Round 15 – Essendon v Brisbane: Could these young Lions create their next dynasty?

I’ve been waiting for an Almanac write-up from an over-the-moon Brisbane supporter or a disgruntled Essendon fan but, alas, nothing, so far. So, I’ll just have to say something myself – even though it’s not exactly an account of Sunday’s exciting game.

I almost didn’t bother with this one. Knowing I’d be in Melbourne over the weekend, and not having access to Fox Footy, I taped all nine games before I left Sydney on Thursday, and would look forward to plonking myself on the couch for nearly 18 hours the following Monday night and Tuesday after returning home.

All I saw over the weekend was our Swans game on Friday night at the G. Of course I was there. I hate knowing results before I watch a game, so, somehow I managed to avoid all media – especially sports-related – over the weekend. And that is something, when in Melbourne!

Driving through Albury late on Sunday, we stopped off at a pub, and the last quarter of Freo vs St Kilda was playing. I didn’t even realise I wanted Freo to win (for the Swans’ sake) as I wasn’t aware of the ladder positions or the previous results of the weekend at that stage. It was only with a couple of minutes to go that the bloke next to us said ‘You want St Kilda to lose don’t you.’

After unpacking the car when arriving in Sydney Monday late afternoon, I plonked myself.

It is now Tuesday afternoon and I’ve watched seven matches, the Brisbane game the only one to go. Will I even bother? Surely the Bombers will atone for last week’s loss, there’s no way they’ll allow the bottom team to overcome them – especially in Melbourne. It’s Brisbane, after all.

I have a big soft spot for Brisbane. Living there for 22 years, for 12 years of those – from 1987 when they were known as the Bears – I watched them play at Carrara and then the Gabba. I missed their glorious premiership years, as I had moved to Sydney, but have kept a keen interest in their ups and downs ever since. There’s no soft spot mind you when they play us!

So, of course I would watch their game this weekend. By the time I started the replay, I was all foot-ied out, and started off going fast forward. (It’s amazing how much you can actually see in that mode).

The Bombers, a couple of goals ahead at the first break, and their 1.5 in the second quarter keeping the young Lions in it, I then decided, with only five points the difference at half time, that I mustn’t do the game a disservice, and from the third quarter did as any normal person would – put away the remote.

Without their captain, Dayne Beams, and with Darcy Gardiner’s injury forcing them to a reduced bench, Dayne Zorko led the way and was inspirational in his team’s fight-back.

19 points down at three quarter time, I certainly wasn’t too optimistic. 22 shots on goal to 13 at the start of the final term, and with Goddard, Heppell and Merrett all doing everything that was required of them, Essendon went further ahead to lead by 27 points. At that point I decided to grab the remote again. Don’t want to watch a smashing.

What a silly thing to do! Especially given this year’s close ones, and despite who’s playing and what position on the ladder a team might be.

When the Lions kick the next goal, the remote gets locked in the cupboard.

What a quarter of footy from Brisbane. Those fighting young Lions kick 6.6 while the Bombers manage just 2.3. Six of Brisbane’s come from the last seven goals of the match, and those young kids whose faces I’m still to fully recognise, such as Hugh McCluggage, Eric Hipwood, Ryan Lester, Daniel McStay, Harris Andrews, Tom Cutler, Archie Smith, and Alex Witherden – in his second senior game and at 18 years of age – played with a style beyond their years, and a youthful determination and belief to rival and match their experienced team mates.

When Eric Hipwood kicked that amazing goal on the run not long before the siren, and then Ryan Lester’s great grab in the goal square which put them eight points up, I was ecstatic.

Who better than their coach Chris Fagan to sum up his team’s heroics and their future:

“Today the effort over four quarters, the resilience to stick at the game when you’re 27 points down … and to keep believing and persisting, it’s a great day for our footy club.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do to become a side that can be respected in the competition, but it’s on the back of wins like that that people start to recognise that a young group’s really improving and embracing all the things that the coaching group’s been trying to teach them.

“One of the toughest things to do with a young group is to get them to believe. To the credit of our group, they’ve stuck at it. They’ve embraced the way that we’ve coached them.”

“In our history, in the last six months, today is a very important day.

“We’re still learning about our team.”

With the experience of Beams, Robinson, Rich, Zorko, Walker, Christensen, Martin, Bewick and Rockliff, and with guys like Bastinac, Bell, Paparone, and that gun of a player Taylor, playing alongside the youngsters, still learning – to say nothing of the recently re-signed star, Josh Schache – Brisbane can only go ahead in leaps and bounds.

Hopefully they will form the nucleus of Queensland’s next Australian football dynasty – maybe in five or six years, just in time for their 20-year celebration of their glory years of the early 2000’s.

Australian footy needs Queensland to be successful.

Queensland needs Brisbane to be successful.

Brisbane and Fitzroy-of-old supporters need Brisbane to be successful; they need to be able to walk away from games with happy smiles and feelings of anticipation for the next game, knowing they can win week after week.

And, if we can see Chris Fagan’s wonderful smile and celebration after the game on many more occasions, then I too will be smiling – as long as it’s not against my beloved team.

p.s. Apologies to the Brisbane players I’ve not included above! I’m not a Lions expert.

About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016.

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