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Lions hitting best form as flawless finals record to be put to the test

Charlie Goodsir, NEAFL.com.au. Photo: David Layden  August 31, 2018 11:04 AM

 - Brisbane Lions

The Brisbane Lions were the biggest surprise of the 2017 NEAFL season. After finishing in last place in 2016, the Lions were phenomenal and finished in second place at the end of the home-and-away rounds.

The Lions then made the 2017 NEAFL Grand Final and defeated the Sydney Swans by three points in another classic season decider and claimed their third NEAFL premiership – the most of any club.

However, in 2018, the Lions have done it the hard way in order to qualify for this year’s finals series as they prepare to face a strong Aspley side on Saturday at Graham Road.

After their ruthless 101-point win against the GIANTS in the final round, Lions captain Claye Beams told neafl.com.au it hadn’t been a perfect season to date.

“We started the year really well and then in the middle part of the year we dropped off a little bit,” he said.

The premiership defence got off to a shaky start when the Lions lost to the NT Thunder by a single point in their opening game.

Brisbane then settled to win their next five, which featured strong victories against Sydney, Gold Coast and the GIANTS.

Most impressively in this space of time, the Lions had an average winning margin of just under 70 points and only conceded an average of 47.

Brisbane were beginning to demonstrate to the rest of the competition their ruthless attacking game-style.

Similar to many teams this season, after the Lions winning streak came to an end they experienced a long losing streak. Between Round 8 and 14, the Lions dropped from second position on the ladder down to seventh.

Whether or not the Lions were struggling with the pressure of being premiers last season was addressed by Beams.

“We haven’t really thought about that” he said.

“We are just trusting the process each week.

“We know our best footy can match it with anyone and hopefully we can build that before finals.”

The NEAFL competition in 2018 has been the closest in its short history. After Round 17, three teams, including the Lions, were stuck on seven wins and fighting for sixth place.

It prompted coach Mitch Hahn after the Lions’ strong 61-point win against the Swans to say, “every game for us now is a final.”

The Lions took their coaches message to heart and since Round 15 have not lost a game to surge into the finals and finish in fifth spot with a lot of confidence.

“In the past six to seven weeks we have started playing our best footy which is fantastic. We’re hitting our straps at the right time,” Beams said.

Beams and the entire Lions team firmly believes that they have what it takes to go back-to-back this year. History is on their side, with the Lions never losing a NEAFL finals appearance, and will head into Saturday’s blockbuster with a 9-0 record.

“The belief is definitely there but it’s not just going to happen. We need to be playing our best because there are a lot of good teams in the NEAFL and it’s not going to be easy.”

Aspley hosts Brisbane at Graham Rd from 1.30pm on Saturday. The match will be live-streamed on lions.com.au.

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