A Lions side with an average age in the teens and led by a midfield bull desperate for another crack at the big time, pulled off a stunning one-point VFL victory on the weekend.
The Lions fought back from 24 points down in the final quarter to claim victory over an experienced Aspley outfit loaded with ex-AFL players and NEAFL veterans.
Connor Ballenden, who joined Mathieson on the early morning flight from Sydney to make the game, was also influential in the 14.14 (98) to 14.13 (97) result.
Lions VFL coach Mitch Hahn said the contributions from Mathieson, who had played the finals minutes of the Friday night AFL game as an injury substitute for Ryan Lester, and Ballenden who had been in Sydney as the emergency, were crucial to the victory.
He also made special mention of ruckman Archie Smith who stood tall in his 100th NEAFL-VFL game on his return to action from an eye injury.
“It was a nail-biting game and our senior players really stood up in the last quarter,’’ he said.
“It was a was a fantastic effort by those two (Mathieson and Ballenden) to get back here after a late night game in Sydney and play the way they did.
“And Archie was very good, his last quarter in particular was very important in us getting the win.’’
Hahn said that aside from keeping the Lions’ season alive, the pleasing thing about the win was the continued improvement of some players coming back from long term injuries.
Connor McFadyen, in his fourth game back from a year out with an ACL injury, booted three goals in a strong performance playing across half forward and through the midfield while Nakia Cockatoo continues to build confidence in his body after a wretched run with injury.
“CJ (McFadyen) was awesome, that was his best game of the year,’’ he said.
“He was really strong in the contest and looked dangerous up forward, he is improving every week.
“And Nakia is also getting better every week so he should be gaining confidence, from our point of view it is just great that we are able to get him out there week after week.’’
The match concluded in dramatic fashion after a last ditch grab for victory from former Lions Jacob Allison and Matt Hammelman.
Hammelman pulled in a mark off a deep Allison entry and snapped the ball through the goals in one motion, accompanied by the blaring of the siren.
All eyes then shifted to the umpires who held a quick conference before ruling the siren had sounded a split second before the ball reached the big forward’s hands.
Hahn said the tightly fought game had provided a great learning opportunity for his side which had an average age of just 19 years.
Young Lions Henry Smith and Blake Coleman both put their names on the best players list with their contributions.
“We had a very young side in compared to our opposition and it was terrific to see those players fight it out to the end,’’ he said.
“We were down four goals and no one dropped their heads, they just kept at it and we pulled off a great win.’’