If Chris Fagan could have written the script for his 100th game as coach of the Brisbane Lions he could hardly have done it better. A return to his hometown of Hobart for a historic win.
It was Round 14 last year, when the Lions made their first visit to the Tasmanian capital to beat North Melbourne at Bellerive Oval 9-14 (68) to 6-9 (45) win in the headline story for the Round 14 installment of ‘Remember When …”
At the time it was all about the team. Coming off a Round 13 bye after a Round 12 loss to Melbourne at Sydney Showgrounds – a Covid anomaly that will always look odd in the history books - they needed a win to steady things a little.
North, coming off a draw against GWS, led by two points at halftime before midfielders Jarryd Lyons, Hugh McCluggage and Lachie Neale steered the Lions home 9-14 (68) to 6-9 (45).
Lyons had 36 possessions and 12 tackles to collect three Brownlow votes, while Neale’s 30 possessions, 10 tackles, 10 clearances and a goal, was worth two votes and McCluggage’s 31 possessions earned him one vote.
But as soon as the points were in the bag it became all about Fagan and his 100th game.
The win gave him a 50-50 win/loss record which in itself was a wonderful achievement after the Lions had gone 5-17 in each of his first two seasons in 2017-18 and were 14-36 in his first 50 games.
That his 100th game would coincide with Brisbane’s first game in Hobart was fairytale stuff. Although he was born in Queenstown on the Tasmanian west coast Fagan spent much of his football life in the Tasmanian capital in in a career of 263 games with Hobart, Sandy Bay and Devonport.
He’d enjoyed his first TFL premiership in 1980 when Hobart beat Glenorchy in front of 17,111 people at North Hobart Oval, where he also played many of his 11 State games for Tasmania.
Fagan was Brisbane’s fourth 100-game coach after Robert Walls, Leigh Matthews and Michael Voss. Ironically, Walls was also one of only two 100-game coaches at Fitzroy, sharing that honour with Bill Stephen.
Bellerive was the 25th and venue to host the Bears/Lions. Can you name the first 24? In order it went MCG, Kardinia Park, Moorabbin, Carrara, Victoria Park, WACA, Whitten Oval, Princes Park, Windy Hill, SCG, Waverley, Subiaco, Gabba, Football Park, Docklands, Sydney Olympic Stadium, Launceston, Darwin, Adelaide Oval, Wellington (NZ), Sydney Showgrounds, Perth Stadium and Ballarat.
Historically, Round 14 has not been one of the club’s best. They went 2-8 in the Bears era and are 11-23 overall, with a bye in Round 20. They are 9-6 at home but 2-17 away from home.
In other Round 14 highlights:
1997 – A Win by 18 points – literally
Ordinarily if you are told your team won by 18 points you’d assume the difference was three goals straight or maybe 2-6. But not in Round 14 1997, when they met Richmond at the Gabba. It was the 12th-placed Lions against the 15th-placed Richmond in Darryl White’s 100th AFL game. The Lions won 7-26 (68) to 7-8 (50). The difference was 0-18.
It is in the club record books as the worst kicking display for any sort of substantial score.
The Bears kicked 17-30 against Fitzroy in 1995 at a conversion rate of 36.2% - the highest number of behinds in club history.
The Lions kicked 14-26 (35.0%) against Hawthorn in 2004 and the Bears kicked 11-23 (32.4%) against Carlton in 1989. But the 21.2% conversion against the Tigers in ’97 is top of the combined list.
The main culprits were Michael Voss, Craig McRae and Jarrod Molloy, who each kicked 1-4, and Justin Leppitsch, who kicked 0-3. Completing the scorecard were Marcus Ashcroft (1-2), Shaun Hart (1-2), Matthew Clarke (1-1), Craig Lambert (1-1) and Jason Akermanis (0-1). Plus four rushed behinds.
2005 – A Career-Best for Bradshaw
Throughout the golden era of the Lions Alastair Lynch, Jonathan Brown and Daniel Bradshaw formed a phenomenal goal-kicking triumvirate.
Lynch, Brown and Bradshaw shared 64 games from Brown’s debut in 2000 to Lynch’s last game in 2004. And they won 52 times. And while Lynch and Brown enjoyed a much bigger profile, and are both still enjoying big roles in the football media, the media-shy Bradshaw was an invaluable ally. Like in Round 14 2005 against Melbourne at the Gabba.
Bradshaw, in his 151st game, kicked a career-best nine goals as the Lions turned an eight-point halftime lead into a 25-16 (166) to 13-14 (92) win. And still he received only two medal votes, with Jason Akermanis’ 27 possessions and five goals earning him three votes.
Bradshaw followed up 12 months later in the Round 14 Gabba clash with Melbourne of 2006 with another eight goals and finished his 222-game stint in the #36 Brisbane jumper with 496 goals to rank second on the club’s all-time list behind Brown (594) and ahead of Lynch (460).
Interestingly, too, the 2001-03 premiership player had the better conversion rate. He kicked 496-240 at 67.39% while Lynch kicked 460-237 (66.00%) and Brown 594-325 (64.64%).
It makes him a value-plus pick-up at #56 in the 1995 National Draft. He was the club’s only golden choice in a draft pool from which the club also took pick #12 Andrew Gowling (0 games), #28 Nick Trask (12 games) and #42 Troy Johnson (2 games).
2007 - Wonderful Win in the West
The Lions were going through a rough trot midway through 2007, with only a draw to show for seven games from Rounds 7-13. They were 13th on the ladder as they flew west to face West Coast, the defending premiers who were looming strong again at 9-4 and third on the ladder.
When they were 16 points down late in the second quarter the Subiaco fans were pretty chirpy, before a brilliant second half from the Lions set up one of club’s great wins. They kicked 9-9 to 3-2 from that point on win 13-13 (91) to 9-10 (64).
Jonathan Brown kicked four goals after a slow start but for once he wasn’t in the Brownlow Medal votes. Nor were the teams leading possession-winners Nigel Lappin (33) and Tim Notting (31).
Best afield was the enigmatic Jared Brennan, who took seven marks inside the forward 50m arc and kicked 4-3. Simon Black, the local boy returning home, had 28 possessions and a goal for two votes, and Robert Copeland, who had kicked 20 goals in his first 121 games, kicked a careers-best three goals after starting in defence for one vote.
It was a debut to remember for WA draftee Matthew Leuenberger and Queenslander Will Hamill.
2019 – A Major Turning Point
Coming off consecutive 5-17 seasons in Chris Fagan’s first two years at the helm in 2017-18, the Lions were starting to put things together in 2019. They’d gone WWWLLWWLWLWL through the first 12 rounds before a Round 13 bye.
Sitting seventh on the ladder they played 11th-placed St.Kilda at Marvel Stadium. When they led 4-7 to 4-5 midway through the second quarter things were going pretty much as anticipated. A likely win without anything too much over the top.
But the 75 minutes that followed were to become a major turning point in the progression of the Fagan side from improving to good. The Lions kicked 13 of the next 14 goals to get 76 points up before cruising home 17-13 (115) to 8-11 (59).
Allen Christensen started the charge before Jarryd Lyons kicked two to close out the second term. Charlie Cameron opened the third with back-to-back goals before Lincoln McCarthy and Mitch Robinson followed. After a reply for Essendon from Nick Hind the Brisbane burst was back on … Christensen, Hugh McCluggage, Eric Hipwood, Dayne Zorko and Dan McStay, and then McCluggage to start the final term.
It was a blitz which stamped the Lions as a genuine top four side, and the start of a nine-game winning streak. And while the straight-sets exit it the finals wasn’t what Fagan was looking for the belief that came out of the brilliant surge through July and August was an important part of the team’s overall development process.