There was a lot of unknown for Conor McKenna when he made the decision to return to Australia and AFL football. 

The 27-year-old made the tough decision to fly home to Ireland following 79 games with Essendon and hadn't touched a Sherrin for two years before selecting the Brisbane Lions in the Supplemental Selection Period.

And while he may have put pen to paper, McKenna wasn't an automatic selection in the Lions 22 initially.

In a side that boasted veteran defender Daniel Rich as well as exciting youngsters, Keidean Coleman and Darcy Wilmot, 'Kenny' as he's affectionally known by his teammates was made to his earn his place.

Fast-forward to the end of the season and not many could honestly say they predicted McKenna to have the impact and season he had.

Playing all 26 games and averaging 16.9 touches and 407.8 metres gained a game, he became a vital piece of the Brisbane backline.


Speaking to AFL Media earlier in the year, General Manager of Football, Danny Daly even expressed his surprised in the Irishman's impact.

"To be perfectly honest we thought it'd take him eight or nine games to get back into the flow of things and he'd be really important for us in the back half of the year," Daly said.

"That's how we looked at it.

"For him to play every game is a lot more than what we expected.

"Two years away playing a different sport and being able to come back and do what he's been able to do is pretty phenomenal when you think about it."

McKenna's best game arguably came when the Lions needed him most.

After Brisbane conceded the first five goals of their Preliminary Final against Carlton, the 27-year-old played a key role in launching Brisbane's counter attack.


Collecting 20 disposals, seven inside 50s, six intercept possessions as well as six score involvements and 558 metres gained, McKenna was worth his wait in gold and arguably best on ground as he willed his side into a Grand Final berth. 

The new look Brisbane half back line with McKenna, Coleman and Wilmot caused headaches for opposition forwards with the trios ability to slice through traffic with their speed or their foot skills.

With another pre-season under their belt, expect plenty of dash from the Lions back half in 2024, with Conor McKenna leading the way.