NEW BRISBANE Lions skipper Dayne Beams has led his young cubs to a confidence-boosting eight-point win against a young Western Bulldogs line-up that contained just nine of last season's premiership team.
Despite the Western Bulldogs dominating field position in the final quarter, the Lions hung on to win their first game under new coach Chris Fagan, 0.10.6 (66) to 1.6.13 (58).
There were plenty of excuses for the Bulldogs however, as they played with one fewer than the Lions with just seven on the bench.
Although the result was not critical, a knee injury to Roarke Smith in the third quarter meant the night ended on a sour note for the Bulldogs.
However, given their poor form in 2016, it was an impressive effort from the Lions.
They gained the ascendancy at the stoppages with veteran Lions big man Stefan Martin too strong in the ruck contest for Tim English, who tried hard in his first game.
Dayne Zorko was relentless and Beams showed his class early in his return from a knee injury. Daniel Rich and Tom Rockliff also hit the contest hard and showed the way for the young group.
In the finish it was red-time goals to hot-headed Lion Mitch Robinson at the end of the first and third quarters that sealed the deal for the Lions, who controlled the ball well in the first half and played solid tempo football.
By contrast, some of the young Bulldogs were slow to pull the trigger and despite the best efforts of Lin Jong, who battled hard in the middle and Liam Picken who was playing his first game after suffering a fractured cheekbone in February, they could not reel the Lions in, making it particularly tough with seven behinds in the final quarter.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said despite the obvious disappointment the injury to Smith created, there were positives in the way the young group battled out the game.
"You don't anticipate that you are going to be that far down but I loved the way as a group they all fought back and made it close in the end. That was really encouraging," Beveridge said.
"Brisbane looked pretty sharp with their pace and their pressure so it was good to claw our way back into the contest."
The Bulldogs expect Marcus Bontempelli to play his first game next Thursday against Gold Coast and will play a more experienced team in their final hit-out before round one.
Lions coach Chris Fagan said he was pleased to win the game in the end and for two-and-a-half quarters the Lions played the way he hoped they would eventually play for four quarters.
"It's good to come on the road, win a game of footy against a great opposition, a team that won the premiership last year, albeit we know they had a number of players out but you still have to do it. We'll take a bit of confidence from that," Fagan said.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Western Bulldogs: With just nine players from last season's premiership team playing, Travis Cloke rested, and one less player than their opposition on the bench, the Western Bulldogs were well below full-strength. It showed in the first half however, as with last season, the game was a good chance for their young players to have a hit-out before the Bulldogs' opening round clash against Collingwood.
Brisbane Lions: Dayne Beams makes a huge difference around the contest, as he is so good at gathering the ground ball and distributes it in a calm manner. The Lions looked organised and did not give the ball up easily. Although they handballed around stoppages and released, it was noticeable they were prepared to slow the game down when appropriate more often than last season.
Western Bulldogs: Tim English competes hard, is willing to fight for the ball on the ground and will only get better. It's easy to see why the Bulldogs used their first pick to take a ruckman in the NAB AFL Draft. In the third quarter Nathan Mullenger-McHugh laid a superb tackle, while Patrick Lipinski was handy up forward, clean in his possession and used it well. Lewis Young had six touches and is a good size and shape for a young player.
Brisbane Lions: Jake Barrett was lively, kicking the first goal of the game and providing link-up run to finish with 17 touches. Matthew Hammellmann is a big-bodied defender who will take time but he is a good size.
The Western Bulldogs play on the Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium against the Suns next Thursday night in what will be close to a full dress rehearsal. The Brisbane Lions fly to Adelaide to take on the Crows at Hickinbotham Oval.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.2.2 0.2.4 1.5.7 1.6.13 (58)
BRISBANE LIONS 0.4.2 0.6.3 0.9.6 0.10.6 (66)
Western Bulldogs: Suckling
Brisbane Lions: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Jong 2, Stringer 2, C. Smith, Dale
Brisbane Lions: Close 2, Robinson 2, Bell 2, Barrett, Keays, Zorko, Hipwood
Western Bulldogs: Picken, Jong, Dunkley, Suckling
Brisbane Lions: Martin, Beams, Zorko, Bewick, Andrews
Western Bulldogs: Roarke Smith (knee)
Brisbane Lions: Nil
Umpires: Stevic, Findlay, Foote, Mollison
Official crowd: 4901