AFL: 1-5 for the Lions in rebuilding stage

Billings & Raines collide in a tough contest on ANZAC Day (photo: AFL Media)
Billings & Raines collide in a tough contest on ANZAC Day (photo: AFL Media)

It has been a while since I took some sort of “point out a problem” stand on Beyond Realisation.  This time around, the target is the Brisbane Lions.

However, rather than call the Lions a target, it is instead a topic that got me very excited on ANZAC Day.  The Lions mustered their first win – albeit a very, very nervous one – by three points against a determined St. Kilda outfit in Wellington. After a scratchy start with some brilliant bursts of play, the inevitable win was coming, a question of when and where, not if.  More importantly, the victory was influenced by a lot of the next generation of Lions players.

In many respects it was torturous for me to watch the likes of Nick Robertson, James Aish and Dayne Zorko bloom for a short period against Richmond, then subsequently get torn to shreds.  Not this time though – they were influential in bringing the maroon boys home on Friday, with Jack Redden (29 disposals) displaying why he’s been touted as something of a superstar.

There is someone else in that group, at least for the St. Kilda match, that bucks the age trend: Joel Patfull.  I cannot applaud his work effort enough; two best and fairest – consecutively – justifies the commitment he puts into the team.  Holding Nick Reiwoldt to just one goal stymied the Saints scoring.  Stop Reiwoldt, stop St. Kilda.  It was pretty evident.

Now, while the win has me excited, it will not have me running out the door telling the whole street about my team and their four points.  Instead, I want to bring out the drawing board.

Coach Justin Leppitsch has experience from being an assistant coach at Richmond.  I would like to think that counts for something at a team with so much talent and looking to put the consistent performances on the board.

Leppitsch quite rightly pointed out that the game was swinging away from the Lions at the end.

“We were challenged and halfway through that last quarter the game was probably only heading one way.

“They were really running on top of us. I’m proud for the guys to fight it out.”

New captain Jed Adcock was leading by example, which is one thing I believe the Lions must do as a team.  Jonathan Brown is still there, and he is still kicking goals – albeit at a lesser rate than his primetime.

What I have liked about Brisbane in recent weeks is despite lacking a second key tall forward, the midfielders are pushing up the ground to create options.  For a few years now Lions fans, myself included, have been almost pining for someone who can provide another target, giving Brown breathing space and asking opposition players to work harder.

Robertson, at 188cm, has played only three games, but he has both the run and ball control to play almost a utility role.

A quick fix does not happen overnight.  The crisis was evident when Brendan Fevola came into the fray into 2010.  Now, there is a much cleaner, and much sharper image at the Lions.  Not only that, but the traditional Fitzroy Lion will return to the playing jumper in 2015.

Management of the talent on the Lions list is crucial.  In some ways, the management against Hawthorn was actually okay.  While the Hawks ran out dominant victors, the Lions showed plenty of promise.

It is hard as a supporter to follow the team week by week, but learning from the positives and negatives of the game can only be a good stepping stone forward.

I have always enjoyed watching the Lions put in four quarter performances, and last year against Essendon in Melbourne – where the Lions triumphed by 10 points – was a joy to watch.

Leppitsch & the Lions celebrate their first win (photo: AFL Media/Brisbane Lions)
Leppitsch & the Lions celebrate their first win (photo: AFL Media/Brisbane Lions)

Back on the game against St. Kilda in Wellington, and Leppitsch’s concerns post-game could make one or two fans go wide-eyed.

“I was worried because we started kicking the ball out on the full and made silly mistakes.

“One thing our guys have struggled to do in the first five weeks is when we’ve been challenged just hold the fort a bit and I thought we did that better and didn’t leak as many goals so that was one good sign.”

It is not so much a matter of rebuilding now as it is consistency.  All the little pieces of the puzzle are there. Time can play either a for or against factor here for the Lions.  In my eyes, I am hoping it is for.  After 10 wins per season in the last two seasons, the club has a fair way to go to get to those heights for 2014.  We never know what might happen.

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