With another NAB Cup Grand Final come and gone, this year’s edition saw the Brisbane Lions take home the cup with a convincing 40-point rout of the Carlton Blues.

Casual football fans will take little notice of what happened at Etihad Stadium, which is a shame as it was an enthralling back and forth contest which provided a good insight into how both teams are shaping up for the 2013 season for the most part.

The contest started out hot with both teams eager to stamp their superiority. Carlton’s early pressure was consistent with the rest of its NAB Cup campaign, with Brisbane finding it hard to get clean possession. However, the Lions would settle and through their young midfield, were able to break the game open with some fast-paced football down the middle of the ground, converting their chances and taking an early lead.

Carlton would hit back early in the second quarter, showing a lot of resilience and determination to make it a contest, taking a 13-point lead into half time. From there, the game was never broken open by either side until the final quarter when Brisbane took control and never looked back.

There were several standout players in the game, in particular Daniel Rich, who was awarded the Michael Tuck medal for best afield. Leading the charge for Brisbane’s young, energetic midfield, he collected 23 disposals to go along with two marks, three tackles and a goal. Assisting him was Pearce Hanley with an impressive 30 touches, Dayne Zorko with 25 and Jonathan Brown, who finished with a bag of five goals.

For Carlton, Bryce Gibbs was impressive with 24 disposals to go along with his game-high seven tackles. Other standout players for the Blues included Kane Lucas, who had a game-high 34 disposals, as well as Kade Simpson, contributing with 30 touches. It is also interesting to note that no Carlton player scored multiple goals, with all goals being scored by seven different players.

There was a lot to be learned from the game with some very promising signs for both teams, despite the margin blowing out in the end.

For Carlton, it is clear that new coach Mick Malthouse has already imprinted his way of coaching on the side, with much of Carlton’s attacking play being focused around moving the ball along the boundary line, reminiscent of his style at Collingwood. Carlton was also able to respond early to Brisbane’s goal onslaught, which is a great sign for teams who are to contend for finals. Resilience in a football club is always a key factor in success.

The only concerning thing for the Blues is that they were outplayed in the midfield, with Brisbane dominating the clearances 49 to 39. Carlton also had 11 less scoring shots and 13 less inside 50s, despite winning the overall disposal count, something that may be addressed in meetings in preparation for Round 1.

As for Brisbane, there was an incredible amount of positivity and promise coming out of the game. The Lions’ young midfield were able to get the best of Carlton nearly all game and senior players such as Brent Moloney and old warrior Jonathan Brown provided much-needed inspiration when required.

Brisbane’s ability to run out the game was also pivotal to their win. The new interchange cap clearly affected Carlton late in the game, with Brisbane’s young legs able to hold out and turn the last quarter into a one-sided affair. Coming into the pre-season with no great expectations, the Lions head home to Queensland full of optimism and belief that they can make a serious run at the top eight this season.

The NAB Cup Grand Final made for an entertaining game of football and the Lions will soak up the victory, but it’s time to back up that form in the real deal. Now the focus shifts to the home and away season, where both these clubs will be determined to continue their good form.