By Sasha Lennon
As a Victorian living in Brisbane, Saturday night’s inaugural ‘Q-Clash’ between the hapless Brisbane Lions and the exuberant Gold Coast Suns was a mouth-watering affair.
But for Lions coach Michael Voss, I imagine the result left a particularly foul taste.
Voss must be nervous. A Brownlow medallist, three-time premiership-winning captain and without argument one of the AFL’s all-time greats, Vossy has had a terrible time of it as coach.
The Lions great was widely criticised in 2009 after abandoning an offer to be John Worsfold’s assistant at West Coast (an offer he had originally accepted) to take up the head coaching position at Brisbane.
However, Vossy did lead the Lions to a semi-final that year, though some might argue that was just the after-effect of the great Leigh Matthews.
As the 2010 campaign began to fall apart, Vossy’s critics only got louder. By season’s end the Lions finished 13th with seven wins and 15 losses. Not good.
Whether it was bravado, ignorance or inexperience, throughout that year Voss’s body language and a lot of what he had to say (to the media at least) reeked of arrogance. Poor recruiting decisions didn’t help his cause either (remember Brendan Fevola?).
Perhaps Voss had just become too used to nothing but success in football. For the average punter, it looked like he simply couldn’t recognise underperformance or worse, failure.
In the stands at the Gabba, the once ever-happy-go-lucky Lions supporters were becoming visibly uneasy. One could clearly sense the collective mood swing, the change in atmosphere pervasive. And like the damp and repressive summer heat which helps define the flavour of this town, it was impossible to escape.
I have to admit, as a Hawthorn supporter who nonetheless quite likes the Lions, it was nice to see these ‘Brisbane’ supporters experience a sense of helpless disappointment and that uneasy feeling of not knowing if and when your team will rise again.
Rumblings were even heard from the Lions’ den but despite this, Brisbane was always going to persist with its favourite son throughout 2010 no matter what the final win/loss ratio was.
Towards the end of last year, the Lions commissioned a review of its football department, followed by the implementation of many of the recommendations that were made in an effort to re-build the club.
But so far, it doesn’t look to be working (although Voss does appear to have lost his unwavering arrogance, replacing it with a keener sense of humility).
The Brisbane Lions sit on the bottom of the ladder with a 0-6 start to the season, a season thus far characterised by lacklustre and directionless football.
Taking nothing away from the Gold Coast Suns, who despite their obvious inexperience were a pleasure to watch, Saturday night’s result underlined just where the Lions are at right now. Vossy’s decision to persist with Daniel Merrett at full-forward despite a gaping hole in Brisbane’s defence did nothing for his coaching credibility.
Voss will have his tenure at Brisbane reviewed at or towards the end of this season. According to reports in the Courier-Mail, Lions Chairman Angus Johnson is (sensibly) providing Voss with no guarantees beyond this season until then. He stressed that despite Saturday night’s loss to the new kids on the block, the club would not be making any knee-jerk reactions regarding Voss’s future as coach.
The problem for Voss is, we’ve all heard that before and if things continue as they are, Brisbane’s favourite son could very well be out the door sooner rather than later.
I hope that doesn’t happen. Ending Vossy’s reign at Stanley Street that way would leave a foul taste in anyone’s mouth.
Sasha Lennon is a Brisbane-based Knacker whose writing can be found at http://sashasoapbox.blogspot.com/