BRISBANE has flexed its premiership credentials with a rollercoaster 24-point win over Sydney on Sunday night.
The Lions had to virtually win the game twice, watching a 33-point half-time lead evaporate under a third quarter Lance Franklin avalanche, then re-establishing their dominance to win 17.11 (113) to 13.11 (89).
It was their first victory at the SCG since 2009.
SWANS v LIONS Full match coverage and stats
Brisbane's triumph came under duress with key forward Joe Daniher subbed off at half-time with a left shoulder injury.
Plenty of Lions stood up in his absence though, led by 2020 Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale.
After the Lions' huge half-time advantage dwindled to just three points early in the third quarter after Franklin kicked four goals in the blink of an eye, Neale put the Lions on his shoulders.
The midfield maestro won centre clearances, scooped up ground balls in his defensive 50, kicked a goal and was integral in attacking forays, with his soft hands leading to a crucial Dan McStay goal.
In all, Neale finished with 37 disposals, a whopping 26 of them contested, 11 clearances, nine tackles, 10 score involvements and a goal.
Hugh McCluggage (28) and captain Dayne Zorko (22 and two goals) were pivotal in the middle of the ground, while Harris Andrews, Noah Answerth and Brandon Starcevich, who kept Isaac Heeney relatively quiet by his lofty standards, led a composed backline.
It was a total team display by Chris Fagan's men, who now sit in second place on the ladder behind premier Melbourne.
After an arm-wrestle first quarter that saw scores level, it was Zorko – used as a permanent midfielder for the first time in 2022 – who broke the game open with two goals to start the second.
The Lions got on top around the stoppages, dominating clearances that led to great field position and then smothering the Swans when they won possession.
As Brisbane gained momentum it became more proactive, with Andrews, Answerth and Keidean Coleman leading their opponents to the ball, and McCluggage, Neale and Zorko damaging with ball in hand forward of centre.
Sydney looked out of the game at half-time before Franklin exploded with four of his six goals early in the third.
Callum Mills (30) and Luke Parker (33) battled hard, but it wasn't enough.
Buddy's 10 minutes of magic
At half-time it looked like a mountain for Sydney to climb – enter Buddy Franklin. The Swans superstar unleashed 10 minutes of mayhem that was as good as any in his storied 18-season career, kicking four goals in the blink of an eye. He took a mark 15 seconds into the quarter and then calmly slotted his around-the-corner left-footer to begin a memorable patch. A minute later he won a free kick and goaled and three minutes after he was dribbling another home from the left forward pocket. Franklin brought the house down moments later when he took a strong overhead mark in front of hapless Darcy Gardiner and booted his fourth from 35m.
Zorko back with a midfield bang
Brisbane's captain spent most of the first six rounds stationed at half-back, helping generate plenty of attacking thrusts with his quick decision-making and penetrating kicking. However, Chris Fagan decided this was the week Zorko would return to the midfield and he completely broke the game open in the second quarter. After a deadlocked first term, Zorko rifled home two goals from outside 50 to put his team on top. He finished with 22, eight score involvement and two goals.
Fort's 'world' record
Yes, while the use of the word 'world' is tongue in cheek here, Darcy Fort set an AFL record in the second quarter. The former Cat had kicked 11 goals without a miss entering the match – equal to any player since records were kept in 1999. Midway through the second he had his chance at history when taking a mark 40m from goal. And with the steady hand he has shown through his career to date, Fort arrowed his long-range set shot right through the middle to set a new mark.
SYDNEY 1.3 2.4 8.6 13.11 (89)
BRISBANE 1.3 7.7 12.11 17.11 (113)
Sydney: Franklin 6, Heeney 3, Gulden 2, Hayward, Mills
Brisbane: Cameron 3, Rayner 3, McStay 3, Zorko 2, Ah Chee, Bailey, Fort, Lyons, McCarthy, Neale
Sydney: Franklin, Mills, Parker, Warner, Ladhams
Brisbane: Neale, McCluggage, McStay, Zorko, Berry, Andrews, Answerth
Sydney: Cunningham (groin)
Brisbane: Daniher (shoulder), Prior (ankle)
Sydney: James Bell (replaced Cunningham in the fourth quarter)
Brisbane: James Madden (replaced Daniher at half-time)