existent. An absolute credit to Peter Blanch, who heads up the medical team.
Recruitment – Lachie Neale, Charlie Cameron and Jarrad Lyons have had an immediate impact, Cameron and Neale both earned an All-Australian spot, along with Harris Andrews, who was tighter than two coats of paint all year.
Wings – Moving Mitch Robinson to a wing has proven to be a master-stroke, with he and McCluggage pairing to form a formidable duo on the wings, Robinson’s hectic, aggressive play and ability to extract combined with his tank and two-way run was a real asset for the Lions.
The Streak – The Lions went on an absolute tear after the bye, with a nine-game winning streak hurling them into 2nd spot
What Went Wrong?
The Lions will rue their costly kicking at goal, particularly in their qualifying final against Richmond, where they kicked themselves out of the game early.
Round 22 vs Geelong
In what proved to be an absolute dog-fight from go to whoa, the Lions prevailed by the smallest of margins, 10.15.75 to 10.14.74 thanks to some last minute heroics from former Cat, Lincoln McCarthy.
Brisbane found themselves 4 points down with just 90 seconds to elapse before the fat lady made was due to howl. McCarthy leapt up and took a magnificent mark over Jack Henry, and then went back and guided through the winner, as calm as a hindu cow.
Neale, McCluggage and Robinson all had 25+ disposals , Charlie Cameron kicked 5 and Jarrad Lyons had a day out, tallying 28 touches (19 contested) and 11 tackles. Marcus Adams had a ripper, keeping Tomahawk goalless.
Lachie Neale. Recruit of the year.
Honestly, I knew he was good, but at Freo he had Fyfe, the Hill brothers, Mundy around to take the pressure off him in a midfield role – not to mention a behemoth in Aaron Sandilands giving the Dockers mids silver service. I now know that he is better than good, he is elite. He is also a big reason that Brisbane were able to pull off what they have in 2019, and Brisbane rightfully acknowledged this, with Neale taking out the Lions best and fairest in his first year at the club.
He is ranked 1st in total clearances, total centre clearances contested possessions and effective disposals (not bad for an apparent ball-butcher). He is ranked 3rd in total disposals, 2nd in total handballs.
Arguably his best performance was in round 2 against the Roos, plundering 43 touches (16 contested), 7 marks, 6 tackles, 8 clearances and 3 brownlow votes as the Lions prevailed by 20 points.
Final Grade: A
From Bottom Four to Top Four in a single season is a remarkable effort and the Lions have earned well deserved praise for achieving this feat in 2019. While two home finals defeat will no doubt spur the players on during their pre-season it shouldn’t take any gloss off what was an incredible performance from Chris Fagan and his men this season.