Ten years ago next Thursday, a 19-year-old Daniel Rich made his finals debut. 

It was three days after he had won the 2009 AFL Rising Star Award and was the culmination of a massive first season in the AFL in which the blonde West Australian played every game in his debut season. 

Rich polled maximum votes from all nine judges in Rising Star voting to win with 45 from Adelaide’s Andy Otten (30), Essendon’s Tayte Pears (28), Collingwood’s Dayne Beams (10), Fremantle’s Stephen Hill (9), Western Bulldogs’ Callan Ward 9) and Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield (4).  

Speaking to the AFL family via video link from Brisbane to accept his Rising Star award, Rich noted it was all ‘a bit surreal’. He said: “Going into an AFL club you’d be happy just to get g game, let alone to play the full season and be involved in finals,” he said. 

He was right. Drafted from Subiaco at #7 in the 2008 National Draft,  he had quickly become an integral part of a Lions side which rebounded after they had finished 11th-13th-10th-10th in the last four years of the magnificent Leigh Matthews era. 

Under first-year coach Michael Voss they overcome a 2-3 start to break into the top eight in Round 6 and stayed there until they qualified for the finals sixth on the ladder with 13 wins and a draw. 

Set for the club’s first finals appearance since the remarkable run of four consecutive grand finals in 2001-02-03-04, they were drawn to play Carlton at the Gabba. 

Sixteen members of the Lions side were to make their AFL debut – Matt Austin, Jared Brennan, Mitch Clark, Scott Harding, James Hawksley, Rhan Hooper, Daniel Merrett, Joel Patfull, James Polkinghorne, Jack Redden, Michael Rischitelli, Jason Roe, Sam Sheldon, Justin Sherman and Cheynee Stiller. 

Completing the line-up were premiership players Jonathan Brown, Simon Black, Daniel Bradshaw, Luke Power and Ash McGrath, and ex-Melbourne grand final player Travis Johnstone, who had joined the Lions in 2008. 

Carlton, coached by Brett Ratten, had finished seventh after beating Brisbane twice in the home-and-away season – by 19 points at Docklands in Round 2 and by six points at the Gabba in Round 19. 

The build-up in Brisbane was huge as Brennan prepared to play his 100th AFL game and Roe his 50th in front of what would be a bumper Saturday night crowd of 32,702. 

Coach Voss made three changes at selection. Bradshaw and Merrett returned from injury as Josh Drummond and Joel Macdonald missed through injury. Hooper was promoted from the Reserves, and Lachie Henderson, never to play for the Lions again, was dropped. 

It was a match which was to feature five players who two weeks later would finish on the leaderboard in the 2009 Brownlow Medal won by Geelong’s Gary Ablett. Carlton’s Chris Judd was second, Brisbane’s Black and Brown were equal fourth, and Carlton’s Bryce Gibbs and Marc Murphy were equal 10th. 

The nervous Lions trailed 0-0 to 3-3 inside 10 minutes but after captain Brown and Bradshaw kicked steading goals the home side led by a point at halftime. 

But again the match swung. Carlton skipped four goals clear in the third term and when Cameron Cloke kicked the first goal of the final stanza in what was to be his last game for the Blues the difference was 30 points. 

Inspired by a loud and spirited home crowd, the Lions rallied. Brown goaled at the 8-minute mark and was followed by Hooper at the 12-minute mark and Brown again four minutes later.  

It was game on. Rich kicked a memorable goal at the 21-minute mark and when Bradshaw found the big sticks twice in quick succession the Lions led by seven points with seven minutes to play. 

The closing stages were what finals were meant to be. Hard and tough. The ball swung between the 50m arcs without a score. A rushed behind saw Carlton pull within a goal, before a behind from Johnstone inside the last minute saw the Lions home 16-15 (111) to 19-14 (104). 

Black was best afield with 26 possessions, Bradshaw (5) and Brown (4) combined for nine goals, and Merrett did a superb job at fullback on Carlton’s Brendan Fevola.

It was a wonderful win but six days later the Lions lost by 51 points to the Western Bulldogs at the MCG. Their season was over.  

Rich is the only member of the 2009 Lions playing group still with the club, and will be a valuable resource in the build-up to the qualifying final against Richmond at the Gabba on Saturday week. 

What Rich went through in 2009 is not totally dissimilar to that which a lot of players will go through this year in a side which has also ended a long absence from September action. 

Only nine members of the 2019 Lions playing list have played finals, but like the leadership core of Brown, Black and Power in 2009, there is plenty of big-time experience.  

Luke Hodge (23 finals) and Allen Christensen (7) are premiership players, Lachie Neale (7) and Charlie Cameron (7) have played in a grand final, and Mitch Robinson (5), Jarryd Lyons (3), Lincoln McCarthy (3), Josh Walker (3) and Rich (2) have sampled the extra intensity of finals football. 

In fact, at least on paper, the 2019 Lions side will be better prepared than their 2009 counterparts. 

Their side in the final home-and-away game had an average age of 25 years 35 days, a total games experience of 2222, 10 players with 100 games’ experience or more, and only six with less than 50. 

The corresponding 2009 side was younger at 23 years 301 days on average, and less experienced, with a combined 1808 games, only five 100-gamers and 10 players who had played less than 50 games. 


Nigel Lappin and Justin Leppitsch hold the record for most finals for Brisbane with 23, followed by Jason Akermanis (22), Shaun Hart (22), Darryl White (21), Black (20), Alastair Lynch (20), Marcus Ashcroft (19), Chris Johnson (19), Power (19), Voss (19) and Craig McRae (18). 

Fitzroy Team of the Century member Percy Parratt holds the corresponding Fitzroy record at 19. 

It is a list dominated by players from the early 1900s through to the 1930’s, with only Bernie Quinlan and Mick Conlan, each with nine finals, from the more recent era. 

The full list is Parratt (19), Jimmy Freake (18), Lou Barker (13), Gerald Brosnan (13), Tom Heeney (12), Peter Trotter (11), Conlan (9), Les Mills (9), Quinlan (9) and Jim Toohey (9).