Throughout September and October, lions.com.au will be reviewing the seasons of all members of our current playing group. Today we look at how Connor Ballenden, Corey Lyons, Jack Payne and Matt Eagles' seasons unfolded.
#38 - Connor Ballenden
Brisbane Lions Academy graduate Connor Ballenden had a solid first year at the Club.
The tall forward was selected by the Lions with Pick No. 43 at the 2017 AFL Draft.
He spent the year in the NEAFL working on his game and kicked 19 goals in 17 matches playing in the forward line but also helping out in the ruck on occasions.
A facial fracture midway through the year slowed his progress, but he bounced back quickly
His best match of the season came in Round 7 against Redland when he kicked a season-high five goals and took several strong contested marks.
As is often the case with key forwards, their development can take some time. Ballenden impressed with his work ethic around the ground and contested marking ability in 2018 and will be pushing to make his Senior debut in 2019.
NEAFL matches: 17
#39 - Corey Lyons
Corey Lyons had a great second season at the Lions and was rewarded by being selected as a joint winner of the Neville Fallon Reserves Best and Fairest.
A smart and skilful midfielder, Lyons averaged 26.6 disposals a game across his 18 appearances for the Lions’ NEAFL side. He also chipped in with 11 goals for the season and made a total of 77 tackles.
He kicked two goals and racked up 40 disposals against the Giants in Round 21 in what was his best performance of the season.
With a footy IQ beyond his years, Lyons impressed coaching staff and teammates alike with his development throughout the season.
Lyons went very close to making his AFL debut in 2018 and will be hellbent on achieving this goal in 2019.
NEAFL matches: 18
#40 - Jack Payne
Jack Payne’s first season at the Lions didn’t quite go according to plan.
The Lions Academy graduate was selected with Pick No. 54 in the 2017 AFL Draft, and he did everything right in his first pre-season, so much so, that the Lions extended his contract for another year in early February.
As key defender already possessing a mature body and brute strength, Payne was very impressive in the Lions’ pre-season match against the Sydney Swans.
He showed no fear marking Lance Franklin, despite being only 18 years of age.
Unfortunately, Payne didn’t play again after the pre-season matches, with a persistent shin complaint ruling him out for the season.
He will likely be on a modified program to start pre-season, with the Lions mindful of his long-term health and prospects.
#41 - Matt Eagles
Matt Eagles was one of the feel-good stories of the 2018 AFL season.
It seemed incredible that Eagles, winner of the reality TV show ‘The Recruit’ in 2016, would go on to spend more than a year on the Lions’ list.
After an exceptional season in the NEAFL in 2017, Eagles earned a one-year contract extension and began his push to make his AFL debut.
While he missed a chunk of pre-season due to injury, it took just four NEAFL matches for Eagles to prove his mettle and get the call up to make his Senior debut.
What impressed the coaches was his remarkable intercept marking ability and aggression around the contest.
Senior Coach Chris Fagan was amazed by the progress Eagles had made.
“He’s come a long, long way. It’s a great story,” Fagan said.
“The dream has come true for him. It’s come true because he’s worked hard.’’
He performed well in his first match against Collingwood and kept his spot for the Lions’ next three matches.
The highlight of his season was the Round 9 victory over Hawthorn, where he kicked his first goal and enjoyed his first Gatorade shower alongside Luke Hodge, Charlie Cameron, Oscar McInerney, Cam Rayner and Zac Bailey.
An abdominal injury sustained in Round 11 against North Melbourne, which required a groin reconstruction,
Despite the injury, Fagan and General Manager of Football David Noble saw enough in his four Senior appearances to offer him another one-year contract for 2019.
He has progressed well in his rehab and is on track to take part in the Lions' full pre-season training schedule ahead of the 2019 season.
Senior matches: 4, NEAFL matches: 4