Tom Rockliff produced a huge game as the Lions downed the Suns
THE Brisbane Lions have taken a stride towards dispelling the notion they will be the pushovers of 2014, recording a comfortable 47-point NAB Challenge win over Gold Coast at Townsville on Sunday.
Beaten by a whopping 131 points by Hawthorn just 10 days ago, the Lions kicked the first five goals at Tony Ireland Stadium and never looked back, winning 1.14.13 (106) to 0.8.11 (59).
In blustery conditions that made goalkicking difficult, Lions recruit Luke McGuane kicked three first-quarter majors to shoot his new side clear.
The win will do wonders for new coach Justin Leppitsch, who was on the end of some criticism following the loss against Hawthorn.
But with 10 senior names returning on Sunday, they made light work of an undermanned Gold Coast, which travelled to North Queensland without skipper Gary Ablett among others.
"We jumped out of the blocks really well and got our game up and going which was fantastic. We got what we wanted out of it," Leppitsch said after the match.
"(Our) ball movement (was) pretty good, our defensive stuff was good, to pressure up the opposition and get in their face, which is what we've been working on, we did that pretty well."
McGuane's performance means he is an increasingly likely round one selection, with the former Tiger's combination of opportunism and relentless forward pressure a highlight.
Leppitsch has indicated he will play Trent West as a forward/ruck alongside spearhead Jonathan Brown in round one, and would not go as far as guaranteeing McGuane a spot.
"It's hard to say. With Jackson Paine coming back and Brent Staker, Browny, we've got a fair bit of competition in that part of the ground," he said.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure on for spots in the forward 50 ... so it's hard to give a definitive answer now."
Brent Moloney (24 disposals in three quarters) was superb in his first outing for the season, while vice-captain Tom Rockliff (32) was again an ideal link man.
The Suns were sloppy in the first quarter and were overpowered in the middle of the ground without Ablett, vice-captain Michael Rischitelli and young stars Jaeger O'Meara and David Swallow, who were all rested after Monday night's one-point win over Essendon.
The quartet will all return to play Collingwood at Metricon Stadium in the Suns' final practise match next Sunday, along with Dion Prestia (calf), Trent McKenzie (calf) and Rory Thompson (hip).
Stand-in Gold Coast coach Dean Solomon made no excuses for the untidy performance.
"We were missing a few, but in all honesty we were disappointed with the effort we put out," he said.
"We expected more than that. Contested footy and around the stoppages we were quite average and we were disappointed with that."
The teams played with no interchange cap, with the AFL partially applying its heat policy.
With temperatures exceeding 30 degrees before bounce down, there were eight players on each interchange bench, no substitutions, and no cap on the number of interchanges made.
Suns forward Timmy Sumner was reported for rough conduct during the second quarter for a bump on Rockliff.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Brisbane Lions: The Lions started to show little glimpses of a more frantic defensive pressure. New coach Justin Leppitsch has preached it all summer, and with his full complement of players on show, they were able to give hints of his new game-plan. Once the ball was in the forward 50, it often stayed locked in there with Luke McGuane, Dayne Zorko and Josh Green applying particularly good pressure. The Lions noticeably moved forward together when they had the ball to lock it into one zone on the ground.
Gold Coast: In the midst of a disappointing day for the Suns, young defender Clay Cameron emerged as a serious round one bolter. Cameron, 19, played his second straight outstanding game in seven days to put himself right in the frame for a debut against Richmond on March 15. Stand-in coach Dean Solomon gave the biggest hint yet the Queensland product will play the Tigers. "(He's) very close. His last two weeks have been sensational. He embraces the contest, loves the contest, he's rarely beaten one-on-one. He's definitely put his hand up." Tasmanian midfielder Jesse Lonergan was also a shining light, doing terrific run-with roles on first Daniel Rich, and then a rampant Brent Moloney in the third quarter.
Brisbane Lions: Richmond recruit McGuane was one of the best stories of the day for the Lions. He kicked goals with his first two kicks, finished with three for the day, and added a stack of forward pressure that Leppitsch asked for. Draftees James Aish, Tom Cutler and Nick Robertson were all relatively quiet, although Aish showed some nice touches in close quarters. Rookie defender Jordon Bourke had his hands full with assignments that included Suns captain Tom Lynch, but showed the Lions have something to work with, with his tenacity and diligent style.
Gold Coast: Once again Jack Martin showed he is ready for the big time. Playing primarily on-ball in the absence of his bigger name teammates, the outsized Martin competed hard, particularly in the first half. He finished with 11 disposals, nine of them contested and never once shirked his task. Defender Clay Cameron was outstanding on young Lion Michael Close, nullifying the key target in a number of one-on-one duels, while running half-back Sean Lemmens impressed again, but was quieter than he was against Essendon on Monday night.
Matthew Leuenberger outreaches Tom Nicholls during Sunday's contest. Picture: AFL Media
BRISBANE LIONS 0.6.4 1.10.8 1.11.12 1.14.13 (106)
GOLD COAST 0.1.1 0.5.2 0.7.8 0.8.11 (59)
Brisbane Lions: Zorko
Gold Coast: Nil
Brisbane Lions: McGuane 3, Close 3, Redden 2, Green, Lisle, Moloney, Rich, Robertson, Zorko
Gold Coast: Bennell 4, Sexton, Dixon, Russell, Lynch
Brisbane Lions: Moloney, Rockliff, Zorko, Redden, Leuenberger, McGuane
Gold Coast: Bennell, Lonergan, Allen, Martin, Lynch
Brisbane Lions: Nil
Gold Coast: Nil
Nil. AFL heat policy applied.
Reports: Timmy Sumner (Suns) reported for rough conduct against Tom Rockliff (Lions)
Umpires: Donlan, Nichols, Foot, Stephens
Official crowd: 6426 at Tony Ireland Stadium