AS BRISBANE prepares to play for the first time without Emily Bates in its midfield, the Lions are confident they not only have the personnel to cover her loss, but thrive from it.

It was only two seasons, and a little over 12 months, ago that Bates won the AFLW triple crown of individual awards as the League's best player.

However, after a strong season seven, where the 27-year-old won her fourth Brisbane best and fairest, she took up an offer to play with Hawthorn.

It left the Lions without the first draft pick in club history and without someone that has played in all 66 matches to date.

Emily Bates handballs during Brisbane's Grand Final against Melbourne in season seven, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

But with departure, comes opportunity.

Already stacked with exciting ruck Tahlia Hickie, reigning League best and fairest Ally Anderson – who is tied with Bates and Adelaide's Ebony Marinoff for the League's games record – and powerful Cathy Svarc, the Lions' midfield is in great shape.

PROVING THEM WRONG Lions determined to defy doubters

But who fills it out?

Belle Dawes has spent plenty of time in there in recent years and told the Lions were in great shape heading into the upcoming season.

Isabel Dawes gets a handball away under pressure from Kate Hore in the S7 Grand Final between Brisbane and Melbourne at Brighton Homes Arena on November 27, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"Emily Bates is a big loss," Dawes said.

"I think the way our team works is we don't rely on one person. Emily did stand up in big moments and she was a big leader in the midfield, but we rely on the team to work together, that's our midfield gameplan.

"It opens up spots. Chuck Courtney Hodder in there, Charlotte Mullins is coming up.

"Emily has created a spot for that. Poppy Boltz is there as well."


Reliable wing Jade Ellenger has also worked on her "inside" game during the pre-season, hopeful of providing coach Craig Starcevich an alternate option as part of the rotation.

Ellenger, who has taken 20 seconds off her 2km time trial best, said she was excited to see how the new core would gel.

"It allows people to step up, and also for us to try something new," she said.

"We obviously had such a great midfield, but when there were games when 'Batesy' was getting tagged, we were able to swap very quickly and change it around.

"I think the group is very adaptable and I think there shouldn't be a hole there, absolutely not."

Of the many faces for Starcevich to consider is former Gold Coast leader Ellie Hampson.

The midfield powerhouse is great mates with Ellenger and walked into the Lions' den as friends with so many from her days of playing under-age footy for Queensland.

There's options aplenty as the Lions search for a mix to go one step further than last season's heartbreaking Grand Final loss.

Dawes said for her, change equalled growth.

"The players that have left, they're going to grow, and us, as a pride of lions, we're going to grow," she said.

"Our team hasn't changed much over the four seasons I've been there, but now there's some spots, so I think there's going to be some change.

"We genuinely do love each other. Teams always say that. We're in a gym session and we've got the music pumping … we're all dancing around, someone is hitting a PB and everyone steps in to get around that person.

"It's a really fun place to be."