Chris Fagan’s Lions are trending up. Pic: Getty Images
Chris Fagan’s Lions are trending up. Pic: Getty Images

Lions future looks downright dandy

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THE DIAGNOSIS

An excellent back end to the season lifted Brisbane to five wins, matching last season's total.

But, significantly, the Lions lowered their average losing margin to 26 points, with five losses under 10 points, compared with 47 points last year and 61 points in 2016 (a season where they were thumped by more than 10 goals on 10 occasions).

Coach Chris Fagan not only tightened up the defence, but he had his young list playing an exciting brand of football.

The rebuild looks in great shape. Alex Witherden (third in the Rising Star), Hugh McCluggage (played all 22 games) and Jarrod Berry all improved in their second seasons, and first-year midfielder Cameron Rayner kicked 20 goals after also playing every match.

Brisbane's key-position stocks also looks promising with Eric Hipwood (37 goals) increasing his goal tally again, while Harris Andrews raised his game and Oscar McInerney was a surprise packet.

TRADE TABLE

Fremantle star Lachie Neale reportedly spent the weekend in Queensland and met with Chris Fagan, and the Lions believe he is a strong chance of joining them. Their first-round pick will be central to any trade. There was also speculation the Lions were also chasing Neale's Dockers teammate Bradley Hill.

Dayne Beams says he's staying put but that won't stop Victorian clubs trying to tempt him to return home.

Sam Mayes' name could also be brought up after the former No.8 draft pick played just six games and was overtaken by several of his younger teammates.

 

Lachie Neale would add further polish to the Lions’ midfield. Pic: Getty Images
Lachie Neale would add further polish to the Lions’ midfield. Pic: Getty Images

 

DRAFT STRATEGY

Brisbane will look to add more midfield depth as well as another rebound defender. A speedy wingman-type will also be handy.

The Lions could be forced to match an early bid for academy product Connor McFadyen.

The club also plans to apply for a priority pick but it would surprise if the AFL granted it one.

2018 HIGHLIGHTS

- Knocking off Hawthorn twice, including an emphatic 33-point win in Launceston in Round 17 that marked the Lions' coming of age.

- The triumph in Tassie gave Brisbane three wins in a row for the first time since 2013 after earlier thrashing Fremantle (55 points) in Perth and Carlton (65 points).

- The 37-goal showdown against Collingwood at the Gabba may have ended in a seven-point loss, but provided a hint to what these Lions are capable of.

BEST-AND-FAIREST

Dayne Zorko won his fourth Merrett-Murray Medal, edging Dayne Beams by one vote.

NEXT YEAR'S GOAL

The Lions should now be judged on wins and losses. The youngsters are expected to continue their development and eight wins should be the minimum target in 2019 - and that's without Neale.

 

Dayne Zorko was again crowned the top Lion. Pic: Michael Klein
Dayne Zorko was again crowned the top Lion. Pic: Michael Klein

 

ROBBO SAYS:

"Feel-good team of the year, and while that is heartening, we're not in the feel-good business. Closed gap between best and worst and won five games and it probably should've been around the eight-win mark. Still, it's about the future which is already looking promising. With Lachie Neale in the team, it looks downright dandy."

FOR WHAT YEAR SHOULD YOU BOOK YOUR GRAND FINAL TICKETS?

Fagan has declared he wants to return the Lions to finals at the end of his current contract, which he extended to 2021. If all goes to plan, then 2023 or 2024 is a realistic aim.

WHO FROM THE CURRENT TEAM MAKES THE NEXT PREMIERSHIP TEAM?

B: Nick Robertson, Harris Andrews, Darcy Gardiner

HB: ?, Daniel McStay, Alex Witherden

C: ?, Mitch Robinson, Dayne Zorko

HF: Cameron Rayner, Eric Hipwood, Hugh McCluggage

F: Tom Cutler, Oscar McInerney, Charlie Cameron

Folls: ?, Jarrod Berry, Dayne Beams*

Inter: Lewis Taylor, Allen Christensen, Zac Bailey, Daniel Rich*

*Dayne Beams may decide to return to Melbourne at the end of his contract and Daniel Rich could possibly have retired.



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