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Season review: Brisbane

What's happened to Lions' top 10 pick? The highs and lows of the Brisbane Lions' season in The Wash-Up

In a nutshell

Not many wins but a season of much promise. Leaders Dayne Beams, Dayne Zorko and Stefan Martin all had fine campaigns, while the young core, led by Harris Andrews, made great strides. A number of close losses were disappointing, but a percentage near 90 was evidence of improvement.

What we said in the pre-season 

Coming off a 2017 wooden spoon, the expectation was less about a win total and more about improving defence (which they did, from 114 to 93 points a game) and getting the percentage towards 90. We said Luke Hodge would help the defenders develop, Charlie Cameron would add class and defensive pressure and that the Lions needed to improve their contested footy.


Have your say: Give your season verdict on the Lions using the form at the bottom of this article.


What worked

The young core taking control
Not only did the Hugh McCluggage, Alex Witherden, Cameron Rayner and Zac Bailey all prove Brisbane is now a club young players want to stay at by extending well before their contracts were up, but they also assumed prominent on-field roles. Throw in Eric Hipwood and Jarrod Berry and the 21-and-under brigade is as good as any in the competition.

Signing Hodge and Cameron
The two big off-season recruits delivered what was expected – and more. Hodge played 19 games, controlled the backline and taught the young players so much, while Cameron was in All Australian contention before his season-ending foot injury. 

Bringing the crowds back
Chris Fagan says the AFL is an "entertainment industry" and his team plays that way. The Lions are aggressive, take chances and the home fans responded with consistently the biggest crowds seen at the Gabba this decade.

What failed

Losing tight contests
So near yet so far was the story of the season - five losses by seven points or less. The Lions never blew a lead but just struggled to execute in the final few minutes. 

Zorko handling his emotions
Twice this season the dynamic Lion lost his cool after the siren against Gold Coast's Touk Miller. After working so hard to improve against taggers – and with success – it was a shame to see Zorko let himself down. 

Not getting their training and admin base
The proposed move to Springfield has been in the pipeline for years and despite looking close to being finalised, has still not come to fruition. Until the state and federal governments both chip in, the men will train at Gabba while the AFLW team plays at Brendale and Burpengary.

Overall rating

C+

Young players improving and playing prominent roles and a team that has a chance to win almost every week – the season is a resounding pass.

The coach

Signing a two-year extension 12 months before his contract is up says enough about the impact Fagan has had. He has helped create a harmonious club off the field and on it has encouraged his team to play with freedom. Not even a torn hamstring suffered at the 'Big Freeze at the 'G' could slow him down! More will be expected in coming years, but he has barely put a foot wrong to date.

Chris Fagan has been locked in by the Lions. Picture: AFL Photos

The leaders 

It's been a tumultuous year for Beams who started as captain, had to endure the death of his father and relinquished the captaincy to Zorko. Beams never let his personal tragedy affect either his form or his demeanour around the club, while Zorko flourished with the extra responsibility despite his petulant moment against Miller in the penultimate round.

MVP

Dayne Beams: Another magnificent season for the gifted onballer. Had a slow first month but went from strength to strength as the year progressed. A relentless ball-winner, Beams was at the forefront of all five Lions wins and often flew the midfield flag when under siege.

Surprise packet

Oscar McInerney: The mature-aged ruckman progressed from the Lions' NEAFL Player of the Year in 2017 to a bona fide AFL player in 2018. Played primarily as a third tall forward and now looks Stefan Martin's successor.

Get excited

Cam Rayner: Hard to go past the No.1 draft pick. Rayner looked right at home in his first season, playing all 22 games, kicking 20 goals and showing he could mix it with seasoned players in both the forward line and midfield.

Disappointment

Sam Mayes: After finishing fifth in last year's best and fairest, it was quite some drop-off for the South Australian. Mayes played just six games, was dropped twice, and with one year remaining on his contract, needs a big 2019.

Best win

Round 17: Brisbane 15.8 (98) d Hawthorn 9.11 (65)
After defeating the Hawks just eight weeks earlier, there was no surprise element when they took on the Victorian powerhouse at their Launceston fortress. However, despite trailing by 11 points at half-time, the Lions, led by McCluggage, Rayner, Beams and Hipwood, stormed home for a memorable win.

Best individual performance

Dayne Zorko. Round seven v Collingwood
After being thrashed by taggers in the previous fortnight, Zorko cut loose against the Magpies. The 'Magician' bounced back to his best with 34 disposals and four goals in a scintillating display.

Low point

In the midst of a stellar season, seeing Harris Andrews knocked out by a wayward Jeremy Cameron was a grave concern for the player, his family and the club. Andrews was concussed and suffered a small bleed on his brain. Thankfully he recovered well and missed just a month of footy.

The big questions

Will Dayne Beams be around in 2019?
He has two years remaining on his contract, but after a difficult personal year, the chatter has ramped up about a possible move to Victoria. 

How soon can the Lions push to make finals?
Fagan has called for a return to the top eight inside his next three seasons as coach. The current trajectory should have them there by then. 

Can they land another big fish?
Following the success of Charlie Cameron and the vibrant culture around the club, the door is ajar to land another star player. Can the Lions do it?

Season in a song

Hope and Validation – Bernard Fanning

Who's done?

Retirements: TBC

Delistings: TBC

Unsigned free agents: Rohan Bewick, Ryan Lester

How should they approach trade and draft period?

They should – and will – do whatever possible to bring in another couple of mature, talented players. More depth in the midfield and a running defender should be top of the priority list.

Early call for 2019

Another step towards making the finals. The Lions should win nine or 10 games and win the majority of their matches at the Gabba.

Lions fans: what's your season verdict?

Share your views via the form below and we'll publish the best responses on Tuesday, September 4. 

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