The Way-Too-Early 2013 Preview: Brisbane Lions

BRISBANE LIONS

Since finishing sixth in their first season under coach and club legend Michael Voss in 2009, the Lions have finished 13th, 15th and 13th. In AFL circles, this is referred to as bad.

The key players have remained largely the same over this period, with the team frequently bringing in recycled players in an apparent last gasp effort to attain premiership glory with club figureheads like Jonathan Brown and Simon Black. With these efforts proving unsuccessful, the Lions find themselves in the unenviable position of being a little behind some similarly placed clubs, who have remained around the same place as Brisbane on the ladder but given valuable playing time and responsibility to younger players while doing so.

Brisbane’s forward stocks are of particular concern, with the barrel looking extremely barren once you get past Brown. Their second highest goal scorer on the year was full-back turned full-forward on occasion Daniel Merrett, with midfielder Daniel Rich only just behind in third.

The Lions aren’t without positives though. Young midfield duo Jack Redden and Tom Rockliff are among the best young midfielders going around. Their fellow midfield companion Daniel Rich has also elevated his game, averaging 21 disposals and a goal a game in 2012. Throw in the likes of Jared Polec, and a young ruck duo in Matthew Leuenberger and Billy Longer, and Brisbane have their midfield foundation of the future in place.

2012 Key Statistics

Brisbane 2012 Offensive
Average per Game Competition Rank
Disposals 350.7 13th
Contested Possessions 140.3 12th
Clearances 36.7 13th
Inside 50s 47.6 14th
Marks Inside 50 9.9 13th
Hitouts 34 16th
Goals 12.7 13th

 

Brisbane 2012 Defensive
Average per Game Competition Rank
Points Against 95.09 12th
Inside 50s Conceded 54.2 15th
Marks Inside 50 Conceded 10.2 7th
Tackles 63.3 9th

 

Brisbane 2012 Offensive/Defensive Differentials
Total Competition Rank
Inside 50s Opponent Differential(Total Inside 50s minus Total Inside 50s conceded) -165 15th
Marks Inside 50 Opponent Differential(Total Marks Inside 50 minus Total Marks Inside 50 conceded) -6 tied 10th

 


What are they great at?

Great might be a stretch, but considering how often opposing teams get the ball inside Brisbane’s defensive arc, they give up comparatively very few marks. While only the Demons, Suns and Giants conceded more forward 50 entries than Brisbane in 2012, the Lions ranked 7th for marks inside 50 conceded. The Lions defensive unit has played admirably despite often being under siege.

What are they good at?

Not much at all.

What do they need to improve?

Everything. The Lions find themselves ranked among the bottom tier of the competition in nearly every major statistical category.

What are they bad at?

The Lions really struggled in the middle of the park last season, which is somewhat surprising as it is clearly the area where they possess the most talent. The Lions struggled to get the ball to their forwards, and in turn allowed their opposition to pump the ball forward at an alarming rate. They ranked 14th for inside 50 entries, and 15th for entries conceded. Yikes.

Some of Brisbane’s midfield woes can be blamed on the absolute dearth of talent beyond Jonathon Brown up forward, which forced coach Michael Voss into playing one of their best midfielders, Tom Rockliff, deep in the forward line on numerous occasions. The Lions sorely miss his clearance work and pressure applied to opposition ball winners when he ventures up forward.

The Lions also finished 16th in hit-outs per game, but should see an immediate improvement here with the return of Matthew Leuenberger, who could only manage three appearances in 2012 due to injury. In 2011, when Leuenberger played in every game, the Lions finished 4th in the same category.

Points of Interest in 2013

Brent Moloney

At his best, Moloney is a valuable addition to a Brisbane midfield that was by any measure below average in 2012. His strengths, both physically and in football, lend themselves to problem areas such as contested possessions and clearances. In fact, in 2011 Moloney finished in the top five in the entire competition for clearances.

The question is whether or not Moloney can still play at that level.

Moloney Per Game Averages 2011 v 2012
2011 2012
Games 22 15
Disposals 23.1 17.1
Contested Possessions 12.3 8.5
Clearances 7 4.7
Tackles 5.6 3.5



Moloney’s production dropped off significantly in 2012 after a career year the season before. At age 28, it is perhaps harsh but fair to wonder if 2012 was the beginning of a gradual decline in Moloney’s production at AFL level. After all, players around that age rarely recapture their best form on a consistent basis after a poor year. Given what he can offer when he is at his best, his worrying decline in 2012, and Brisbane’s recent history with mature-aged and recycled players, Brent Moloney promises to be an interesting subplot in the Lions 2013 narrative.

Daniel Rich

The criticism on Rich coming into the 2008 draft was that the player you were getting on draft day was exactly what you were going to get, no more, no less. Rich was physically strong already, but did not possess anything more than an average athletic ability. He was viewed as strong and slow. Generally speaking, we are conditioned to think that “amazing athleticism = amazing potential”, while things like “physically ready to play now” are seen as nice, but not extremely necessary, bonuses. This is the primary reason Rich slid from a pre-season number 1 pick contender to pick 7.

Daniel Rich Career Averages

2009

2010 2011

2012

Disposals

17.3

19.4 19.2

21.7

Contested Possessions

7.2

7.45 8.62

9.8

Clearances

3.5

3.09 4.3

4.3

Inside 50s

4.5

4.23 4.5

4.85

Marks

3

2.8 2.6

3.7

Tackles

4.4

4.7 4.8

3.3

Goals

0.6

0.3 0.9

1

Rich’s booming kick means he has always posted good inside 50 numbers. His inside midfielder numbers, namely contested possessions and clearances, have also seen improvement since his career at AFL level began. Generally speaking, Rich has improved every year at this level. He hasn’t broken out and posted massive numbers like some other similarly aged midfielders, but he is heading in the right direction. His ability to get the ball forward, as well as his growing penchant for adding his own goals, are very desirable traits. As it stands, Rich is a good player. If he continues to improve he could become a great one.

Michael Voss

Three seasons in a row finishing at least five places outside of the finals means there is invariably pressure on the often beleaguered coach to finally deliver some tangible evidence that the train he is conducting is on the right track. There were some promising signs shown by his young side in 2012, but not many coaches survive four consecutive seasons near the foot of the ladder. In reality Voss probably needs to lead his club to the finals to ensure his position beyond 2013. If a finals berth isn’t forthcoming, then a definite step up leading to a ‘finals-or-bust in 2014’ scenario must be seen as the bare minimum requirement for Voss to keep his job.

That or he can just sit down with Brisbane’s administrators at years end, reminisce over old times, and indicate toward the trophy cabinet when it comes time to decide how many years his extension should run for.

2013 OUTLOOK

If free agency pickup Brent Moloney can recapture some of his 2011 form, then Brisbane’s midfield could see some significant improvement, particularly in the contested possessions and clearances department. The natural development of young players like Jack Redden, Tom Rockliff and Jared Polec should lead to an improvement in the middle regardless. Black, Redden, Rockliff and Moloney has the makings on a nice inside midfield quartet, and the return of Leuenberger in the ruck should dramatically improve their chances of winning the ball from stoppages.

Up forward is where the biggest impediment to improvement lies. The Lions finally sought to address this issue by drafting South Australian forward Sam Mayes with the 8th pick in the National Draft. At 187cms, Mayes is more in the third tall or half-forward flank mould, rather than a genuine key position player. Another first round pick was used on Marco Paparone, a tall utility who can play on the wing or as a leading forward.

Twenty-Two year old Jordan Lisle was also brought in from Hawthorn. At 196 cm tall, Lisle has the height to be a genuine target, and the Lions will be hoping that at least of one Lisle and Cornelius becomes a legitimate and dangerous tall forward partner for Brown in the immediate term while the likes of Mayes and Paparone develop. Swinging Daniel Merrett forward again is another option, but one that leaves their defence exposed. The Lions have a few small forwards, or smalls capable of sneaking goals, like Green, Bewick and Banfield, as well as some medium sized utility types, like Staker and Karnezis, that they can move forward, but none of those players can be relied upon to consistently provide on a week to week basis yet.

Overall, the forward setup still seems entirely dependent on Jonathan Brown, and short of a herculean effort from Brown, a massive evolution from the likes of Lisle and Cornelius, or a significant improvement in the delivery forward by Black and company, it’s hard to envision the Lions improving significantly on the offensive side of the game. The midfield is capable of playing at a finals like level, but even if it does take an Adelaide-esque leap in 2013, the forward arc will likely hold them back. In my opinion, the Lions are an outside shot at a low finals placing, but seem more likely to once again finish in the 10 to 15 range.

About Adam Ritchie

My name is Adam. I started watching football with two fellow parapsychologists in an abandoned firehouse. When we’re not watching footy, we’re running our own pest control business. What do you mean I stole that from Ghostbusters?

Comments

  1. One other think deserves mention – the Dees, the Power, the Lions, the Doggies were all hampered by picking a baaad time to finish down the bottom.

    With the top selections in the draft all taken as 17-year-olds,or presented to the noobies, those clubs have had to rise only very slowly through the draft. They were taking the number 15 pick with their first pick.

  2. Andrew Weiss says:

    I agree with some of your comments Adam on where the Lions are at. As a Lions supporter i am always optimistic that improvement will occur so I am hoping that finals may be a possibility this year.

    One thing that enables me to be optimistic is that the Lions reserves last year won not eastern competiton, the equivalent to the VFL, SANFL and WAFL mainly due to the improvement of many of the young players on the Lions list. If the likes of Karnezis, Green, Banfield, Yeo, Crisp, Beames and Doherty (there No1 pick in 2011 who was injured all of 2012) can take the next step and players like Hanley, Rich, Rockcliff, Redden, Golby can improve yet again the Lions might be a chnace to make finals in 2013.

    I agree that the forward line is still a bit of a worry but if Stefan Martin and Staker can act as good alternative targets then this will only help.

    It will be an interesting year for the Lions in 2013. They cannot afford to go backwards.

  3. Do we think that the fruits of Voss’s early recruiting when he picked up a range of players like Fevola, Clarke, Staker, etc, are one of the major resaon for the clubs subsequent demise. Sixth in 2009, a good start to 2010, then the wheels fell off, big time, and they’ve never regained the momentum.

    Glen!

  4. Adam Ritchie says:

    No doubt those sides suffered from a bout of bad timing. I suspect many will try to get their own back over the coming years as the new club’s salary caps come more into line with the rest of the competition while their young guns begin to warrant larger contracts. I imagine there are a lot of clubs rubbing their hands together in anticipation.

    Hi Andrew, cheers for the thoughts. I really like some of the younger players Brisbane have assembled. It’s just the support for Brown that tempers my feelings on their 2013 ceiling. I’d say their best is comfortably better than the best of similarly placed teams like Port, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, and they play with an enthusiasm and spirit (The West Coast and Adelaide victories come to mind) that those sides lacked last year.

  5. Peter Schumacher says:

    Just hope that it is not as hopeless as it looks.

  6. I think that your review of Lions is completely wrong. They are a top 4 team for 2013!

  7. Adam Ritchie says:

    Pre-season success: the most hallucinatory drug of all.

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