Throughout September and October, lions.com.au will be reviewing the seasons of all members of our current playing group. Today we provide our verdict on Toby Wooller, Ryan Lester, Rhys Mathieson and Brandon Starcevich's seasons.
#34 - Toby Wooller
Toby Wooller quickly learned the unexpected setbacks that can come with a career in professional football.
In March, before having played his first game in the Lions guernsey, the first-year draftee underwent surgery on his left ring finger after injuring a tendon during a training mishap.
After three months of rehabilitation, Wooller made his Lions NEAFL debut during the Round 12 curtain-raiser at the Gabba against the GWS Giants, showcasing his natural ability up forward with two goals.
The 19-year-old went on to play the final ten matches of the season, averaging almost 16 disposals and 1.6 goals a match.
Wooller showed his faith to the Lions in May by putting pen to paper by extending his contract until 2020.
He will be one to watch in 2019 with a full pre-season under his belt.
NEAFL matches: 10
#35 - Ryan Lester
Ryan Lester's versatility on
He played a total of 15 Senior matches, in a variety of positions.
In his eighth season, Lester was again part of the Lions' leadership group.
A few quiet performances early in the season saw him return to the NEAFL.
Lester produced a number of solid efforts during his five NEAFL games in 2018, averaging 26 disposals, 7 marks and 1.6 goals per game.
In Round 11, Lester returned to Seniors as the Lions took on North Melbourne at Etihad. The 26-year-old's elevation produced one of his best performances this season.
While consistency wasn't Lester's best feature this season, both players and coaching staff have been impressed by his leadership.
General Manager of Football David Noble emphasised his role upon the development of his young teammates earlier today.
"Ryan has shown his leadership this year through not only his actions but his behind the scenes influence with some of our emerging talent," Noble said.
“He is always putting the team first as has been demonstrated by the versatility of roles for our team in the last couple of years.”
Lester's influence both on and off the field was today rewarded by re-signing for 2019.
Coaches Comment - Murray Davis, Backline Coach
"Came into the side as a defender in Round 11 v North Melbourne, Froggy always gave us a contest and on numerous occasions made goal-saving tackles or a smother to deny the opposition a score.
Senior matches: 15, NEAFL matches: 5
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#36 - Rhys Mathieson
The 2018 pre-season saw Rhys Mathieson return to training in his best form yet.
Mathieson opted to not return home to Victoria during the off-season, remaining in Queensland to train alongside one of the Lions' best runners, Nick Robertson.
While Mathieson was ineligible for selection in Round 1 due to a minor hamstring complaint, he impressed during his return in Round 2 against Melbourne at the Gabba.
A quieter game in the Round 4 loss to Richmond resulted in Mathieson being dropped to NEAFL as the coaches made a number of changes to the side.
The young midfielder made a significant impact for the Lions' NEAFL side, playing seven consecutive matches and collecting an average of 24 disposals per match.
Mathieson returned to Senior football after the Round 13 bye and played the remaining ten games for 2018.
The 21-year-old produced his most exciting match of the year in Round 20 at the Gabba, kicking two goals and collecting 15 disposals.
Coaches Comment - Dale Tapping, Midfield Coach
"Good second half of the season as an inside mid. Works hard around the contest and is committed to developing his game."
Senior matches: 13, NEAFL matches: 7
#37 - Brandon Starcevich
Strong performances in the NEAFL throughout the year saw Brandon Starcevich get his first taste of Senior football in Round 20 in front of a home crowd.
It was a huge week for the 19-year-old who extended his contract for a further two years only six days after making his debut.
A highlight of Starcevich's season was his first AFL goal during the Lions' heated QClash win over Gold Coast in Round 22.
Starcevich was a valuable contributor to the NEAFL side's forward line and midfield earlier in the season, averaging 16 disposals and five tackles a match, over 15 NEAFL matches.
Ahead of his second pre-season at the Lions, supporters will be looking forward to seeing the results that come from the powerful young midfielder in 2019.
Senior matches: 4, NEAFL matches: 15