Players celebrate on the final siren of the preliminary final between Brisbane and Carlton at the Gabba, September 23, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

BRISBANE has powered into its first Grand Final since 2004, overcoming a 30-point deficit to defeat Carlton by 16 points at the Gabba on Saturday night.

The Blues tipped the preliminary final upside down early on by kicking the game's first five goals, but from there it was all the Lions on their way to an 11.13 (79) to 9.9 (63) triumph.

LIONS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats

They will face Collingwood at the MCG next Saturday in a rematch of the 2002 and 2003 deciders.

Brisbane had to again show the maturity it has displayed most of the season after looking half a step off the pace in the first quarter against the battle-hardened Blues.


But with Josh Dunkley (23 disposals) keeping Patrick Cripps (13 and two goals) quiet at stoppages and a dynamic half-back line led by best on ground Keidean Coleman (21, including seven score involvements) and Conor McKenna (20) winning the ball back and creating scoring opportunities, Brisbane's forward line did enough to get them home.


The Blues never stopped though, despite looking out on their feet at different stages, giving the Lions a bit to think about with consecutive goals in the final quarter before Lincoln McCarthy put the game beyond doubt with his second goal.

Ruckman Oscar McInerney also kicked two goals, as did Joe Daniher, while former skipper Dayne Zorko (22) was important in turning the momentum.

Current co-captain Lachie Neale (23, including eight clearances) worked his way into the game, while Jarrod Berry (24) mopped up everything from a wing.


Brisbane's win completed a perfect 13-from-13 at the Gabba this season and ensures Chris Fagan will coach his first Grand Final in his seventh season at the helm.

It wasn't easy though.

Carlton's start could not have been any better, kicking the first five goals and racing to a 23-point quarter-time lead.

They dominated at the stoppages – a stat Brisbane was eventually able to overcome (42-32) - and was able to camp the ball in its front half with insatiable pressure forcing repeated turnovers forward of centre.


Harry McKay, back after missing last week's semi-final win with concussion, got an early confidence boost when he won a free kick against Harris Andrews and converted with an around-the-corner set shot from 35m.

Jack Martin kicked one from the goalsquare following a 50m penalty, former skipper Sam Docherty then converted from 45, while Charlie Curnow had the Blues fans roaring with a strong contested grab and goal.


Carlton won five centre clearances to one in the first quarter, generating 22 inside 50s to 11 and won more 50-50 balls than their stunned opponents.

It was like the teams changed guernseys at quarter-time, with Brisbane turning up the heat to get right back into the game.

Cam Rayner became a midfield missile, clearing paths with his brute force, while Coleman and McKenna became increasingly influential from half-back.


Daniher kicked two of the Lions' five goals for the quarter, while Ryan Lester's snap from 40m sent the Gabba wild as Brisbane hit the main break with a narrow advantage.

This is a mature Brisbane team
After looking slightly off the pace in the opening quarter, the Lions were simply not going to bow out of September early again. Proving they had learnt the lessons of failed finals campaigns over the previous four years, they chipped away and chipped away and never looked flustered. Set shots from Hipwood, McInerney and Daniher turned the tide, and when McKenna and Lester converted, the early deficit was erased. They dominated large chunks of the second half and could have put the game away earlier.

Callum Ah Chee celebrates with fans after the preliminary final between Brisbane and Carlton at the Gabba, September 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Charlie's funny old night
Charlie Cameron, the man that ignites Brisbane's home crowd more than anyone, had a strange, strange old night. Manned by Adam Saad, Cameron failed to gather a touch in the first quarter. In the second he looked set to stream into an open goal before Mitch McGovern's pressure from behind forced him into an errant bounce, and then he sprayed a 20m set shot from just off centre – much to the stunned amazement of the locals. 'Country Roads' got belted out once in the third quarter, but that was it as Cameron finished with 1.3 from 10 disposals. 


Acres does it again
Just when you thought his September had run out of heroics, Blake Acres came to Carlton's rescue again – this time in defence. After a deep forward entry from Brisbane in the second quarter, Callum Ah Chee gathered and appeared to have snapped a goal. However, after it was sent to the ARC for review – with the soft signal of a goal – the verdict came back that the ball had glanced the hair of the Blues' wingman. Another magic moment for Carlton's Mr September. 



BRISBANE     1.2      6.6      9.9      11.13 (79)
CARLTON      5.1      6.3      6.7      9.9 (63) 

Brisbane: Daniher 2, McInerney 2, McCarthy 2, McKenna, Hipwood, Lester, Cameron, Ah Chee
Carlton: Cripps 2, McKay 2, Martin 2, Docherty, Curnow, Cottrell

Brisbane: Coleman, Dunkley, Berry, Zorko, McKenna, Neale, McInerney
Carlton: Walsh, McGovern, Weitering, Docherty, Saad, Newman

Brisbane: Nil
Carlton: Nil

Brisbane: Jarryd Lyons (replaced Callum Ah Chee in the fourth quarter)
Carlton: Matthew Kennedy (replaced Lachie Fogarty at three quarter time) 

Crowd: 36,012 at the Gabba