Rhys Mathieson cemented his reputation as the ultimate club man in his sixth season at the Lions.
Individually, it was the 24-year-old’s best season at AFL level with 15 senior appearances, seven of them as the medi-sub.
However, it was the impact he had on the group during the long periods on the road, and on the team when he was called into the first 22, that defined his campaign.
Eight times Mathieson was in the side, mostly as cover for injured Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale, and eight times the Lions won.
Such was the nature of the season that of the seven times he was sub, he was called upon on three occasions.
None other than captain Dayne Zorko labelled him the ultimate teammate for the energy and positive attitude he brough to the touring party, or the bench on days he was the sub.
Mathieson made headlines after a 20 possession effort in the victory over reigning premiers Richmond in Rd 10, firstly for his scuffle with premiership Tiger Liam Baker after kicking a long range goal and then for a throwaway line in a post-match interview where he labelled himself the side’s “Barometer.”
The pile was predictable but inside the Den, Mathieson’s teammates appreciate the role he has assumed in providing a spark.
Although his official season average disposals were slightly down due to the fact he played limited minutes in three games and didn’t make it onto the field in four, his contribution when he played was solid.
He didn’t play the minutes as the established midfielders, especially around the ball, but he still managed to reach 20 disposals on four occasions and also had games of 19, 18 and 17 possessions.
It was good enough to earn him a new contract extension which will keep him at the Club until the end of 2023.
Thomas Berry continued his development in his third season at the Lions.
He came into the side for the Rd 2 clash with Geelong and his defensive pressure was an immediate feature.
He hunted the Cats defenders and finished the game with six tackles to go with a goal.
He backed that up with a strong game against Collingwood, gathering 10 possessions and kicking a goal in the one-point win.
He remained in the first 22 for another three weeks before appearing as the medi-sub on a further six occasions.