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Taking control of the centre

Was Zorko's 70m bomb goal luck, or just all part of a clever plan?

Dayne Zorko's 70m bomb to ice Brisbane's win over Hawthorn on Saturday night might have had a touch of luck about it, but the source of the score didn't.

From an evenly contested bounce, the Lions skipper swooped on a loose ball in the centre circle, ran a few metres and pumped it long past wrestling players, watching it bounce through for a goal.

It's been happening all season.

There are countless factors why the Lions have surged into fifth place at the halfway mark of the season, and right near the top of the list is their work from centre clearances.

Recall matches earlier in the year against North Melbourne and Port Adelaide where Brisbane rained goals deep in fourth quarters after repeatedly sweeping the ball from restarts.

With off-season acquisitions Lachie Neale and Jarryd Lyons seamlessly fitting alongside Zorko and ruckmen Stefan Martin and Oscar McInerney, Brisbane is ranked second in the competition for scores from centre clearances.

Champion Data statistics show it averages 14.9 points a game to only marginally trail red-hot Greater Western Sydney. 

And it's no accident.

Since joining Brisbane in November, Lyons has taken control of the centre bounce, identifying it as an area the Lions could spend more time developing.

"I took it under my wing and thought it was somewhere we could get an advantage," Lyons told AFL.com.au.

"A few of the boys call it my second child.

"It's something I pride myself on and think you can get a marginal gain in winning the ball early and that territory battle has a big influence on results."

Lyons said the introduction of the 6-6-6 rule heightened the importance of centre clearances to get the ball into forwards with more space to work in.

And although collectively Brisbane don't spend a lot of time on it, it's quality time.

Lyons said despite being the "new guys" to the club, he and Neale had immediately been empowered by the coaching staff and playing group to have an input.

"Me and Lachie put our heads together - and we weren't sure what they did last year or how much time they spent on it - and we came up with a few more strategies and things we could implement rather than just rolling in on the weekend.

"We run through it at training now to make sure everyone is across it. 

"It's not a big time, no more than 10 minutes.

"I think it's important you touch on that and it goes a long way towards our effectiveness in that area this season."

Lyons was new to the club, but he had connections already formed.

His younger brother Corey is in his third season, while midfield coach Dale Tapping had coached him at TAC Cup team Sandringham in 2010.

There were also relationships with football manager David Noble and small forward Charlie Cameron from their time at Adelaide.

 

Lyons said his centre clearance homework begins each week by watching vision of the upcoming opposition with ruck and midfield coach Ben Hudson.

The pair then take ideas to the midfielders after training.

Lyons said the input of Martin and McInerney had been crucial.

"Full credit to Stef and O, they've embraced it and taken it on board," he said. 

"They give their two cents worth with what's best for them, where they like to hit it, that's the best place to start.

"I think we're starting to form a really good bond as a group."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs