Only 19 players have played 200 games for the Brisbane Lions, and only three of them have earned three Brownlow Medal votes in their 200th game … Nigel Lappin, Simon Black and Jonathan Brown.
Lappin did so in Round 6, 2003 when he had 29 possessions and one goal as the ladder-leading Lions beat bottom side Geelong at Kardinia Park, and Black did so in Round 9, 2007, when he had 37 possessions and a goal as the then 16th-placed Lions lost by 33 points to Collingwood at the Gabba.
But Brown, the most recent member of this exclusive group, had perhaps the most drama-charged 200th game in Round 21, 2010 to headline this week’s “Remember When – Round 21” flashback.
The Lions were 16th on the ladder, having won just one of their previous 10 games in their second season under coach Michael Voss, when they played 15th-placed Essendon at Marvel Stadium.
The season was done and Brown had missed the Round 20 game with a knee problem. He was under an injury cloud right up until game day, and he could easily have taken an early mark in what had been a tough campaign.
Not Brown. No way. He made it a line in the sand moment. The Lions had not won in Melbourne all year and this was their last chance. As a life-time Fitzroy man, he was insistent that the team would give the Club’s southern supporter base something to cheer about.
He put on a 200th game clinic to inspire a 14-11 (95) to 10-8 (68) win that was even more decisive than the final margin suggests.
With the big fella in jumper #16 proving unstable, the Lions led by 58 points at 14-9 to 5-6 early in the last quarter before the Bombers kicked the last five goals to add a degree of respectability to the final scoreline.
The powerhouse 28-year-old, in his second season as sole captain, had 25 possessions (11 contested), took 16 marks (five contested and eight inside 50) and kicked 4-6. It could easily have been eight or 10 goals.
And he did it all carrying a bad groin which, on top of everything else, meant he didn’t play in the last game of the season the following week.
Daniel Rich was another standout with 30 possessions for two Brownlow Medal votes, and Michael Rischitelli, on his way to the Merrett/Murray Medal in his last season with the club, polled two votes for 28 possessions and two goals.
Brown’s long-time teammates Simon Black and Luke Power had 31 possessions apiece to make sure their skipper could celebrate in style.
Overall, Brisbane have a 19-15 record in Round 21 games – not such a bad outcome after they started 1-7. They are 12-7 at home in Round 21 games and 7-8 away. Other highlights include:-
1996 – A One-Point Thriller
Coming off their maiden finals appearance in 1995, the Bears stamped a real mark on the competition in their first season under John Northey in 1996 when they won six games in a row to sit third on the ladder at Round 20 with 58 premiership points. They were behind only Sydney (62) and North Melbourne (60) and ahead of West Coast (56), Carlton (52), Geelong and Essendon (50).
A Round 21 Gabba clash Fremantle, 14th on the 16-team ladder in their second year in the competition, wasn’t expected to be too much trouble. But it was. And it took a miracle 25m soccer kick from an unlikely hero to get them over the line.
Brisbane trailed at every change, and with eight minutes to play they were down by 16 points – the biggest margin of the night.
It was desperate stakes. Justin Leppitsch, enjoying his first season as a permanent forward, pulled in a clever one-handed mark from a brilliant Scott McIvor pass and cut it to 10 points.
Danny Dickfos, who made a belated but outstanding entry to the AFL in 1996, wisely conceded a rushed behind to make the difference 11 points and then took two crucial saving marks deep in defence.
From the second he found a running Shaun Hart who kicked long to a leading Roger Merrett. The veteran of the AFL at 36, in his 309th game, calmly slotted it from 40m. Five points down with 2min57sec on the clock.
The Dockers went forward from the centre bounce but Matthew Kennedy quickly turned them around and, after a trademark burst through the middle of the ground, kicked long to a pack.
The ball came to ground and from nowhere Hart threw his trusty left foot at it. Amid a pack of players, it sailed through for full points. With 1min23sec to play they were in front for the first time.
‘What a beauty – football is alive and well in Brisbane” declared Malcolm Blight in commentary.
In the dying seconds Trent Bartlett won a tough possession and then worked hard again to force a boundary throw-in. Tristan Lynch made a thumping spoil for another, Andy Gowers went the disciplined spot, and Lynch put on a critical tackle. Finally, Matthew Clarke thumbed the ball forward to Leppitsch in space, and when he found McIvor at half forward the job was done and the Bears had jumped to the top of the ladder.
Brisbane won 10-11 (71) to 10-10 (70). Hart received one Brownlow Medal vote for his team-high 29 possessions and match-winning goal, and Michael Voss, with 27 possessions and a goal, picked up two votes.
They were two crucial votes, as would be revealed a few weeks later at the medal count.
Going into Round 21 Voss led the medal count with 19 after one vote against North in Round 19 and three votes against Fitzroy in Round 20, although he’d polled two votes less than ineligible North ruckman Corey McKernan.
Only four players could win going into the last round – Voss (21), Geelong’s Garry Hocking (19), Western Bulldogs’ Chris Grant (18) and Essendon’s James Hird (18).
In Round 22 Hocking didn’t poll and finished on 19. Grant polled two votes to get to 20 and, as the count was stage-managed as it always is, Voss didn’t poll against Collingwood in Round 22. So when Hird polled three votes in the last round it was a Voss-Hird tie. Brisbane had their first Brownlow Medallist and McKernan was left to rue to controversial late season suspension.
1999 – Another Special 200th
Alastair Lynch had first found himself on the radar of the Brisbane public in Round 21 1993, when he kicked seven goals for Fitzroy in a 104-point demolition of the Bears at Princes Park in what turned out to be his second-last game for the club.
Six years later, after a tough time with chronic fatigue syndrome, the champion key forward found himself a favourite with the Brisbane fans when he ventured to the MCG to play his 200th AFL game in Round 21 1999.
The Lions, third on the AFL ladder and needing a win to keep their top two chances alive, faced a Melbourne side sitting third from the bottom. They led at each change and won 25-9 (159) to 15-14 (104). Their score was the club’s highest at the MCG since the Bears’ first game in Round 1 1987, and 13 years on it still sits second along the all-time Brisbane high scores at headquarters.
A 20-year-old Tim Notting, playing just his 13th AFL game, was an unlikely match-winner as he returned to what had been something of an intimidating venue.
Notting, drafted with pick #26 in the 1996 AFL National Draft after playing four games with the Richmond Reserves in his draft year, had played his 1st, 2nd and 4th games at the MCG in his first season in 1998 for three losses by 14 points, 95 points and 77 points.
Wearing jumper #39 at the time, Notting kicked six goals to set a career-best mark that still stood when he retired 195 games and two premierships later.
Chris Johnson kicked four goals as, in an interesting pointer to how the game has changed, Chris Scott (23), Nigel Lappin (21) and Michael Voss (20) topped the possession count. And the Brownlow Medal votes went to Shaun Hart, Adam Heuskes and Clark Keating.
2006 – Small Consolation
One of the great travesties of justice of the Lions golden era was the fact that Mal Michael never won All-Australian selection. He wasn’t even named in the 40-man squad when unquestionably one of the very best fullbacks in the game in a side that played in four consecutive grand finals and won three premierships.
Statistically, it was a compelling case. He played 97 of a possible 101 games from 2001-04 and finished 8th-5th-10th-6th in the Merrett/Murray Medal. And in 2005-06, when the Lions missed the finals, he played 43 of a possible 44 games and finished 7th-4th in the B&F.
It didn’t help the Michael case that in the 2001-04 era teammate Justin Leppitsch took one of the two key defensive posts in the All-Australian side, but it was odd to see Michael beaten by Fremantle’s Matthew Pavlich (who rarely played fullback) and Geelong’s Matthew Scarlett in 2002-03 when their sides finished 13th and 12th respectively.
The only external recognition Michael got from 2001-04 was one solitary Brownlow Medal vote in 2003. He polled another vote early in 2006 and bid farewell to the Lions in Round 21 2006 with one vote in his penultimate Brisbane game against Sydney at the Olympic Stadium – in a bad loss.
Fittingly, it was the 200th game of his AFL career, which began at Collingwood and finished at Essendon either side of his outstanding time at the Gabba. Playing on Barry Hall in Hall’s 200th game, Michael kept Hall to three kicks, three marks and two goals and had a career-best 20 possessions and 10 marks as Sydney prevailed 14-13 (97) to 6-4 (40).
2014 – A Special Win for ‘Leppa’
Justin Leppitsch had a tough three years as Lions coach, with only 14 wins in 66 games, but if you asked him to single out just one of them it’s most likely he’d go straight to Round 21 2014.
The Lions sat 15th on the AFL ladder late in his first season and were coming off a 105-point home hiding from the Adelaide Crows – still the club’s biggest loss in 353 games at the Gabba.
They were to face a Collingwood side that was one of four teams locked together with a 10-9 record in positions 7th-8th-9th-10th. The Pies were one win behind 6th but only one win ahead of 12th in their third season under Nathan Buckley.
Ironically, Leppitsch and Buckley, 17 and 20 at the time, had made their AFL debut together more than 21 years earlier when the Brisbane Bears played North Melbourne at the MCG in Round 1 1993.
But that was long forgotten. Buckley had taken the Pies to the finals in each of his first two seasons, and when the Lions opened the Round 21 bookies market at $5.25 outsiders, with Collingwood at #1. 15 he could have been justified for being confident.
But after the home side kicked the first goal inside 70 seconds it was all Lions. They kicked the next four goals in five minutes through second-gamer Jonathan Freeman, Dayne Zorko, Claye Beams and Daniel Merrett and led by 10 points at quarter-time at 6-1 to 4-3.
The second quarter was a replica of the first. Collingwood kicked the first goal and Brisbane the next four. They led by 34 points at halftime – 10-7 to 6-7. And were never headed.
It was Brisbane by 59 points at the last change and 67 points at the final siren, when the scoreboard showed an emphatic win 18-15 (123) to 8-8 (56).
It didn’t hurt the visitors that Collingwood lost Jamie Elliott from the selected side on the Saturday morning and Scott Pendlebury five minutes before the first bounce. And that Ben Reid did a hamstring in first five minutes, Cloke did his ankle in the second quarter and Beams injured his knee in the third, but Brisbane were clearly the better side.
They amassed 430 possessions to Collingwood’s 318, with Tom Rockliff collecting 43 in his 100th game and Zorko a then career-best 36. Stefan Martin had 32 possessions in what remains a career-best, and Pearce Hanley had 32 possessions.
Freeman, who had never even been to the MCG before playing there, kicked 4gls in a fairytale introduction to Australia’s most famous sporting stadium, while Merrett, stretchered off in the third term with a knee problem that proved only to be a scare, did his bit with three goals.
Jed Adcock, in his first season as sole captain after he’d shared the role with Jonathan Brown in 2013, was superb in his 183rd game with 25 possessions, a goal and a team-high nine tackles, and Beams, playing against older brother Dayne for the first time, had 17 possessions and a goal in an important contribution to a magnificent win.