Ladder Position: 13th
Win-Loss and Percentage: 10-12, 91.01%
In a season that surpassed any realistic expectations, the Brisbane Lions have well and truly shown signs that they’re on the way back.
Ten wins for the year is a big improvement on four for last season, but most impressively for Brisbane fans would be the victories over top-two (at the time) sides West Coast and Adelaide.
Heading into their round 10 clash against the Lions, West Coast sat on top of the table and were unbackable favourites. From the opening bounce, though, it was clear that an energised Brisbane had shown up.
After momentum swung back and forth throughout a surprisingly close game, the now famous James Polkinghorne goal from the centre square with just over a minute left sealed the match that will go down in club folklore.
Their win over the Crows was similarly impressive. In an audition of sorts for star Adelaide forward Kurt Tippett, the Lions recovered from a woeful first quarter to get over the line in dramatic fashion, while also starting a three-match winning streak to end the year.
But what’s equally pleasing for the club is that they quite convincingly won every match they were supposed to, quashing the upset losses to clubs like the Gold Coast and Melbourne that have been a frustratingly recurring theme throughout the last few seasons for the club.
To add to this, they’ve unearthed some great talent. Dayne Zorko is the one you will have heard about, but Mitch Golby, Claye Beams, Elliot Yeo and Josh Green have had similarly exciting seasons and Brisbane no doubt have high hopes that they’ll take the next step to establish themselves as permanent best 22 players next season.
Jonathan Brown (unrestricted): Only a matter of time until an extension is signed off. Will be going nowhere.
Simon Black (unrestricted): Similarly to Brown, will play on in 2013 at the Lions. Small details being sorted out before he signs.
Ashley Mcgrath (unrestricted): The window for him to return home to play for one of the Western Australian clubs has almost undoubtedly passed. He’ll play out his career as a Lion.
Josh Drummond (restricted): It’s hard to see another club taking a punt on the classy defender whose career has been often sadly hampered by injuries. Likely to be in Brisbane colours still next season.
8, 23, 30, 49, 67
Needs from the draft and trade period
The biggest challenge for the Lions no doubt lies in the key posts. They’ve got a very good young midfield group, two of the most potential-filled young ruckmen in the competition in Matthew Leuenberger and Billy Longer, and also some clever small forwards and composed small backs.
With Jonathan Brown, Daniel Merrett and Matt Maguire all on the wrong side of twenty-eight, though, the development of players such as Jordan Lisle, Justin Clarke, Sam Michael, Aaron Cornelius and Bryce Retzlaff (assuming the last two aren’t de-listed or traded) will be paramount to how strong a side this Lions group can be.
That’s why Kurt Tippett will be heavily pursued in this year’s trade period. Don’t be surprised to see the club draft a few key position prospects too. The off season will be very telling in determining whether or not the Lions can build on a season where great potential was shown. Chairman Angus Johnson has given the clear directive to the club’s recruitment staff to ‘strengthen our list’, so it’s possible that Brisbane still have a great deal of action ahead of them before 2012 is over.
Todd Banfield: An electrifying player at his best, but has had a very average 2012 and could return home to WA if one of West Coast or Fremantle offer something enticing.
Aaron Cornelius: A talented forward who just hasn’t had a break-out performance yet. Has some of the safest hands you’ll find and would hate to leave the club, but his inability to cement a spot in their best 22 would suggest he might be on the outer.
Patrick Karnezis: The club would be absolutely loath to give him up, but there have been homesick rumours for some time. At any rate, it’s incredibly unlikely he’ll leave before his current contract runs out at the end of next season.
Kurt Tippett: The one most commonly linked with the Lions. Common consensus would say he’s coming back to Queensland, but they may have a battle on their hands to convince him the trip down the M1 to the Gold Coast isn’t too far to drive.
Xavier Ellis: A rumour that has been doing the rounds for some time. He might jump at the opportunity to play more senior footy.
Alex Silvagni: Inexplicably unpopular with Ross Lyon, yet very popular with former coach and now Brisbane assistant Mark Harvey. Could add to the Lions’ KPD depth.
Gold Coast Suns: Could be a few of them on Brisbane’s radar. Is revenge on the cards?
Expectations for 2013
An optimistic guess would be a finals appearance. With none of this year’s finalists looking likely to drop out, though, and Richmond, Carlton and Essendon all strong chances of pushing their way in, the Lions will have their work well and truly cut out.