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A message from Fages

To all Brisbane Lions members & supporters,

After our narrow Semi Final loss to the GIANTS on Saturday night at the Gabba I thought it might be worthwhile for me to share a few of my thoughts with you on the 2019 season.

To start with I would like to thank all of you for your amazing support of the team throughout the season. The players and I appreciate it a great deal. The Gabba has come back to life over the last three games with crowds of over 30,000. The noise you make and the passion you have displayed is inspirational and motivational for everyone. The atmosphere is nothing short of electric and clearly intimidating for opposition teams. It has no doubt helped us enormously to improve our performances in home games. The support we have received at away games, particularly in Melbourne, has also been tremendous. It helps more than you realise when you are on the road to hear the roar of Lions fans at games and to see you turn up to our Captain’s training runs. It feels like our army of members and supporters is growing, which is something we want to continue into 2020.

You make a difference, much like having an extra man on the interchange bench for a game.

At our post game meeting on Saturday night we touched on three things;

  1. Our performance v GIANTS
  2. Reflected on our achievements for the 2019 season.
  3. Celebrating the career of Luke Hodge and his contribution to our Club. 

In terms of our performance against the GIANTS we did a lot right. When you win contested ball, clearances, pressure, inside 50’s, time in forward half and forward half turnovers you usually win most games. Unfortunately, on Saturday despite winning all these by a healthy margin we lost the game by 3 points. From the 10-minute mark of the first quarter we outscored the GIANTS 80 points to 57. 

In our meeting we talked about our poor start plus the “little moments” in the game where we lapsed in concentration defensively or we didn’t show enough composure to use the ball to best advantage, particularly going inside 50.

When the best are playing against the best in Finals it is often these little moments that make all the difference. When you think about it, we only needed to get one more of those moments right and we probably would have won the game. Losing by three points is a hard way to learn but that is what we must and will do. The Finals experience will be invaluable for our growth as a team. 

We moved on then to talk about all the great things we’d achieved as a group over the course of the season. I thought this was important to do given the giant strides we have taken as a Club in 2019. I didn’t want the doom and gloom of a Finals loss to overshadow what has been the Lions most productive season for many years. So, we made a list on the white board of all that we had done. 

With the second youngest list in the AFL and the third least experienced in terms of game average we did the following: 

  • Played Finals for the first time in 10 years [2009]
  • Defeated four of the other teams in the Top 8 [West Coast, Geelong, GIANTS and Bulldogs]
  • Won 10 games at the Gabba [the last time we did this was in 2004 with 12]
  • Won 16 home and away games [the last time we did this was in 2004]
  • Going from 15th on the ladder in 2018 to 2nd in 2019 is the equal biggest climb of any team in AFL history. [Brisbane Lions in 1999 finished 3rd after finishing 16th in 1998 is the other one]
  • Going from five wins in 2018 to 16 this year is the second biggest jump in AFL history.
  • It’s the first time since 2004 that we have finished in 2nd place on the AFL ladder.
  • We had the number one offensive record in the AFL in 2019 – 2004 points at an average of 91.1 points per game.
  • We had the 7th best defensive record conceding 1694pts at an average of 77pts per game. This is a massive improvement from 2016 when we averaged over 130pts per game against.
  • Our percentage jumped from 89% in 2018 to 118% in 2019.
  • We won six games on the road [twice in Melbourne, Adelaide, Launceston, Sydney and Gold Coast] That’s a win in every state bar Western Australia, where we lost to Fremantle by a point after the siren.
  • Won nine consecutive games from Rd 14-22.
  • Had crowds of 30,000 plus on four occasions [Round 5, Round 22, Qualifying Final & Semi Final]
  • Our Club membership has pushed close to 29,000 people and the Club will make a profit for the first time since 2009
  • Five players were selected in the All Australian Squad of 40 players [Lachie Neale, Harris Andrews, Charlie Cameron, Hugh McCluggage and Dayne Zorko]. Three made the final team.
  • Five of our Under 22 players made the AFLPA Under 22 squad [Harris Andrews, Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Alex Witherden and Eric Hipwood] Four made the final 22 with Harris being named as Captain.
  • Our NEAFL team went through the season undefeated and on Sunday won the Grand Final by 76 points over Southport. 

There were lots of other things on the list that I haven’t shared here but as you can see it’s the best year our Club has had in a long time.

We are totally aware that we still have so much work to do and improvements to make to challenge for an AFL Premiership, but we thought it was worthwhile to do this exercise with the players so that they could see just how far they’ve come in recent times.

We are striving to be the best but must also enjoy the journey and process that gets you there.

Finally, we took some time to reflect on the career of Luke Hodge who announced his retirement to the boys after the match. We mostly talked about the great contribution he has made to our playing group over the past two seasons. His guidance of our backline unit, his willingness to spend extra hours helping players individually with their games, his mentoring of our leadership group and his voice and direction out on the field. We mentioned how smart he is in the way he plays the game, what a great competitor he is and how he always puts the team first.

He is also a great mate to all the players off the field and away from the Club and shows great care and respect to everyone who works at the Lions. He is no doubt one of the all-time great AFL players and leaders and we have been so fortunate that he has spent the past two seasons at the Lions sharing his knowledge and experience with our young group. For me personally he has been a great sounding board and source of ideas to get the best out of our playing group.

Thanks, Hodgey, you’ve been a star for us, the Hawks and the AFL in general you embody all the good things that the game stands for.

Well that’s it for season 2019. We will learn our lessons and strive to come back as an even better team in 2020. We now know that we are good enough to compete with the best; the job now is to improve enough to be the best.

You, our members and supporters are just as important as the players in this process.

We want you to stand with us in 2020. We need you to turn up at games in large numbers and to support with passion. Every time we get to play in front of a large noisy crowd at the Gabba it becomes a Finals like experience for us, which is something we can’t get enough of. The players love your support, you help them rise to the occasion and help give them the belief that we can at some stage in the future be the best team in the AFL.

Thanks to all of you.

Go Lions.

Fages

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