18 Teams in 18 Days: Brisbane Lions

2017: 18th (5 wins – 17 losses)

Key Acquisition:

Luke Hodge (from Hawthorn), Charlie Cameron (from Adelaide), Cam Rayner (AFL Draft – Pick #1)

Key Losses:

Tom Rockliff (to Port Adelaide), Josh Schache (to the Western Bulldogs)

Million Dollar Question

How much can these lion cubs improve in season 2018? Despite “winning” the wooden spoon last season, the Lions did win 5 games (which is quite a lot for a last place team given recent history) and really showed some signs of improvement under first year coach Chris Fagan. For the first time in forever the Lions didn’t see much walk out the door in the offseason, though former captain Tom Rockliff’s presence and leadership will be missed. While they would have preferred to have kept young forward Josh Schache. Despite finishing 18th, there were 6 teams who kicked less goals than Brisbane in 2017, although the Lions did have the second highest average losing margin in the competition (47 points) behind only Fremantle (48 points). If Brisbane can tighten up the backline in season 2018, we could be looking at one of the most exciting young teams in the land this season.

Case For

They’ve stemmed the bleeding. After seeing bucket and bucket loads of talent leave in recent seasons, Brisbane are now up to their eye balls in talent. Be it in defence with key tall Harris Andrews or overnight sensation Alex Witherden, midfield guns-to be Hugh McCluggage, Jarred Berry and Cam Rayner or talented key forward Eric Hipwood, this is all of a sudden an extremely talented young list up in Bris-Vegas. If the Lions can produce better consistency from week to week, there’s no telling how far this team could go in 2018. For all the doom and gloom around the two Queensland teams right now, this is a side that looks to be on the right track from a list perspective.

Case Against

Of course, with each young list cones growing pains. For every thrilling 4th quarter comeback against the Bombers at Etihad, there will be a blowout to Adelaide in Adelaide. Brisbane fans who’ve waited a while for respect, not necessarily success, will be asked to wait a while longer. We are, after all, talking about the AFL’s youngest list on average age (23.5 years) and 4th youngest in experience (55.2 games). Realistically, this is a team that looks to be another 2 years away from being a finals challenger, but stranger things have happened in this crazy league of ours. Nobody predicted the start-up Bulldogs to make the finals prior to the 2015 season. And they did. And they won a premiership the very next season.

One to Watch

Hugh McCluggage. The jungle drums are beating up north about just how good young McCluggage has looked over the pre-season. Despite playing all bar 4 games last season, McCluggage overall didn’t quite live up to the hype of a number 3 draft pick. Expect that to change this year with more opportunities in the engine room for the clever, smooth second year mid to operate.

Bold Prediction

How bold is too bold? The prediction here is that these Lion Cubs will still be in contention for the finals come round 18. Which would mean doubling their win total from last season (from 5 wins to perhaps 9 or 10). That’s bold.

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