Richard Hadley’s 2003 finals fairytale will forever be part of Brisbane Lions folklore. Drafted at 17 in 2000, he debuted at 18 in 2001 and then waited 881 days for his next outing in 2003. It was a semi-final. Fifteen days and two games later he walked off the MCG a premiership player.

It is one of the very best tales of football when it matters most in September. Or October as it was in the Covid season of 2020.

As Lions fans look forward to the start of the 2021 finals series against Melbourne in Adelaide on Saturday night it’s one of those stories that inevitably pops up in the “do you remember when  …?”
and the ‘how good was it when …?” conversations.

There have been countless special finals moments in Brisbane finals.

Like the 2003 grand final when Marcus Ashcroft completed the perfect retirement. Having won just 17 of his first 82 games and collected three wooden spoons in his first five years he went out with 56 wins, a draw and three premierships from his last 75 games.

In the same game there was the extraordinary heroics of Nigel Lappin to play with broken ribs and what later found to be a punctured lung. And he didn’t just play – he was magnificent. His dive on a loose ball late in the game, long after the flag was locked away, was commitment-plus. Even if it did border of crazy.

Perhaps Lappin was inspired during the last quarter by teammate Craig McRae, who, as the margin against Collingwood blew out to 50 points, ran around chirping to his teammates “how good is Mad Monday going to be?”. They’ve never forgotten.

But not all memorable finals moments were good memories.

Shaun Hart, winner of the 2001 Norm Smith Medal in the club’s first premiership, ended his 273-game career on a stretcher at the MCG after being ko’d in a collision with teammate Daniel Bradshaw in the 2004 preliminary final against Geelong. Having suffered what doctors described as “car accident type injuries”, Hart later joked that the trademark helmet he always wore held his head together.

Together these and other moments special for different and individual reasons make up the Brisbane finals history.

Overall, in 29 finals Brisbane have played 12 different opponents, with a positive or even record against 10 of them. They are unbeaten against Essendon, Adelaide and Sydney, sit on the right side of the ledger against Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond, Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs and even with St.Kilda and Geelong. They are in the negative only against North Melbourne and GWS.

This weekend’s qualifying final against Melbourne will be the club’s first against the 2021 minor premiers, while they have never played a final against Hawthorn, Fremantle, West Coast and Gold Coast.

This week will also see Adelaide Oval become just the fifth ground to host a Brisbane final after their finals trek has been dominated by 16 games at the Gabba for a 13-3 record and 11 games at the MCG, where they are 4-7 after losing their first four finals.

The club’s other two finals were at Waverley in 1997, where they lost a qualifying final to St.Kilda, and the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, where they beat Sydney in the 2003 preliminary final.

How well do you know the club’s finals history, and the individual standouts?


Fourteen teenagers have played finals football for the Lions, including six 18-year-olds … Jason Akermanis, Trent Bartlett, Daniel Bradshaw, Jonathan Brown, Jack Redden and the youngest of all, Damien Cupido.

Remember him? He was the enigmatic mid-sized utility born in South Africa who joined the Lions as selection #6 in the 1999 AFL draft from Croyden in suburban Melbourne via the Eastern Ranges in the TAC Cup Under-18 competition.

Cupido played only 13 games for the club from 2000-02 before he was traded to Essendon for Blake Caracella, who was a member of the Lions’ 2003 premiership side. But he left his mark on Brisbane finals history ahead of 40 games with the Bombers.

Having debuted in Round 11 2000 aged 18 years 71 days, Cupido strung five games together before losing his place in the side. When the Lions beat the Western Bulldogs in a semi-final at the Gabba but lost Luke Power and Chris Scott to hamstring problems Cupido was recalled with Tim Notting.

The build-up to Cupido’s finals debut was another extraordinary finals tale. And he wasn’t even involved. It was all about Daniel Bradshaw and his long-term girlfriend Angie, now his wife.

She was pregnant at the time and had been staying with her parents in Wodonga for a fortnight before the finals. When Bradshaw flew to Melbourne for the semi-final against Carlton she visited the team hotel the night before the game. She left about 10pm to return to her own hotel, leaving Bradshaw to slip into football preparation mode. But soon after her waters broke.

Unable to contract Bradshaw immediately Angie headed to the Royal Women’s Hospital. He joined her soon after, but when doctors forecast a long labor he returned to the hotel. After some intermittent sleep he contacted club welfare manager Shane Johnson about 6.30am and shortly after they confronted coach Leigh Matthews.

When Matthews told him “do what you’ve got to do” Bradshaw, not really in a fit state to play football, withdrew from the side and was back at the hospital by 7am. Marcus Picken got a late call-up over breakfast for his finals debut and Jake Bradshaw was born at 3.40pm – about halfway through the third quarter.

By then the Lions were gone. They were beaten 10-9 (69) to 23-13 (151). Cupido, 161 days beyond his 18thbirthday, had five possessions and kicked two behinds.

Overall, Jonathan Brown heads the ‘most finals before 21’ list with eight. He played two finals at 18, three at 19 (including a premiership) and three at 20 (including another premiership). Luke Power played five and Jason Akermanis, Chris Scott, Nigel Lappin, Justin Leppitsch, Ashley McGrath and Cam Rayner four.

Hadley’s finals debut in his second AFL game is a club record, and with his second and third finals he also holds second and third spot on the list of least experienced finals players.

Keidean Coleman, who made his finals debut in his fifth game in 2019, sits next on the list equal with Nick Trask, who played in the 1997 qualifying final in his fifth game.

Others to play in the finals with 10 games or less behind them have been Matt Austin (7), Trent Bartlett (8), Trent Knobel (9), Jack Redden (9) and James Hawksley (10).


Twenty-one players aged 30-plus have played finals for the Lions, including seven who were 32-plus … Marcus Ashcroft (32), Grant Birchall (32), Stefan Martin (33), Shaun Hart (33), Roger Merrett (35) and Luke Hodge (35) and the club’s oldest player all-time, Alastair Lynch.

In the 2004 grand final against Port Adelaide Lynch played his 306th and last game aged 36 years 98 days to set a benchmark that will take some beating.

Sadly, it was a day Lynch remembers as his lowest in football and describes as “a total embarrassment”. Having pinged his quad in the opening minutes the frustrated champion full forward initiated a wild brawl with Port opponent Darryl Wakelin.

Although neither player landed any significant blows and no damage was done Lynch was fined $15,000 and suspended for 10 matches. Wakelin was fined $5000.

The Lynch suspension was meaningless. He’d privately committed to retirement even before the game and, having spent more than half of it on the bench when all efforts to get his bad quad up and going had failed, made it official after the Lions’ 40-point loss.

Lynch played a total of 18 finals for the Lions beyond the age of 30, including four grand finals. Next best is Shaun Hart (13), Marcus Ashcroft (7), Martin Pike (7) and Darryl White (5).

Luke Hodge, who finished his career in the 2019 semi-final in his 346th game overall, is the most experienced Lions player in a final.  

Others to play in a final beyond their 240th game have been Ashcroft (318), Lynch (306), Hart (273), Grant Birchall (264), White (258), Simon Black (256), Michael Voss (247), Andrew Bews (246), Nigel Lappin and Luke Power (241).


Ask Simon Black to nominate his most memorable day in football and he’d find it hard to go past the 2003 grand final against Collingwood. It was the perfect performance.

Not only was he part of the Lions side that completed an unforgettable premiership hat-trick but he had a career-best 39 possessions to win the Norm Smith Medal.

His monster afternoon, which included a career-best 25 contested possessions, is not only a Lions record for a final but an all-time AFL grand final record since possession counts began in 1965.

Black, Nigel Lappin and Marcus Ashcroft, each with three 30-possession finals, head 10 Brisbane players to have topped 30 in a final.

The others are Lachie Neale, whose 37 possessions in his first Lions final in 2019 is the equal second-best for the club with Black’s 37 in 2004, Jason Akermanis, Adrian Fletcher, Shaun Hart, Craig Lambert, Luke Power and Michael Voss.

Lappin is the Lions’ highest possession-winner overall in finals football with 530 from Black (463), Akermanis (393), Hart (379), Voss (346) and Power (333).


Alastair Lynch kicked 65 goals in 20 finals to rank equal sixth all-time in AFL finals. Only Gordon Coventry (111), Jason Dunstall (78), Jack Titus (74), Leigh Matthews (72) and Lance Franklin (69) have kicked more. Stephen Kernahan shares the mark with Lynch, ahead of such champions as Gary Ablett Snr (64), Doug Wade (64), Kevin Bartlett (62), Jack Dyer (62), Jack Mueller (62) and Peter Sumich (62).

It goes without saying, then, that Lynch is Brisbane’s all-time leading goal-kicker in finals.

He missed the club’s first final in 1995 when sidelined by Chronic Fatigue, but in his second final against Carlton at the Gabba in the semi-final of 1996 he kicked seven goals in a 97-point win.

With that superb performance against Carlton champion Stephen Silvagni, fullback in the AFL Team of the Century, he set another club record for most goals in a final that stands 25 years on.

The ex-Fitzroy powerhouse full forward equalled it in his 13th final – a 77-point win over Adelaide in the 2002 qualifying final at the Gabba.

In 29 finals overall the club has had 22 hauls of four goals or more. Lynch has nine of them, with a bag of six in the 2003 Gabba semi-final against Adelaide, plus two fives and four fours.

Jonathan Brown, too, kicked six goals in the 2004 Gabba qualifying final against St.Kilda to go with two bags of four, while four other players kicked five goals in a final – Jason Akermanis, Daniel Bradshaw, Craig McRae and Luke Power.

The other two on the finals goal-kicking honour board with bags of four were Jarrod Molloy and Justin Leppitsch.

Behind Lynch for all-time finals goals for the club are Akermanis (34), Brown (32), Bradshaw (25), Nigel Lappin (19), Michael Voss (17), Craig McRae (17) and Leppitsch (16).


Nigel Lappin and Justin Leppitsch played together for the first time in Round 5 1994. They were 18. It was Lappin’s 14th game and Leppitsch’s 5th as the Bears beat Fitzroy at the Gabba by seven points.

They played together for the 201st and final time in Round 14 2005. They were 29. It was Lappin’s 251st game and Leppitsch’s 223rd game as the Lions beat Melbourne at the Gabba by 74 points.

Only seven times through a shared journey of 263 games did the club play without both.

It was a special bond made even more special by the fact that they played together in 23 finals without a miss. From the club’s first final in 1995 to the 2004 grand final. Sixteen finals wins, three premierships and a shared Brisbane record for most finals.

Jason Akermanis and Shaun Hart (22) sit together below Lappin and Leppitsch on the ‘most finals’ list ahead of Darryl White (21), Simon Black and Alastair Lynch (20), Marcus Ashcroft, Chris Johnson, Luke Power and Michael Voss (19), Craig McRae (18), Jonathan Brown (17) and Tim Notting (16).


The Brisbane Lions have won 18 finals all-time and four players share the distinction of playing in 16 of them – Jason Akermanis, Shaun Hart, Nigel Lappin and Justin Leppitsch. Simon Black, Craig McRae, Luke Power and Michael Voss played in 15 finals wins, Chris Johnson, Alastair Lynch and Darryl White 14, and Marcus Ashcroft and Jonathan Brown 13.

What else do these 13 players have in common? They were all members of the 2001-02-03 premiership sides. So, too, were Clark Keating, who won 12 finals overall, and Mal Michael and Martin Pike, who won 11 finals after joining the club together at the start of the golden run in 2001.


The 2004 finals didn’t end as Lions fans hoped they might, with a loss to Port Adelaide in the grand final, but three weeks earlier was a moment not to be forgotten.

In the qualifying final at the Gabba the Lions beat St.Kilda 149 to 69 to post the club’s highest finals score and biggest finals win.

Jonathan Brown (6), Daniel Bradshaw (4) and Craig McRae (3) led the goal-kicking party in the absence of the injured Alastair Lynch, while Simon Black (37) and Nigel Lappin (32) topped the possession count.

The big win should have guaranteed Brisbane a home preliminary final after a week off, but in a decision that still angers Lions fans today they were forced to play the grand final qualifier in Melbourne as the AFL cited an agreement to play at least one preliminary final at the MCG.

Within 12 months the agreement was torn up and since then, Covid aside last year, the teams earning a home preliminary have hosted them.


Dayne Zorko, who will lead Brisbane into the 2021 finals series, understands perfectly what it means to play at the ‘pointy end’ of the season. After all, he was 167 games into his career before he tasted finals action.

It was a wait that took him into his eighth season after he had waited four years just to get drafted, and for Brisbane-only games it is a club record, ahead of Ryan Lester (140), Marcus Ashcroft (127), Matthew Kennedy (111), Darcy Gardiner (105), Dan McStay (102) and Jared Brennan (100).

But for three players who began their career elsewhere and moved to Brisbane to eventually play in the finals the overall wait was even longer.

Stefan Martin, who began at Melbourne, was 181 games overall and 124 Brisbane games, while Craig Lambert, best afield in Brisbane’s first final in 1995, went 123 games at Richmond before making his finals debut in his 29thgame for the Bears and his 152nd overall. Alastair Lynch, a 120-gamer at Fitzroy without a final, had to wait until his 150th overall.


Leigh Matthews, 10th on the all-time AFL list of most finals coached at 27, has guided Brisbane into 18 of the club’s 29 finals. Chris Fagan’s fifth final this weekend will jump him to second ahead of John Northey (4), Michael Voss (2) and Robert Walls (1).

Michael Voss, triple premiership captain, has skippered the Lions in 13 finals solo and a further three in partnership with Alastair Lynch when the pair shared the job in 1999-2000. Lynch also led the side solo three times in the finals when Voss was injured.

Dayne Zorko, who will skipper the Lions in a final for the fifth time this weekend, is next on the list ahead of Roger Merrett (4) and Jonathan Brown (2).


Grant Birchall, equal 30th on the all-time AFL finals list and equal fourth among 2021 players, will play his 26thcareer final this week. Lachie Neale and Charlie Cameron, with 11 finals overall and four for Brisbane, are the Lions’ next most-experienced finals player in the current side from Mitch Robinson (8), Jarryd Lyons (7), Lincoln McCarthy (7) and Daniel Rich (6).

Joe Daniher, who played two finals at Essendon in 2014 and 2017, and Nakia Cockatoo, who played one final at Geelong in 2017, will be chasing their first finals win in their Brisbane finals debut.

Hoping to make their finals debut in Adelaide on Saturday night are Tom Fullarton, Rhys Mathieson, Jaxon Prior, Devon Robertson and Tom Berry.