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AFLW: Pillaged Lions eager to make a statement in 2019

AFLW Lions coach Craig Starcevich addresses his troops during last season's Grand Final - AFLW,Brisbane Lions
AFLW Lions coach Craig Starcevich addresses his troops during last season's Grand Final

DESPITE making both NAB AFL Women's Grand Finals to date, Brisbane Lions coach Craig Starcevich believes his team still hasn't earned the respect of the competition.

The Lions lost to Adelaide by six points in the inaugural decider in 2017, and agonisingly by the same margin to the Western Bulldogs last season.

Yet, when pre-season predictions from rival clubs and media are released early this year, you can almost be sure Brisbane won't feature among the favourites.

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"I don't think that's ever done, to be honest," Starcevich told AFL.com.au when asked about earning respect.

"We've taken a few steps up. But we really need to make a statement to the competition and go all the way. That's how you earn the ultimate respect.

"Last year we finished second with four wins and the team that finished seventh (Fremantle) had three wins.

"Even in year one, we had six-and-a-half wins, but we won some close games," he said.

"There's no club that has a real dominant advantage over the rest of the competition."

Things have been made more difficult for the Lions – like many clubs – ahead of the 2019 season with the addition of North Melbourne and Geelong.

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The Kangaroos pillaged the Lions' stocks, recruiting best-22 players Brit Gibson, Kaitlyn Ashmore, Tahlia Randall and Jamie Stanton.

Gibson and Ashmore essentially left to return home (Gibson is from Tasmania and some of the Kangas will live on the state island), but the Lions were annoyed at the loss of Queenslanders Randall and Stanton.

"It does grind a little bit because we've provided opportunity and a couple of years in the system, so you'd love to hang on to them," Starcevich said.

"Those four played significant roles in our team.

"We'll wait and see how summer unfolds, but it's about opportunities. I'm sure they can be covered."

Brisbane went part of the way to doing that by recruiting former Carlton captain Lauren Arnell.

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The Lions will also regain the services of 2017 All Australian Sam Virgo who returns from a left knee reconstruction, while midfielders including Emily Bates and Ally Anderson can be expected to make further improvement.

The Lions have also bolstered their coaching stocks with the addition of Brownlow medallist Simon Black and his fellow triple-premiership teammate Clark Keating, who will work with the midfield and rucks respectively.

"The conditioning and drills are far advanced on last year," Starcevich said.

"How it all translates into game play (is unknown). I'm hoping it naturally progresses to a better product.

"We're looking to get out in space and move the ball quickly.

"We've got forwards who can catch it and some dynamic defenders that can rebound," he said.

"I'm hoping we can build an effective game style but an attractive one as well."