New South Wales clubs Sydney and Greater Western Sydney have the luxury of an extended salary cap; more commonly known as the “cost of living allowance” that makes luring talent more accessible.  The same can be said for the Gold Coast, one of the newer franchises in the league, who also benefit from a temporarily increased salary cap and incentives.

In contrast to what these three clubs gain in the form of a monetary advantage, the Lions are lacking a significant draw-card, and are in desperate need of assistance.

The Lions are one of the least attractive clubs in the country; a fair assessment, given where Port Adelaide was just 12 months ago. The Lions are losing players to “homesickness”; a slap in the face of budding AFL draftees who would quite happily accept the offer to play at any club, regardless of whether or not it was in their home state.

The cost of living allowance aside, one must question if Brisbane have done absolutely everything in their power to retain their talent.  It appears that the club has failed to create an environment which players want to be a part of, rather than wanting to leave, as a significant number are set to do.

The exodus of so many young, talented players is something that has rarely been seen before in the AFL.

If any club was set to be a less desirable destination, it would be Greater Western Sydney, situated in suburban NRL territory. Yet Brisbane, situated in sunbathed Queensland, and lush with rain-forests and beaches, can’t seem to hold onto several players drafted with high picks; some as recent as two years ago.

Brisbane has been stagnant for the past few years but, for the most part, were only a kick away from a finals berth this year.  So why is there such a mad rush to vacate the place?

A player at the Lions has opened up candidly to Bound for Glory News, and shed a bit more light on the inside goings-on at the Brisbane Lions. For obvious reasons, he wished to remain anonymous.

“Opportunity and success are two different things in regards to their reasons for leaving. It’s not necessarily homesickness, but of course it’s easy to single that out in order to make the lure home more accessible,” the young Lions player said – alluding to “excuses” being the reasoning.

“To be frank, the players leaving weren’t heavily invested in by (Michael) “Vossy”. A few of them really battled hard in the NEAFL and reaped little to no reward for their efforts.”

When asked about why this was the case, the Brisbane player made a startling statement.

“I think in Vossy’s head, he did have his favourites for one reason or another. But there was a time where we weren’t exactly winning, and he was reluctant to try new things and give a few blokes consistent time at senior level.  As a young player, if you’re still not getting a game despite doing all the right things asked of you in the reserves, and the senior team is doing poorly, the writing is really on the wall, isn’t it?”

When asked about whether it would’ve been a different story if the several departing players were given more opportunity, the response was, again, quite blunt.

“No, I don’t think so… It’s weird because, with (Justin) “Leppa” coming in, you’d think that some of these guys would enjoy the fresh opportunity to kick-start their careers again.”

It seems that no matter which way you dissect it, players such as Patrick Karnezis, Elliott Yeo, Billy Longer and Jared Polec want to return home, regardless of a new incoming coach and re-structured board. The damage has already been done.

When asked about what Brisbane as a football club could do better in order to create a culture which not only makes players want to remain with the club, but also lures talent in, the reasoning was obvious.

“Coming from Victoria, personally, a bit more could be done in terms of making that transition (interstate) a little easier. The club have set up a house for new draftees to live in, rather than fostering us out to families, which realistically made me miss home even more at one point,”

“Welfare is something that the club have really invested into off the back of these guys going home, and it’s something that can only benefit us in the long term, but it bemuses me why we lacked in it so heavily to begin with.”

When asked if he enjoyed the culture and lifestyle of living in Brisbane, more positives were suggested.

“I absolutely love it, I couldn’t imagine playing anywhere else. Not only did Brisbane take a punt on me, but they’ve shown faith in me and have invested in me in more ways than just drafting me,”

“I guess I feel a little bit luckier, considering I’ve had a decent run in the senior side because of minimal injury concerns in my time here. I guess the position I play also helps to keep me playing more regular senior football, than not.”

“I’ve established strong roots here, and I’m really enjoying the Queensland life. It’s a lot warmer than Melbourne!” he joked.

But with that aside, this Lions player was adamant that things will eventually turn around, and that it was important that the senior group make sure they forge strong relationships with in-coming players, to ensure the next generation of Lions felt that they could see out their careers in Brisbane.

“The younger guys especially, we have a close bond. The majority of us have come from interstate, and it’s forced us to rely on one and other, but guys like (Simon) Blacky and (Jonathon) Browny are like older brothers. Their wives have us over for dinner, and we make an effort to be social outside the club, too.”

In the end, the young Brisbane player was frank about what he considered for the future of the Lions.

“I guess you’d love to have that accessible money to not only keep players here like the Suns and Giants and even Sydney do, to help lure mature recruits in. At the end of the day, though, those who want to be part of this club will stay, and those who don’t want to work hard for it will go.”

That seems to be the trend; success and opportunity. Young players need to be made to feel as though they aren’t just playing football for a club. They need to feel as though they are the very glue that holds the fabric of the club together.

While conjecture remains over whether there would have been such a significant departure of young players if  Michael Voss had remained as senior coach, or if the reasons behind the exodus of players was merely because of the way that the situation was mishandled, this walkout of so much young talent is incredibly worrying, and will very likely put the Lions several years behind in terms of development.

Although a reinstatement of Brisbane’s extended salary cap would help their current situation, if a player does not want to play for a club, money will ultimately not be enough to make him stay.

1 COMMENT

  1. What an amazing insight to the situation. I am not at all surprised over Voss’ arrogance,stupidity and lack of player management. These kids were poorly managed and were not given opportunities as others. Especially Patty K who was so dominant and who was so above the NEAFL level. My information was he received mis messages every week from Voss so they created this ridiculous myth about how bad he was defensively. this kid dominated pre season, the NAB andwasready to have a great season and was in the best for Round 1. Then nowhere to be seen again this year. Fact is Voss did not like him and from all reports he is a nice, humble and respectful young man. And a player with enormous talent. Voss failed to make this kid a player. I feel sorry foray AfL club the hires Voss as a coach in some form. His ego and attitude is beyond logic!!

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