(Clockwise from left): Bruce Reville, Lincoln McCarthy, Kai Lohmann and Darcy Gardiner. Pictures: AFL Photos

ALTHOUGH Brisbane won the battle against Gold Coast on Sunday night, its chances of winning AFL's war took another huge hit.

Confirmation of ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments for both Lincoln McCarthy and Darcy Gardiner has added to an already lengthy injury list.

The experienced pair will now join Will Ashcroft, Keidean Coleman and Tom Doedee in the knee reconstruction rehabilitation group. All these injuries have happened in the past 17 games of football. All of them at the Gabba.

Then there's Zac Bailey (ankle), Brandon Starcevich (calf) and Noah Answerth (concussion) all on the short-term list.

In the pursuit of a premiership, at some stage there might be a tipping point of losing too much top-end talent, or, as the Lions will learn in the next few months, it might also be the making of the club in both the short- and long-term.

During five years of genuine contention for a flag, they have had the most settled line-up in the competition.


Brisbane has had arguably the best player availability, won more games than any club during that stretch, and had a coach in Chris Fagan who trusts his players to ride out any fluctuations in output.

This combination has led to very little experimentation in the senior team. Why would you?

In 2023 the Lions used 35 players, ranked 15th in the competition. In 2022 they used 36 players, ranked 13th, and that included a round 17 game against Essendon where they were forced into five changes due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

And in 2021? The Lions used fewer players (32) than any team in the AFL.


That's already changed this season and is about to change even more.

Sunday night's QClash alone would give Fagan and his staff some heart. Kai Lohmann, playing his fifth straight game in the starting 22, had the biggest impact of his short career with 13 disposals, a goal, and a game-high 31 pressure acts.

It was a "coming of age" game for Harry Sharp, his coach said, with the winger's running power invaluable for his undermanned team.

Bruce Reville was composed in his debut, showing his exquisite kicking inside 50 on a couple of occasions. 

Bruce Reville and Sam Clohesy compete for the ball during Brisbane's clash against Gold Coast in round eight, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

And then there was Logan Morris, the teenager rushed into an unlikely debut after playing a full game a few hours earlier in the VFL.

While veterans Dayne Zorko, Lachie Neale, Josh Dunkley and Harris Andrews led the way, the output of the youngsters gave a glimpse into what will be required if the Lions are to make a push to September.

Fagan could also unveil Shadeau Brain, the untried half-back that has been pushing his case strongly in the reserves.

Jimmy Tunstill has been around the mark, so has Jaxon Prior.

Jimmy Tunstill in action during Brisbane's clash against Geelong in round nine, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"Whatever happens for the Brisbane Lions this year, we're going to find more players and have more depth," Fagan said following Sunday night's win.

"And as we showed tonight, we can win games of footy in that scenario as well.

"Sometimes all you need is that opportunity and a few games in a row and you work out you can do it and your confidence grows. That's what we'll be working towards."

Despite the personnel shortage, there is some sunshine on the horizon, with Cal Ah Chee due back to face Adelaide this week, and Bailey, Starcevich and Answerth not far away.

Then there's Ashcroft, who does not have a definitive timeline yet, but is expected to play a reasonable chunk of footy this season.

Will Ashcroft is seen during Brisbane training on September 26, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Brisbane will delve deeper into its spate of ruptured ACLs – all at its home ground in the past nine matches there – with a look into the playing surface and its own conditioning.

It's likely just rotten luck, but it will investigate nonetheless.

Whether it's a season of salvation or one of discovery from here, it's hard to not agree with Fagan that at a bare minimum, the Lions will learn plenty about themselves in the remainder of 2024.