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Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Brisbane

Ryan Lester, Nick Robertson, Harris Andrews and Rohan Bewick celebrate the Lions’ best win of 2017 against Essendon in round 15. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Brisbane

Ronny Lerner    

2017 record: 5 wins, 17 losses (18th)

Luke Hodge (Hawthorn), Charlie Cameron (Adelaide), Cameron Rayner (Western Jets), Zac Bailey (Norwood), Brandon Starcevich (East Perth), Toby Wooller (Oakleigh Chargers), Connor Ballenden (Brisbane Lions NEAFL), Jack Payne (Noosa)

Tom Rockliff (Port Adelaide), Josh Schache (Western Bulldogs), Ryan Harwood (delisted), Jarrad Jansen (delisted), Josh Clayton (delisted), Jonathan Freeman (delisted), Blake Grewar (delisted), Michael Close (delisted), Matt Hammelmann (delisted), Reuben William (delisted)

There’s no denying the lowly Lions have a trio of genuine A-grade midfielders in captain Dayne Beams, freshly-minted All-Australian Dayne Zorko and new recruit Charlie Cameron. They will provide a very solid foundation for promising on-ballers such as Hugh McCluggage, Cam Rayner and Rhys Mathieson to learn from and develop. Luke Hodge will provide priceless leadership and guidance for the raw playing group and his recruitment could prove to be a masterstroke. Brisbane also have one of the game’s most underrated ruckmen in Stefan Martin, who ranked fourth for hitouts in 2017, while they appear to be forming a very reliable key defensive unit in Harris Andrews, Darcy Gardiner and Daniel McStay. The trio are aged either 21 or 22 and loom as the backbone of the side for the next decade.

Experience. The club heads into the 2018 season with both the third-youngest and fourth-least experienced list. As of round one, the Lions’ average age per player will be 22 years and 225 days and average games per player will be 42. In the long run, this could end up being a huge strength, provided they finally halt the “go-home factor”, but in the short-term it would appear the Lions are going to have to experience more pain before they can begin their ascent up the mountain. They have huge issues to address and it will likely take more than one pre-season to do so. In 2017, Brisbane’s defence ranked last. They leaked 215 more points than the next-worst side at an average of 115 per game. No side can expect good results when they’re conceding 20 goals a week. A lot of that has to do with their stark lack of pressure further afield – they were ranked 17th for tackles and 18th for contested possessions. Another cause for concern is their dearth of key forwards. It was surprising that despite trading Josh Schache to the Western Bulldogs, they decided to delist Michael Close and Jonathan Freeman, too. All they really have left now is star youngster Eric Hipwood and Josh Walker. Daniel McStay has played forward on occasion in his career so maybe he will spend a bit of time in attack next year. Draftees Toby Wooller and Connor Ballenden might be fast-tracked to fill the breach also.

Hipwood whet the footy public’s appetite in 2017 and looks set to explode next year. To boot 30 goals as a teenager while playing the hardest position on the ground in the worst team in the competition, one also ranked last for inside 50s, tells you all you need to know about this kid. The key forward is a special talent and if he can just get a bit more supply in 2018 he will give Brisbane fans plenty to smile about in what looms as another tough season.

Daniel Rich is a talented footballer but his output too often belies his standing at the club. Remarkably, the fresh-faced West Australian is now the Lions’ second-most experienced player behind Hodge, but he likes to do the pretty stuff more than get his hands dirty. He laid just 35 tackles from 22 games in 2017. If he played at a Victorian club, the scrutiny on him would be much greater, but perhaps he gets away with a lot more by playing “off Broadway” in Queensland and in a weak side that can’t afford to drop him. If the Lions are to take the next step, senior players like Rich have to do more than just rack up the numbers and furnish their disposal tallies.

B: Luke Hodge, Harris Andrews, Darcy Gardiner
HB: Alex Witherden, Daniel McStay, Daniel Rich
C: Dayne Zorko, Mitch Robinson, Cameron Rayner
HF: Charlie Cameron, Josh Walker, Lewis Taylor
F: Ryan Lester, Eric Hipwood, Ryan Bastinac
Foll: Stefan Martin, Dayne Beams, Hugh McCluggage
Inter: Allen Christensen, Sam Mayes, Nick Robertson, Rhys Mathieson
Emerg: Jarrod Berry, Jake Barrett, Tom Cutler

Rayner might not have played a game yet, but the No.1 draft pick is so impressive that he wins a spot in the starting 18. Hodge and the precocious Witherden have pushed Mayes and Robertson out of defence and on to the bench. Robinson is a welcome return to the line-up after a foot injury restricted him to seven games in 2017, and a fully-fit Christensen should add some spark. Berry, Barrett and Cutler will get their chances throughout the year.

  1. Cedric Cox not there ? I know hes highly rated by the Lions.

  2. Calling Charlie Cameron an “A Grade Midfielder” is a bit of a stretch isn’t it?
    He averaged 14 disposal / game in 2017, his best year ever.
    He has played one A Grade game (2017 Prelim) and that was mostly as a forward.

  3. While a good get Cameron is not an A Grader ..lets hope he proves himself to be one…Im also not sure on Bastinac being a starter…the other positive is that the Lions have the most depth theyve had in the last decade – they have options in the 2s…Fagan has provided practical direction ..and improvement..as the kids grow bigger bodies and continue the game plan tgey will cause otger clubs some real headaches…its coming. Tom Bell, Bastinac and even Josh Walker may be on their last warnings. Use it or lose fellas.

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