Welcome to Look Back/Look Ahead, a series where every team is analysed in-depth, and their temperature taken. The plan here is to figure out where a team is at with their on-field style and overall list health before transitioning to their most pressing issue, and whether they can solve it over the off-season.
Depending on how you look at it, Brisbane’s season can be interpreted in a number of different ways.
There were the first nine rounds, when the Lions looked every bit the premiership contender in racing to an 8-1 record.
From that point until the end of the home and away season, Brisbane’s year stuttered and struggled along, defence wilting along with a handful of dispiriting defeats.
Then to finish it off there were a pair of exhilarating finals wins against Richmond and Melbourne, going a long way to rectifying the September performances of previous years.
So which part of the year should Brisbane place the most stock in?
Look Back/Look Ahead will run during the weeks of September, taking us right up to Grand Final day and finishing with the top two shortly after.
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With only a quartet of players on big money past 2024 (Andrews, Cameron, Daniher and Neale), it’s understandable Brisbane have the room to offer Josh Dunkley a large deal and still have space available for Jack Gunston.
A well-managed list has clear priorities for this off-season with players coming in and draft points for Ashcroft and Fletcher. Next year the focus will be on Cam Rayner and Eric Hipwood, then by the 2023 off-season the next individual need will be apparent.
Step by step, with no looming crunch. It’s been smartly set up.
Posts continue to come thick and fast. If you’ve missed anything recently, here are links to catch up:
Tuesday 20th: Look Back/Ahead: Fremantle
Monday 19th: Look Back/Ahead: Melbourne
Sunday 18th: Sydney v Collingwood: The last minute
Friday 16th: Look Back/Ahead: Western Bulldogs
Wednesday 14th: Look Back/Ahead: Richmond
It’s interesting watching the way Brisbane ease younger players into AFL life.
Often it’s a softly, softly approach, being made to earn their spot and then their in-game minutes before graduating to a fully-fledged member of the best 22.
Take Keidean Coleman as an example. After his selection in the 2019 National Draft, he played five games in 2020. Then in 2021, he made 18 appearances but only 14 starts. Of those 14, he played less than 65 percent game time in six.
It took Coleman until 2022 to become a bonafide best 22 member, playing all but one game after his return to the side from injury in Round 6.
Brisbane have followed a similar route with the likes of Brandon Starcevich, Deven Robertson and Jaxon Prior, not throwing them in to big moments straightaway, which is why Darcy Wilmot’s debut in a final was such a surprise and deviation from the norm.
Perhaps it signifies a willingness to change things up. You could make a case Kai Lohmann was tracking in this direction with his early debut, but an ankle injury in game two put paid to that idea.
With two highly rated draft selections on the way for 2023, they may force Brisbane’s hand.
(A discussion around what Dunkley brings will come down the track when a trade is confirmed)
As we head towards free agency and trade period, a reminder that the plan is to have a post for every move that involves a player. To clarify, posts won’t start until free agency officially commences, despite the flurry of announcements recently.
With all these rumours going around it looks like there’ll be words on the hour, every hour:
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How can Brisbane be more consistent defensively?
In the intro I mentioned the different stages of Brisbane’s season.
If we split the home and away section into two parts – Round 1-9 and Round 10-23 – we get a neat summary of how Brisbane’s defence went from top tier to bottom tier.
|Brisbane’s defensive rank (points per 100 possession chains)||Round 1-9||Round 10-23|
|Opposition scores from stoppages||1st||16th|
|Opposition scores from turnovers||4th||13th|
|Opposition scores from their defensive half||4th||15th|
|Opposition scores from their forward half||7th||10th|
In poring over footage, there doesn’t appear to be any obvious breakdowns in structures from one half of the season to the next.
It (largely) plays out as doing the same thing, but a step slower. When even a half-step is enough to cause major problems, no wonder a full step led to what we saw in the second part of the year.
That leaves two questions:
a) Is this group capable of carrying out the current system without the ball as planned for a full year?
b) Does this system without the ball need an overhaul?
As it stands I’m leaning towards answering a) with yes, simply because Brisbane should start 2023 with a better team than they ended 2022 with.
Midfield additions are on the way, and if Gunston does make his way north it gives Brisbane’s forward line a different look.
But even if Gunston doesn’t arrive and the Lions opt to go with an extra small instead of their traditional three-tall setup, it’ll mean the chance for a ground level threat – on both sides of the ball – to add to an already formidable offensive unit.
It’s going to be the question on which Brisbane’s 2023 hinges. Rightly or wrongly, they’re now at the stage where they’ll be judged on September performances. Everything until then is preparation.