Having one of the youngest lists in the competition and recovering from a horrific trading period in prior years, Brisbane weren’t promising miracles as they entered the 2013 season. They were looking to obviously improve on their 13th place finish in 2012 but most importantly they looked to continue the development of their future stars. In our season preview, Bound For Glory predicted that the Lions would be a mid-range team, finishing from eighth to 13th on the ladder. By the end of the football year, they had certainly improved on-field, but off-field was a different story.
2013 season overview
The Lions’ season kicked off with a disappointing upset loss to the Western Bulldogs, and by round seven they would be in dire straits with only two wins on the board. Inconsistent form continued, but a number of performances from the young brigade brought optimism to the coaching staff and fans alike. Tom Rockliff continued to dominate the midfield and was offered great support by fellow ball magnet Jack Redden and silky smooth defender Mitch Golby. The first half of the season was quite lacklustre, but there were two significant highlights. The first was when the Lions upset premiership contenders Essendon in round eight. The second and probably Brisbane’s greatest moment in 2013 came against Geelong at the Gabba. In Ash McGrath’s 200th game, the Lions made a miraculous comeback after trailing by over eight goals in the third quarter. It was completed in a frantic final minute which saw them take the ball from defence to attack, with McGrath marking on a lead and the veteran kicking truly after the siren to clinch the game. The massive upset was a turning point for Michael Voss and his young squad as they went on to win four of the next six games. Unbelievably, they were still a legitimate chance of making finals and everything looked like it was business as usual.
That was until August 13th, when Michael Voss was sacked out of the blue with four rounds remaining in the season and his team on the up. It shocked the AFL community and in hindsight was an incredibly confusing decision by the Brisbane hierarchy.
Former Fremantle coach and then-Brisbane assistant Mark Harvey was chosen as caretaker for the rest of 2013 as the group continued their quest for finals football. A tough loss to Richmond was followed by comfortable wins against GWS and the Western Bulldogs. Heading into a final round showdown against Geelong at Kardinia Park, thanks to the Essendon punishment, Brisbane needed a win to steal the final spot in the eight. A dramatic back and forth encounter saw the lead change numerous times and much like their previous game, the Lions and Cats fought till the dying moments. The ball was launched into the Brisbane forward line and an intense struggle took place with bodies flying all over the place in search of that vital possession that would decide the game. With a mere eight seconds on the clock, young utility Ryan Lester snapped from about 15 metres out but Brisbane’s dreams were crushed when Paul Chapman intercepted the kick for a behind. It was a heartbreaking end to the year for Brisbane, but a year that brought about much promise and laid out the groundwork for 2014.
The Irish convert had a breakout year for the Lions, averaging 21 disposals and becoming a weapon through the midfield. He racked up possessions and executed many attacking forays for Brisbane, becoming one of their top players in the process. Hanley was unlucky not to win the Brisbane best and fairest, being beaten out by Joel Patfull. He will be a major contributor for the Lions in years to come.
A second round pick in 2010, Lester continued to develop his game, contributing to a midfield that is growing in stature. He had a number of standout games including a 27-disposal, six-tackle performance against the Swans. Lester is one of a number of players that form the making of a strong midfield that could set up Brisbane in 2014.
The feisty small forward had a great year kicking 24 goals in a season where the Lions struggled for attacking options. His pressure up forward was also a highlight, averaging three tackles a game and giving opposition defenders headaches whenever he was near the ball.
It was a major issue all season with Brisbane winning consecutive games only twice and having a number of losses stretching out to big margins. Their performance against sides in similar ladder positions was also disappointing, with defeats against West Coast, North Melbourne and Adelaide all proving costly in the long run.
The departure of young players during the trade period was a massive disappointment and halted the development of the squad. Sam Docherty, Elliot Yeo, Jared Polec, Billy Longer and Patrick Karnezis all departed Brisbane for a multitude of reasons. The depth of talent in this group is enormous and the fact that all five players were drafted within the last four years is worrying.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom in trade week, however, as Brisbane picked up some valuable draft picks. By the end of the trade period, the Lions had stockpiled picks 22, 25, 28, 33 and 34. This set them up perfectly for a chance to inject serious young talent into the side to replace the aforementioned departures. They also managed to pick up Trent West from Geelong, who strengthens their ruck stocks. The continuous injury problems with Matthew Leuenberger makes the recruitment of West very handy. Young forward Jackson Paine and Richmond utility Luke McGuane were also acquired through trades and free agency respectively.
Brisbane, along with Hawthorn, GWS and St Kilda, were probably the biggest winners of the draft. The mass amount of second-round picks assured that they would pick up some versatile players that could shape Brisbane’s future. They managed to draft two youngsters that could have easily gone in the first round. Key defender Darcy Gardiner and speedy midfielder Lewis Taylor were steals at picks 22 and 28. The Lions also secured key position player Daniel McStay, rebounding defender Tom Cutler and medium defender Nick Robertson. They wrapped up their draft by taking their academy selection Jonathan Freeman who could be a future star at centre half forward.
It was an up and down season for Brisbane, with a sacked coach here and a heart-stopper there, but throughout it all they continued to develop a team that is bursting at the seams with young talent. Justin Leppitsch was appointed senior coach for 2014, and he has the experience to take the Lions into finals contention.
Overall grade: C+