THE BRISBANE Lions have given Chris Fagan the perfect coaching start, hanging on to win a thrilling QClash by two points at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
The Lions led by 47 points – 46 at half-time – before Gold Coast roared back to level the scores midway through the final term.
Lewy Taylor snapped a goal with six minutes remaining to arrest the momentum and give them some breathing space, before Tom Lynch answered to set up a pulsating final two minutes.
The Lions hung on to win 15.8 (98) to 14.12 (96) to give Fagan a win in his first game as coach.
"I think it was the heart within the group," Fagan said.
"There wasn't anything special we tried to do. We were probably saying Hail Marys up in the (coaching) box to tell you the truth.
Click here for full match details and stats
"The boys steadied, they knew what to do.
"In the end it comes down to heart."
In his debut as skipper, Dayne Beams was magnificent, racking up 28 disposals, including 21 in the decisive first half, to win the Marcus Ashcroft Medal as best afield.
Tom Rockliff had a game-high 37 disposals, while Dayne Zorko (23 and two goals), Stefan Martin (23 and 32 hit-outs) and Ryan Bastinac (three goals) were also influential.
The Lions stunned their Queensland rivals in the opening 20 minutes, kicking seven unanswered goals to blow the game open.
They hunted in packs and they hunted hard.
Gold Coast barely had a second to breathe in the first quarter as Mitch Robinson and Zorko kicked two goals each, while Michael Close, Eric Hipwood and Tom Bell also capitalised on the ferocious work.
They had more numbers than the Suns at most contests, and were prepared to move the ball quickly once they got it.
One second-quarter passage swept the ball from half-back via Rockliff, Zorko, Beams and into the path of Bastinac who coolly slotted the goal from 40m.
Suns coach Rodney Eade was at a loss to explain the opening quarter.
"I wish I knew," he said.
"They were sharper, had more numbers to the ball and used the ball extremely well.
"We didn't put enough pressure on and that was the game wasn't it, that first 20 minutes.
"You get what you deserve in footy and even though we probably dominated a lot of stats, they deserved to win."
But things changed after the main break.
Gold Coast kicked eight goals in the third term to reduce the margin to 17 as they began to match the Lions' intensity.
They looked like running over the top of the tiring Lions and can thank great contributions from former skipper Gary Ablett (28 touches and eight tackles) and Touk Miller (27).
Harris Andrews had the better of his battle with Tom Lynch for much of the night – withstanding a remarkable 74 inside 50s – but the Suns leader worked away to finish with three goals in an enthralling duel.
For Eade's men, it was a poor start.
It's just his first game in charge, but Fagan has clearly made a difference, with the Lions fielding an almost identical team to the one that narrowly avoided the wooden spoon the past two years.
Gold Coast: So many new faces for the Suns, but not many had a huge impact. Michael Barlow (24 disposals) and Jarryd Lyons (20) spent as much time at half-forward as they did in the midfield and came into the game the more it wore on. Pearce Hanley had a poor return against his former club, struggling to get involved, while towering ruckman Jarrod Witts had his moments, but was beaten around the ground by Stefan Martin. Draftee Ben Ainsworth kicked two goals and looked lively but missed a crucial shot on the run early in the final term, while Jack Bowes (11 touches) was quiet in his debut.
Brisbane Lions: One of the most impressive aspects of the Lions' win was the lack of new faces they did it with. Jake Barrett – recruited from GWS – was the only new Lion and he finished with 11 touches and five tackles in his small forward role. There was 15 players on the ground that were part of the round 23 team thumped by St Kilda less than seven months ago.
Gold Coast: No major problems for the Suns. Adam Saad had the wind knocked out of him in the second quarter but was back on after a few minutes on the bench. Likewise for draftee Ben Ainsworth, who nursed a sore wrist after sliding into the fence taking a diving mark on the goalline. The teenager came back on minutes later and played the game out.
Brisbane Lions: Like the Suns, no real problems for the winners. Dayne Beams got through his first match since round seven last year with flying colours.
The Lions take on another surprise first-round winner next Saturday when they host Essendon at the Gabba, but surely must like their chances of making it two-from-two. Things get no easier for Gold Coast, travelling south to take on premiership favourites Greater Western Sydney on Saturday.
GOLD COAST 2.2 3.5 11.6 14.12 (96)
BRISBANE LIONS 7.3 11.3 14.5 15.8 (98)
Gold Coast: Lynch 3, Ainsworth 2, Hall 2, Sexton, Miller, Ah Chee, Barlow, Lemmens, Wright, Schoenfeld
Brisbane Lions: Bastinac 3, Robinson 2, Hipwood 2, Zorko 2, Bewick, Rich, Taylor, Close, Lester, Bell
Gold Coast: Miller, Ablett, Lynch, Hall, Martin
Brisbane Lions: Beams, Andrews, Rockliff, Zorko, Martin
Gold Coast: Swallow (ankle) replaced in selected side by Schoenfeld, Martin (cut eye)
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Robert O'Gorman, David Harris
Crowd: 12,710 at Metricon Stadium
Marcus Ashcroft Medal voting
5* – Dayne Beams (Brisbane Lions) 3,2
5 – Gary Ablett (Gold Coast SUNS) 2,2,1
4 – Touk Miller (Gold Coast SUNS) 3,1
3 – Tom Rockliff (Brisbane Lions) 3
1 – Steven May (Gold Coast SUNS) 1
* In the case of a tie, there will be a count back with the medal awarded to the player with the most 3 votes. If it is still tied, then to the player with the most 2 votes. If it is still a tie, the tied player who was awarded the highest points by the Chairman, will be awarded the medal.
Judge voting – 3 2 1
Simon Black (Triple M, Chairman) – Dayne Beams, Gary Ablett, Steven May
Brian Lake (Fox Footy) – Tom Rockliff, Gary Ablett, Touk Miller
Michael Whiting (AFL Media) – Touk Miller, Dayne Beams, Gary Ablett