Playing for the Brisbane Lions reserves

Playing for the Brisbane Lions reserves may not mean much for some, but at the time it meant the world to me and I could barely contain my excitement in the lead up to the match.

At the time I was 16 years old and training with the NT Thunder, hoping to get selected in their under-age championships sides later in the year. Earlier in the week I received word that there was a possibility of filling in as a top up player for the Lions reserves in the opening round of the QAFL season at TIO Stadium. This eventually turned out to be a reality and I spent the week nervously anticipating the match.

On the Thursday before the game, all of the top up players were introduced to coach Craig ‘fly’ McRae and assistant coach Matthew Lynch, the brother of Brisbane champion Alastair. The Brisbane lads had just got off the plane earlier that afternoon and were having a light kick. My kicking partners for the warm up were Pearce Hanley and international scholarship holder Don Barry. Considering we played the following day, we only had a very light session that involved walking through the game plans and team structures. This was a good thing as I would have been nervous if it were a proper session and it would have made me spray my kicks.

I tried to relax as much as possible on Friday in preparation for the game but I could not help but feel nervous. I arrived at TIO Stadium for the curtain-raiser game, which was NT Thunder reserves verses a Tiwi Island representative side. At half time I went down to the Brisbane change rooms to join the players. They seemed like a good bunch of fellas and marvelled at the style of footy that the Tiwi Islanders played. I was issued my playing gear (jumper number nine) and had my name checked off the list. McRae had a chat to us about what our roles were and what he expected from us. He explained that I would be playing in the forward line and that he wanted me to have a defensive mindset and constantly harass and tackle. I was situated on the half forward flank and told that I had a licence to run as far down as centre half back, but no further than that. After the chat we were left time to do our own preparations and given a salty Powerade that did not taste that great. Not long after this we went onto the ground for our first proper warm-up. We did triangle kicking and my partners were my mate, and fellow top up, Joey and also Claye Beams.

I spent the first five minutes of the game running around like a headless chook until I got my first disposal. I gathered an in-dispute ball on the wing and delivered an errant handball and copped a knee to the back of my head for my troubles. My second disposal, and first kick, was much better when I crumbed a drop mark from forward Aaron Cornelius to kick a goal from a low dribbling snap about 35 metres out on a 45 degree angle. The goal brought my confidence up and I finished off the half pretty well. I missed an opportunity for a second goal in the second term when I kicked a behind from a snap out of a pack.

At half time I had another salty Powerade and a disgusting tasting energy gel. It was obvious that the heat got to Troy Selwood who spent most of the break spewing up in one of the bins. I started the third quarter on the bench but went back on the field halfway through the quarter. I swapped with Jesse O’Brien who was playing on the ball and went straight into the centre square. I realised I had very little chance of contributing to the clearance so I yelled out to Beams to swap with me. I kicked my second goal shortly after when I ran into the forward line by myself and took an uncontested mark. Despite the shot on goal being from close range I was very nervous as I made my approach but fortunately it went straight through the middle.

My calves started to cramp up after three quarter time and the salt tablets I took did not seem to have much effect. We ended up losing the match by almost a hundred points but I was pleased with my efforts and grateful for the experience.

We had an on-ground recovery walk immediately after the match around the centre square. I was surprised that as part of the Lions’ recovery there was practically an endless supply of junk food for the players. There were large pizzas, soft drink, chocolate milk, sandwiches and a lot of other stuff. Xavier Clarke was out injured at the time but he went around asking the top up boys for their shorts and socks. I pretended not to notice and went to the toilets and put my shorts and socks in my bag as a souvenir of the game. Playing for the Lions reserves was an awesome experience!


About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. John Harms says

    Now that’s an experience few of us have had – or are likely to have. I really enjoyed the level of detail, and also the sense of privilege you felt. Where are you these days? And are you playing footy?

  2. Good on you Jackson. Did you get any other opportunities? Where did you play the rest of your footy?

  3. I love the difference in mindset between people. Some consider players failures if they “only” had 13 games at the elite level. This is nonsense. Jackson is like many of us who would love to have the chance to test ourselves. Having said that, Jackson acquitted himself far better in this company than I would have.

  4. Jackson Clark says

    Thanks heaps for the responses. I am 18 years old at the moment and still loving to play footy! I had a season that was interrupted through injury (wrote about on here actually) and have just finished a season with St Marys in the NTFL. At the moment I am flying in/flying out for a side in country Victoria. But yeah still ambitious about my footy and loving it as much as ever!

  5. Phantom says

    Do you study or work Jackson? Next year you could cross Bass Strait. Plenty get drafted from here.

    Keep your eye on the Wynyard weekly report.

    Cheers, Phantom

  6. Jackson Clark says

    Yeah I am studying at Charles Darwin University up here so unfortunately I am a bit limited with my playing options!

  7. Richard Naco says

    Fantastic story, Jackson, and good luck with both your study and AFL aspirations. Amazing journey for a 16yo, and hopefully you’ll get to kick on.

  8. Most of us are Almanac followers are now Coodabeens! We need more young uns like Jackson reporting back of their weekly games.

    Jackson, send through the odd match report, very interesting for the rest of us.

  9. Jackson Clark says

    Thanks again for the replies. Richard, no real AFL aspirations here as realistically I would not be good enough. I would be happy with a good career in a top state or country league, which would still be an achievement in itself. Thanks Matt, I enjoy writing about my experiences and they mean a lot to me so I definitely have a few more planned.

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