The 2019 season was one to remember for the Lions as they rose from cellar dweller to premiership contender. With a rise like this it is difficult to single out just five players, so there are unquestionably a number who can consider themselves unlucky to miss the cut. So let the arguments begin, here are the Top Five Lions of 2019.
5. Hugh McCluggage
Robinson and Rich are probably stiff, but the human suitcase has now shown why he was so highly rated as a draft prospect the upside of his youth is one of the reasons I have him ahead of a few others, you could add Martin and Lyons to that list also.
Positioned on the opposite wing to Mitch Robinson (who had a fantastic, career-best year also) McCluggage was dynamic, finding the ball with ease and running defensively to provide an outlet when needed. He and Robinson paired sublimely, forming arguably the best wing combo since KFC’s $3 wicked wing six pack.
Testament to McCluggage’s stellar year was the fact that in just his third season he managed to finish third in the Lions B&F, was named in the all-Australian squad of 40 and was named in the 22under22 all-Australian side.
His best outing came in round 22 against the Cats in Brisbane’s one-point win at The Gabba. McCluggage finished with 27 disposals, seven marks, six tackles and a goal.
4. Harris Andrews
BANG!! The catch-cry of the late, great Spud Frawley is probably the best way to sum up Andrews, a stoic, dour, defender’s defender, and a nightmare for key forwards in 2019.
Andrews led the league in spoils (10 per game), so much so that the next most-spoiliest (what?) was a huge 30 behind him. He also finished the year ranked sixth for intercept marks, and earned himself his first all-Australian call-up.
3. Dayne Zorko
While not as prolific as previous seasons due to spending more time in the forward line, Zorko was just as effective. His manic pressure in the forward 50 has become a trademark, his ability to damage opposition with his forward 50 entries via his prodigious boot and his penchant for the use of said boot over the handball has become a real asset to the Lions structure.
He is ranked 1st in forward 50 entries (6.7/game), 3rd in total metres gained, fourth in total tackles, first in total tackles inside 50…mate, theres heaps. He is a very, very handy footballer, a complete package.
2. Charlie Cameron
Move over Eddie, it’s the Charlie Cameron show now.
What a year from Charles, finishing equal 3rd in the Coleman with 54 goals, granted a guernsey in the All-Australian team and polling Brownlow votes for the first time in his career, finishing with 11.
In a similar vein to the aforementioned Betts, some of Cameron’s forward craft on display was purely sublime. His best day out was in a one point win over Geelong, which saw him boot 5. He also managed a bag of six, but that was against the Suns, which doesn’t really count.
Cameron finished the year averaging 2.4 goals per game, a huge effort.
1. Lachie Neale
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. There was also the not so small matter of 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 first in total clearances, total centre clearances contested possessions and effective disposals (not bad for an apparent ball-butcher). He is ranked third in total disposals, second in total handballs.
Arguably his best performance was in Round Two against the Roos, plundering 43 touches (16 contested), seven marks, six tackles, eight clearances and three Brownlow votes as the Lions prevailed by 20 points.