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1:32pm  Oct 23, 2017

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AFL Media's mid-season review

Michael Whiting, AFL.com.au  June 2, 2017 12:50 PM

Mid season review.jpg

The season so far

With a new coach and almost identical list to last season for the Brisbane Lions, not a lot was expected, and although they've lost nine matches straight, there's been flashes to suggest some improvement. Defeating Gold Coast, leading the Bulldogs by six goals at Etihad Stadium, and matching strides with Hawthorn in Launceston were all big ticks. Missing Allen Christensen for the year and Mitch Robinson long-term hasn't helped, but the return of Dayne Beams, form of Tom Rockliff and Dayne Zorko, and the improvement of youngsters Harris Andrews, Eric Hipwood, Jarrod Berry and Hugh McCluggage have all been exciting.

Quarters won: 11

Players used: 34

Yet to play: Allen Christensen, Jarrad Jansen, Josh Clayton, Sam Skinner, Alex Witherden, Jono Freeman, Jacob Allison, Corey Lyons, Cian Hanley, Matthew Eagles, Mitchell Hinge, Oscar McInerney, Reuben William, Blake Grewar.

Stats leaders

Disposals: Dayne Zorko (261)
Marks: Harris Andrews (59)
Goals: Dayne Zorko, Eric Hipwood (14)
Tackles: Dayne Zorko (70)
Metres gained: Dayne Zorko (avg: 564)
Clearances: Tom Rockliff (80)

Best win

Round one against Gold Coast. A brilliant start to the season with a scintillating seven-goal first quarter setting up the two-point win.

One that got away

Round two against Essendon. After trailing big at half-time, the Lions worked their way in front early in the final term and had all the momentum on their home turf, but faded late and cost themselves a 2-0 season start.

Best and fairest leader: Dayne Beams

Surprise packet: Nick Robertson

Missing in action

Allen Christensen: The clever half-forward has had all sorts of troubles with his collarbone and will miss the entire season. In the past 12 months he has broken it twice, and then after one NEAFL match in April, scans found a crack in the plate keeping it together. He quality ball use in the front half of the ground has been sorely missed.

The concern

The trend of opposition teams getting on big runs of goals is killing the Lions. In matches they've been competitive in, Essendon (eight in succession), the Bulldogs (seven), Six Kilda (six) and Hawthorn (six) have all got away from Chris Fagan's men in short spaces of time.

Pass mark

This season was never about a certain number of wins constituting success, but the Lions would like a few victories on the run home to quench their thirst. They need to drag the opposition scoring down significantly from 122 points a game to show some improvement. Continued progression of their players 22 years and under would also be deemed a success.

The coach

Chris Fagan took on arguably the toughest job in the competition and although his first 10 weeks have been rough, his stamp is becoming more visible. The Lions are playing with a good spirit and rarely rolled over like they did at times last year, and their quicker, aggressive ball movement is a clear eye to the future. Perhaps most importantly, Fagan has driven tough selection standards and not been afraid to drop experienced players in favour of those that have performed at NEAFL level.

How the best 22 has changed

The injuries to Mitch Robinson (foot) and Allen Christensen (shoulder) really hurt this line-up. Youngsters Schache and McCluggage were unavailable for round one, and despite Schache's recent omission, these two are in the best team. Paparone has surpassed Rohan Bewick for a wing spot, while Berry has been exceptional in his first year. 

B: Darcy Gardiner, Harris Andrews, Daniel Rich
HB: Sam Mayes, Dan McStay, Nick Robertson
C: Marco Paparone, Dayne Zorko, Ryan Lester
HF: Lewis Taylor, Josh Schache, Hugh McCluggage
F: Ben Keays, Eric Hipwood, Jake Barrett
Foll: Stefan Martin, Dayne Beams, Tom Rockliff
I/C: Jarrod Berry, Tom Cutler, Tom Bell, Rhys Mathieson