Dustin Martin carved up the Lions last week. Pic: Getty Images
Dustin Martin carved up the Lions last week. Pic: Getty Images

Who can stand finals heat in Brisbane?

They met just a week ago at a near-full MCG but this time, things will be very different.

The Brisbane Lions return to their home fortress to host premiership favourite Richmond, with the winner earning passage to a preliminary final and another week off.

 

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Herald Sun expert Lauren Wood takes a look at the qualifying final, and three of the big questions facing each club ahead of Saturday night's showdown.

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The young Lions, like Harris Andrews and Cameron Rayner, haven’t yet tasted finals action. Pic: AAP
The young Lions, like Harris Andrews and Cameron Rayner, haven’t yet tasted finals action. Pic: AAP

 

BRISBANE LIONS

1 LACK OF FINALS EXPERIENCE

Only a handful of Brisbane's players have seen September action and we know finals are an entirely different proposition. But these Lions? They're a different beast, too. Pressure? Check. Grit? Check. Preparation against the best? Check and check after playing against the Cats and Tigers in the last two rounds, albeit for a win and a loss. Can they go all the way? You bet. They're not using September inexperience as any excuse.

 

2 LACH-DOWN ON NEALE?
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has already flagged that his men could engage a different approach on star ballwinner Lachie Neale after he racked up 51 touches last weekend. He demolished the Tigers at clearances and will need to be closely checked, but is the All-Australian rover the only one? Dayne Zorko was in blistering form in Round 23 and often drawn attention. He needs to lift after the Lions scored 8.7 (55) against the Tigers, their lowest score for the season.

 

3 CHARLIE v GRIMES: THE RE-MATCH

Brisbane star Charlie Cameron hasn't hidden his frustration this week. After expressing his distaste for fellow All-Australian Dylan Grimes' physical approach on him in their Round 23 meeting, he followed up by describing the tactics as "frustrating" when asked about them midweek. Grimes maintains he had no such sense during the game that Cameron was so aggrieved. Cameron's stats last week - seven disposals, two goals - were among his worst in a stellar season. All eyes will be on the pair's rematch. Ding ding.

 

 

RICHMOND

1 TRAVEL FACTOR

The Tigers haven't hit the road for a final since 2014 - and that didn't end well (57-point loss to Port Adelaide). They're bullish about their chances up north after disposing of the Lions just a week ago, with Hardwick reminding his players of the similarities in dimension between the Gabba and the MCG several times. They've won each of their past eight trips to the ground - albeit against a very different Lions outfit - and love to travel together, according to All-Australian defender Bachar Houli. But these Lions have only lost one game there this year. Richmond will need to get cracking early.

 

2 RUCK OFF

The heat is on for the highly-prized ruck spot with Toby Nankervis, who will battle Ivan Soldo and Mabior Chol for the ticket to Brisbane. Nankervis has played just one game since Round 8 because of an adductor issue, and on Saturday starred in his club's VFL win - earning rich praise from footy boss Neil Balme. Surely Hardwick can't overlook Soldo after his performance last week? That would mean Noah Balta would have to make way for Nankervis. Would you risk the more experienced big man? It is finals. Watch this space.

 

3 THE HEAT

Conditions at the Gabba will be vastly different to Round 23 at the MCG clash, with early indications being that daytime temperatures in "BrisVegas" could nudge 30C. Yes, it'll drop by the time the game starts, but key defender Grimes knows the match could play out very differently in the sunshine state. "It's going to be really high pressure and in terms of ball movement it's quick out there as well - it's likely to be a bit warmer … a bit drier," he said. "I think it can be a completely different game." The Tigers' famed pressure will be their own brand of heat that will need to be turned up to the max.