At halftime at the Gabba on Saturday night Lions coach Chris Fagan wanted, needed and asked for a special effort in the third quarter. And he got it. Very special.
Having conceded 50 points in a half for just the third time this season, and the first time since Round 5, the Lions trailed North Melbourne by 19 points at the long break.
Having posted outstanding wins in a row against GWS and Port Adelaide interstate in Rounds 16-17, the Lions risked undoing much of the good by dropping a game at home to an opponent the pundits expected them to beat.
The response from Fagan’s young and emerging charges was to hold North scoreless in the third term.
It was no mean feat. In 33 years, 743 games and 2972 quarters of football prior to Saturday night, the Club had held the opposition scoreless in a quarter just six times.
It wasn’t an entirely new concept to this side – they held defending premiers West Coast scoreless in the third quarter in Round 1 at the Gabba this season – but prior to that the last such occurrence was 2006. And before that 2004, 1999, 1997 and 1996.
Every goal against North was crucial. Which one was your favourite? pic.twitter.com/57Xdstvzd8— Brisbane Lions (@brisbanelions) July 22, 2019
In a season in which the Lions have been lauded for their offensive prowess it would have been heartening for Fagan to see his troops throttle the scoring life out of the North side for the 30min 54sec of the third term.
In fact the Kangaroos were scoreless for 35min 58sec from late in the second until early in the fourth as the Lions took a four-point lead to three-quarter time before getting home in a thriller.
It was the Lions’ 12th win of the season and only the seventh time in club history they have had a dozen W’s in the bank at Round 18, and the first time since 2004.
Those within the club of a historical vent will be quick to fend off any thoughts that this is enough to guarantee the club’s first finals appearance since 2009, given that only last year four teams with a 12-10 win/loss record finished 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th.
But still when Fagan looks at the AFL ladder he will see two other numbers which, like the win column, are wonderfully pleasing. They sit second on the ladder, with a percentage of 114.9.
The last time the Lions were second after Round 4 in any season, and the last time they had a higher percentage of at this point of the season was 2004. Fifteen years ago. Luke Hodge was a 20-year-old 41-gamer.
Interestingly, the Lions rank second in the league in scoring, averaging 90.88 points per game to sit only behind GWS at 92.12ppg.
The Lions rank 12th overall in what is a tight average points against column at 79.12ppg, behind leaders Geelong at 66.88ppg. But after conceding on average 88.56ppg in the first nine games the Lions have cut that back to 68.50 in the last eight weeks.
Also, Fagan will like what he sees under the ‘Form’ heading on the AFL ladder. Five green W’s in a row. The first time the Lions have won five games on the trot since Rounds14-15-16-17-18 in 2007.
McCluggage weaves through traffic! pic.twitter.com/ca63didJQb— Brisbane Lions (@brisbanelions) July 20, 2019
It was a win dedicated to 200th-gamer Daniel Rich, who kicked a critical and trademark long goal late in the final quarter.
Rich became the 18th player to post 200 games for the Lions, and at 29 years 43 days is the 11th youngest.
Nigel Lappin stands as the youngest at 26 years 317 days, followed by Jason Akermanis (27/109), Marcus Ashcroft (27/197),, Michael Voss (27/272), Simon Black (28/53), Darryl White and Luke Power (28/102), Chris Scott (28/145), Justin Leppitsch (28/284) and Jonathan Brown (28/297).
Behind Rich are Jed Adcock (29/252), Daniel Bradshaw (29/276), Ash McGrath (30/34), Shaun Hart (30/94), Tim Notting (30/221) and Chris Johnson (30/347).
Alastair Lynch is also in the 200+ bracket, having played 120 games for Fitzroy, 32 for the Brisbane Bears and 154 for the Brisbane Lions. He was aged 31 years 63 days when he played his 200th career game.
Chris Johnson, too, is a Brisbane Lions 200-gamer with an asterisk. He played 50 games for Fitzroy before heading to Brisbane via the merger and was 27 years 314 days old when he posted his 200th career game.
Fitzroy had 11 200-gamers – Kevin Murray (333), Paul Roos (269), Garry Wilson (268), Frank Curcio (249), Norm Johnstone (228), Alan Ruthven (228), David McMahon (218), John Murphy (214), Alan Gale (213)l, Warwick Irwin (2130 and Mick Conlan (210).
Also on Saturday night, Jarrod Berry posted his 50th game, Alex Witherden topped 1000 career possessions, and Allen Christensen kicked an equal career-best three goals, including his 50th Brisbane goal.
The in-form Jarryd Lyons posted his second consecutive 30-possession game and his fourth in Brisbane colors. He was one short of a personal best with 23 contested possessions and 13 clearances.
Still, Lyons’ 23 contested possessions puts him equal fourth on the club’s all-time list.
The record is held at 26 by Lachie Neale and Mitch Robinson, while Simon Black once had 25.
Neale and Rockliff share the fourth rung on 23 with Lyons, ahead of Neale (twice), Dayne Zorko and Rockliff on 22..
The attendance of 23,833 on Saturday night was the biggest for a North game at the Gabba since 2009 and sees the season average at 23,529 – up from 18,406 last year
Also, in one for the trivia buffs, captain Zorko received a career-high six free kicks against North on Saturday - a mark bettered by only five players in club history.
Stefan Martin heads the list with nine frees received against Richmond last year, while Allen Christensen received eight frees in his first game against former club Geelong in 2015 to match the personal bests from the Bears days of Mick McCarthy (1987) and Roger Merrett (1993).
Christensen also received seven free kicks in a game in 2016, while ex-Bear Darren Carlson received seven free kicks in a game in 1987 to round out the seven-plus group.
Zorko joins fellow Lions Troy Selwood, Archie Smith, Rhys Mathieson, Stefan Martin (twice) and Simon Black in the ‘six free kick club’, plus 12 Bears players - Richard Champion, Matthew Clarke, Steve McLuckie, Mark Williams (twice), Phillip Walsh, Carlson (twice), Andrew Taylor, Rod Lester-Smith, Peter Curran, Craig Lambert, Brendan McCormack and Roger Merrett (twice).