THE CRITICISM Brisbane Lions skipper Tom Rockliff has received this season does not make sense, according to young midfielder Rhys Mathieson.
Rockliff was appointed captain early last year and the club has won just six games in that time. He has played 28 of a possible 39 matches after various ailments.
He was an influential contributor against Essendon on Sunday, racking up 38 disposals, 17 contested possessions and a goal to help his team snap a 12-match losing streak.
"Rocky's captain and he leads by example. We're losing so obviously he's going to cop stick but he's putting good numbers on the board every week, so I can't understand why he's copping stick," Mathieson told AFL.com.au.
"I can't remember when he's played a bad game.
"They can say what they want, it's obviously not affecting him."
Rockliff is averaging 29 disposals per match and is ranked ninth in the competition for tackles per game, after finishing first in that category the previous two years.
Mathieson was thrilled to record his first win, in the sixth time he has represented the Lions. Making the occasion even more memorable for him was accomplishing the feat with his best mate Darcy Parish on the opposition.
"There was a little bit (of banter), but not too much. We sort of kept a lid on it," Mathieson said.
Winning tends to bring out the happier side of people in football clubs, and the coach Justin Leppitsch was no exception.
"He actually said 'What happened in the last 10 minutes, boys?' but he was just joking around. He was very happy," Mathieson said.
"He said 'Monkey's off the back and enjoy it, but it's a six-day turnaround'.
"I don't think the boys are going to go too crazy, because we want to win again."
The Lions face Port Adelaide at the Gabba next Saturday night.