Gary Buckenara analyses's Brisbane's list.
Gary Buckenara analyses's Brisbane's list.

Buckenara: Scary Lions set for another golden era

BRISBANE is building towards another period of sustained success and a repeat of the glory days of 2001-2003 could soon be a reality.

We all knew the Lions' list was talented given how much the club has invested in the draft since 2015 with 11 picks inside the top 30, but just how quickly those players have developed is a credit to the coaching and development staff and to the players themselves who have clearly learnt how much hard work it takes to become good AFL players very early in their careers.

Not only have the Lions nailed their drafting and recruiting from rival clubs - Lachie Neale, Luke Hodge and Lincoln McCarthy all outstanding pick-ups in the last two years - but they've nailed their off-field appointments with Chris Fagan as coach and David Noble as football manager. It has transformed the entire club from bottom-of-the-ladder strugglers who couldn't hold onto star players to a destination club.

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The Lions have 11 players aged 21 or under I believe can develop into A or B-grade players, if some aren't already, led by Hugh McCluggage who was named in the All-Australian squad this year in just his third season.

Add those to established players I rate as A or B-graders - Harris Andrews, Lachie Neale, Charlie Cameron (all All-Australian this year), Mitch Robinson, Dayne Zorko, Stefan Martin, Jarryd Lyons, Marcus Adams, Daniel Rich, Daniel McStay, Lincoln McCarthy and Darcy Gardiner and that makes 23 A or B-grade players on the Brisbane list and all of them, apart from Martin who will be 33 in November, have many years of good football still ahead of them.


That doesn't factor in the established players from rival clubs the Lions will be able to attract via trade and free agency because of how exciting and talented this list is. Players will see the potential for success at Brisbane - they're now a destination club.

It is a seriously scary proposition for opposition clubs and why I believe Brisbane is set for another golden era.

The Lions did, however, have a favourable draw this year due to their bottom-four finish in 2018, a luxury they won't be afforded next season. Even if the Lions do find the going a little tougher in 2020 as they face stiff competition more regularly, it will only serve as valuable experience for the young group as they become more hardened. Brisbane also had a very good run with injury with minimal changes to their best 22 throughout the season.

The addition of Grant Birchall to replace Hodge across halfback, albeit they have different playing styles, will add creativity, stability and on-field direction to the backline and midfield if he can get his body right. He'll be very good for them both on and off the field because while he's a different personality to Hodge, he will be a very effective leader both on and off the field and help Hodge, who will stay at the club in a coaching role, Fagan and the senior players to continue to drive elite standards.

What impact will Grant Birchall have at Brisbane? Picture: AAP Images
What impact will Grant Birchall have at Brisbane? Picture: AAP Images

The Lions have added to their depth with Cam Ellis-Yolmen from Adelaide and former top-10 pick Callum Ah Chee from Gold Coast. If Ah Chee can tap into the excellent development and coaching staff available to him at Brisbane then he could be one of the great steals of the trade period. He's a very talented player.


With Stefan Martin turning 33 next month, the Lions have a decision to make. Do they believe Archie Smith is good enough to be a competent No. 1 ruckman who can give Neale, Zorko, McCluggage and Berry first use when Martin retires in the next year or two? If not, then start planning for the trade and free agency period next year to target a gun ruckman to come in and take full advantage of the star midfield the club has built. Oscar McInerney has shown enough signs that he can be a decent back-up as that valuable forward-ruckman, so nailing down the No. 1 man to take over from Martin is the next step in the puzzle to achieve sustained success.


A: Charlie Cameron, Harris Andrews, Lachie Neale

B+: Mitch Robinson, Stefan Martin, Dayne Zorko, Marcus Adams

B: Darcy Gardiner, Jarryd Lyons

B-: Daniel Rich, Daniel McStay, Lincoln McCarthy

C+: Josh Walker, Oscar McInerney, Rhys Mathieson

C: Ben Keays, Allen Christensen, Ryan Bastinac, Nick Robertson, Sam Skinner, Ryan Lester, Matt Eagles, Archie Smith, Grant Birchall, Cam Ellis-Yolmen

C-: Nil

Developing*: Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Cam Rayner, Cedric Cox, Alex Witherden, Eric Hipwood, Zac Bailey, Connor Ballenden, Ely Smith, Noah Answerth

Developing: Jacob Allison, Corey Lyons, Toby Wooller, Brandon Starcevich, Jack Payne, Mitch Hinge, Tom Fullarton, James Madden, Thomas Berry, Thomas Joyce, Connor McFadyen

Please note: Developing* refers to players aged 21 or under with the potential to become A or B-grade players in the future.


The Lions tried to lure Magpie Jamie Elliott to the Gabba to form a trio of dangerous small forwards with Cameron and McCarthy, while at the same time releasing Cameron to play higher up the ground. With that in mind, and with a number of good small forwards available in this draft, expect the Lions to draft one with an early pick, either 16 or 21. The Lions will be in a good position with those picks to grab a draft slider, given there is always a player who drops down the order on draft night that clubs thought would have been taken earlier. The balance of the Brisbane list means they will have the luxury to do that and go best available - the player they have ranked highest on their talent board when it's time for their pick rather than target specific needs. They've drafted and recruited smartly over the last 2-3 years.


The Lions are here to stay and there are exciting times ahead for the supporters who have been starved of finals action basically since the three-peat from 2001-2003. There is so much talent on this list that the glory days of that three-peat could be a reality once again and in the very near future. I can see this team achieving a period of sustained success.

News Corp Australia

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