Brisbane Lions vs Port Adelaide at the Gabba. Lions Simon Black & Jonathan Brown.
Brisbane Lions vs Port Adelaide at the Gabba. Lions Simon Black & Jonathan Brown.

Why Lions are better placed in ‘19 than ‘09

Brisbane played its last final 10 years ago before plunging to the bottom of the ladder. This year's Lions are in a similar position to attack the business end of the season but their future appears a lot brighter.

Those Lions went on to record six wins and a draw from the last nine games to finish sixth and earn a home final.

Chris Fagan's men are aiming to replicate that feat over the remaining rounds but hopefully for the club and their success starved fans that is where the similarities end.

When Brisbane entered 2011 only eleven players from the 2009 finals side remained at the club - that is exactly half a football side gone in 12 months.

Luke Hodge will retire at the end of this year and Dan McStay has yet to re-sign, although club sources insists it is a mere formality, so the only real changes to their best 22 in 2020 will come not from the loss of talent but the potential addition from the NEAFL, trade period or draft.

Under Chris Fagan and David Noble the drafting, recruitment of mature aged players and list management have been first class.

They have built a list that is far better balanced than in 2009 and created an environment where players seem happier and more likely to sign longer contracts.

"Our strategy has always been, from day one, planning ahead three years,'' Noble said.

"We are very much talking about what does 2021, 22 and 23 look like.

"You have to stay ahead of the game, so we know what our list looks like when X retires or Y decides to go.''

Much has been said about Brisbane's actions in the disastrous 2009 off-season where they went all out for a flag - Brendan Fevola, Andrew Raines, Matt Maguire, Brent Staker, Amon Buchanan and Xavier Clarke all arrived via trades or the draft.

It must be noted that Maguire (71 games), Raines (67) and Staker (50) all made valuable contributions to the club through a tough period.

There were factors that influenced Brisbane's thinking.

The list rookie coach Michael Voss inherited in 2009 had an average age of 22 years and 213 days and 49 games experience.

It would surprise many to learn the current crop are almost a year older at 23 years and 128 days and their average of 55 games gives them slightly more experience.

The experience came from the remnants of the premiership era. Simon Black started that season on 233 games, Luke Power on 217 and Daniel Bradshaw 201. Tim Notting (196), Jonathan Brown (160), Jamie Charman (126), Ash McGrath (113) and ring-in Travis Johnstone (178).

Voss believed he had to strike while Black and Brown, who had tied for fourth place in that year's Brownlow Medal, were still in their prime.


Troubled forward Brendan Fevola.
Troubled forward Brendan Fevola.



There were a trio of promising youngsters in Daniel Rich, Jack Redden and Tom Rockliff but a gaping hole in both numbers and elite talent in the 50-100 game bracket.

The 2009 group included Jed Adcock, Troy Selwood, Michael Rischitelli, Jared Brennan, Daniel Merrett, Joel Patfull, Joel MacDonald and Justin Sherman

Voss' plan to bolster that area of the list was sound - the damage came from the players he lost or gave away in that era.

By 2011 only Adock, Patfull and Merrett remained.

Holes existed in the same bracket when Fagan and Noble arrived and they immediately focused on plugging them.

Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons, Charlie Cameron, Lincoln McCarthy and Marcus Adams were brought in and when teamed with Harris Andrews, Dan McStay, Eric Hipwood, Darcy Gardiner and Oscar McInerney they have a core of top class players who have all entered their prime.

Beneath them is a wave of elite young talent led by Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Zac Bailey, Cam Raynor and waiting for their chance the likes of Cedric Cox, Brandon Starcevich and Ely Smith.

"I think we have been true to our word that we wanted build up the mid-twenties grouping, '' he said.

"We thought we needed to add four or five because that is not only the crew that are at the 100 game mark that will carry you forward.

"We also had to bring some talent in through the draft and we have managed that, the balance now is really good.''


Lachie Neale has been a first-class recruit for the Lions. Picture: AAP
Lachie Neale has been a first-class recruit for the Lions. Picture: AAP


The other basis of any successful side is a solid spine.

It helps Fagan that Andrews and Eric Hipwood are Queenslanders and with Adams in the first year of a three-year deal, McStay reportedly about to recommit and local products Connor Ballenden and Jack Payne pushing their case in the NEAFL - the big man stocks are the envy of most clubs.

It is an often repeated but unfair criticism that Brisbane in Leigh Matthews' final seasons in charge had not prepared for life after Brown and Bradshaw and premiership defenders Justin Leppitsch and Mal Michael.

In local boy Merrett and top ten draft picks Lachlan Henderson and Mitch Clark the Lions believed they had quality tall timber to develop around Brown.

Henderson and Clark didn't work out for Brisbane and the club's failure to find 200 game key position players with multiple top ten picks ranks alongside the devastation of the "go home five" a few years later as the major reason behind the Lions' finals drought.