Suddenly, Saturday afternoon 8 June, when the Brisbane Lions trudged off Marvel Stadium after a 15-point Round 12 loss to bottom side Carlton, seems a long, long time ago.
It’s as if the Lions took a few days off over the Round 13 bye and came back a different side. Because they did.
They have looked an entirely different outfit, refreshed by the break and the re-set, and have slipped back into their early season mode of breaking long droughts and adding new lines to the club record books.
Sunday’s outstanding eight-goal win over Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval added significantly to the list of outstanding achievements by the 2019 Lions side.
In notable statistical achievements on Sunday:-
- It was the first time since 2005 the club has won three interstate games in a row, adding a 48-point Round 17 win over seventh-placed Port in Adelaide to a 17-point Round 16 win over fourth-placed GWS in Sydney and a 56-point Round 14 win over St.Kilda in Melbourne.
- With a 33-point Round 15 Gabba win over Melbourne squeezed in between the interstate hat-trick and the Lions now sitting third on the ladder, it is the first time since Rounds 1-2-3-4 of 2010 the club has won four games in a row. And the first time since the same 4-0 start they have been as high on the ladder.
- The win over Port gives the Lions an aggregate 4-4 interstate record this season, excluding the Round 6 win over the Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium. This comes after the club won 17 of 91 games interstate from 2010-18.
- Four interstate wins this year equals the aggregate tally of 2014, when they beat Melbourne, Collingwood and Western Bulldogs in Melbourne, and St.Kilda in Wellington, New Zealand. And there are still two interstate games against Hawthorn in Launceston and Richmond at the MCG to play this year.
- It was the Lion’ first win in seven visits to Adelaide Oval, and the first career win at Adelaide Oval for no less than 17 members of the side.
There was so much for Lions fans to enjoy, and for coach Chris Fagan to be proud of on a day when they were missing three key members of the first-choice side – Luke Hodge, Eric Hipwood and Hugh McCluggage – against a Port side which had beaten Adelaide by 57 points a week earlier.
Like the first 22min 7sec in which the Lions kicked seven unanswered goals through Lincoln McCarthy (2), 100th-gamer Charlie Cameron, Alex Witherden, Jarryd Lyons,, Dayne Zorko and Mitch Robinson to grab a stranglehold on the game.
It was brilliant stuff, and the first time since Fagan’s first game in charge of the Lions in Round 1 2017 that they have kicked seven goals in the first quarter.
Surprisingly, that day against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium the Lions had seven goals on the board in 17min 47sec to make Sunday’s onslaught look positively pedestrian.
But to put things into a better perspective, since minute-by-minute scoring records were introduced to the weekly statistics folder in 2000 the Lions’ seven-goal blitz in the wet on Sunday ranks third in time for the club.
The only other time the Lions kicked seven goals quicker at the start of a game was in Round 8 2008 against Carlton at Marvel Stadium, when they posted their seventh goal after 20min58sec and their eighth goal at 29min 16sec still 1min 47sec before three-quarter time.
Just as pleasing for coach Fagan as the early goals would have been the way the Lions players jumped to the cause when Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley sent Power first-gamer Cam Sutcliffe out to unsettle Lachie Neale, a former Fremantle teammate and such a good friend that he was a groomsman at the Neale wedding late last year.
It was an all-in response. Even Fagan, coaching from the sideline, was caught by the TV cameras offering some verbal advice to Sutcliffe as he ran to the bench.
The seven-goal first quarter on Sunday has been bettered only nine times in Brisbane’s 743-game history. Six times the club has kicked eight goals in the first time, and once each they have kicked nine, 10 and 11.
The club record 11 goal first-quarter was almost 20 years ago against Fremantle at the Gabba in Round 20 1999 when they opened 11-1 to 2-4 on their way to a 28-13 (181) to 9-3-(67) win.
This was just three weeks after they kicked 10 goals in the first quarter to set up a 100-point Gabba win over West Coast.
Fittingly, Cameron was a standout in his 100th game, with his four goals against Port taking his season total to 33 and elevating him to sixth on the League goal-kicking list behind GWS’s Jeremy Cameron (48), North Melbourne’s Ben Brown (43), Geelong’s Tom Hawkins (40), West Coast’s Jack Darling (39) and Richmond’s Tom Lynch (37).
It was enough for the well-respected Nick Dal Santo, speaking on SEN radio Monday, to suggest that Cameron is right in the mix for a spot in the All-Australian squad with fellow Lions Neale, Zorko and Harris Andrews.
Cameron and best afield Lyons, who had 36 possessions, were outliers in the Lions side on Sunday for a different reason. The former Adelaide pair went into the game with an aggregate 48 wins at Adelaide Oval while Neale, McCarthy and Josh Walker, each with one, were the only other Lions players who had previously tasted victory at the ground.
The Lions’ current four-game winning streak is far superior to the last in 2008, when the Lions beat eighth-placed Carlton at Marvel Stadium, followed by ninth-placed St.Kilda, sixth-placed North and 15th-placed Fremantle at the Gabba.
The challenge for the 2019 Lions, now, as they look ahead to Saturday night’s Gabba clash with North Melbourne, is to replicate the club’s last five-game winning streak, which was in Rounds 14-15-16-17-18 in 2007.
But first coach Fagan will be quick to remind his players the job is not yet done. Since the competition expanded to 17 and then 18 teams in 2011 and 2012 the win cut-off for the top eight has been 13 in 2018, 12 plus percentage in 2016-17, 13 in 2015, 12 in 2013-14, 14 wins in 2012 (with a game to spare) and 11 wins and a draw in 2011.
So, with 11 wins, the Lions still have work to do in the last six rounds when they will play North (12th) at the Gabba, Hawthorn (11th) in Launceston, Western Bulldogs (10th) at the Gabba, Gold Coast (18th) at the Gabba, Geelong (1st) at the Gabba) and Richmond (5th) at the MCG.