THE BRISBANE Lions are the 2013 NAB Cup champions, beating Carlton by 40 points in a fascinating Grand Final - worthy of September billing rather than March - at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.
The Lions trailed by 13 points at half-time but hit back with five goals to one in the third quarter and ran away 0.16.3 (109) to 2.7.9 (69) winners in front of 24,884 fans.
It was the first pre-season premiership by a Brisbane team, the Lions having previously lost Grand Finals to the Blues in 2007 and Port Adelaide in 2001.
However, Fitzroy won pre-season premierships in 1959 and 1978.
Coach Michael Voss' array of young talent was on display, with Dayne Zorko, Daniel Rich and Patrick Karnezis all prominent across the ground, and Pearce Hanley providing dash from half-back.
Rich won the Michael Tuck Medal for best on ground with seven votes, ahead of Zorko, Hanley and veteran champion Jonathan Brown.
Five talking points: 2013 NAB Cup Grand Final
Recruit Brent Moloney won 11 clearances, and looks set to offer an important boost to an area of weakness from last season.
Up forward, Brown was a towering presence with five goals, and the nippy Josh Green (three goals) was ever-dangerous at his feet.
Blues playmaker Bryce Gibbs was his team's best, his penetrating kicking helping Mick Malthouse's men back into the contest during the second quarter after a slow start.
Kane Lucas won plenty of the ball, and new captain Marc Murphy was a solid contributor.
However, his predecessor Chris Judd was quiet in his first hit-out of the year and was subbed off early in the last quarter.
Carlton struggled for a focal point up forward, sharing its scoring among seven individual goalkickers.
Levi Casboult (one goal) presented strongly at times but couldn't capitalise, and star small forward Eddie Betts (one goal) had a quiet night.
Moloney won six of his clearances in the first quarter as the Lions jumped to an early 27-point lead.
But Carlton hit back with five straight goals either side of quarter-time, including supergoals to Gibbs and Zach Tuohy.
The win was all the sweeter for the Lions, having been required to play away from Queensland despite finishing as the only undefeated team during the qualifying rounds.
What it means
If you're wondering how much importance to assign to the Lions' win, consider this: since 1987, seven teams have achieved the pre-season/home and away season premiership double. A further five have gone on to make the regular season Grand Final, only to lose. That goal may seem a stretch for Voss' developing line-up, but they'll enter the season full of confidence.
What they said
"[The win] is good for us in terms of our preparation. These guys are working very hard, and there have certainly been lots of periods where we've been working hard but haven't been able to celebrate much. So we'll be able to have a little bit of celebration tonight, but we'll park it tomorrow and move on. That's the way it's got to be."
– Lions coach Michael Voss
"Yep, [it was a reality check]. And probably a good one for me too to have a look at what we're like under pressure and when things go bad, how we can do something about just stopping the play and doing something about it. We got smashed at the stoppages. We got smashed at the crumbing. We got smashed in the run."
– Carlton coach Mick Malthous
Zorko shows no signs of losing the form that made him a fantasy star in his debut season last year, racking up a game-high 131 points. Hanley was the other Lion to break 100, while four Blues – Gibbs, Matthew Kreuzer, Lucas and Kade Simpson – achieved the milestone.
CARLTON 1.2.0 2.6.6 2.7.7 2.7.9 (69)
BRISBANE LIONS 0.5.3 0.7.5 0.12.10 0.16.13 (109)
Carlton: Gibbs, Tuohy
Brisbane Lions: Nil
Carlton: Betts, Casboult, Duigan, Kreuzer, Robinson, Rowe, White
Brisbane Lions: Brown 5, Green 3, Zorko 2, Bewick, Karnezis, McGrath, Polkinghorne, Redden, Rich
Carlton: Lucas, Gibbs, Simpson, Yarran, Kreuzer, Murphy
Brisbane Lions: Rich, Zorko, Hanley, Brown, Karnezis, Moloney, Merrett, Green
Brisbane Lions: Nil
Umpires: Bannister, Margetts, Jeffery
Official crowd: 24,884 at Etihad Stadium