The long wait for football in 2018 is nearly over, with a just few weeks between us and the new AFL Season. What better time to cast our eye over the competing clubs, do our best Nostradamus impersonation and have a crack at guessing what the new season holds in store.
First cab off the rank is the Brisbane Lions.
Why can they improve?
If you finish last, surely the only way is up isn’t it?
Seriously though, there haven’t been too many wooden spoon winning teams that have finished the season with so much excitement about their prospects than the Lions of 2017. Having had early access to the draft in recent years, Brisbane have assembled an impressive list of young cubs.
In the first season of the Chris Fagan age, the Lions played an exciting and attacking brand of football. As exhilarating as Brisbane was in attack, they struggle to contain their opposition as their errors were punished ruthlessly. Another off-season of development for their budding stars, and bedding down the game plan, will have the Lions mentor licking his lips at what could lie in store this year.
What could leave them standing still?
Look there are no guarantees in football, and there are even less about how quickly a list develops. They say winning becomes a habit but sadly, this is equally true of losing. Coming into 2018 with four consecutive bottom four finishes, it will take a fair few wins for Brisbane to shake themselves free of the routine of losing in which they have found themselves in recent times.
Why could they go backwards?
Having been mired in the lower reaches of the AFL ladder in recent times, it is hard to mount a case for a ‘sometimes teams need to go backwards before they go forwards’ argument. Yet, given that they perhaps caught a few teams off guard in 2017 with their endeavour and attacking game style, it could be argued that a combination of opponents being more prepared or a slight decrease in their own efforts could see the Lions go backwards despite their already lowly standing.
Player to watch
With three Rising Star nominations in 2017, there is an awful lot of young talent to keep an eye out for at the Gabba but their barometer remains Dayne Zorko. When the 28-year-old is up and running he is one of the most damaging goal kicking midfielders in the completion and almost impossible to stop. Having won the last two Brisbane goal kicking awards and the last three Best and Fairests, we are aren’t exactly putting our necks out on this one, but he is an out and out gun.
In just his second season in the hot seat it is hard to see Fagan being anywhere other than in the safe section of the danger rating. It would also seem that only a calamitous season of epic proportions would see the danger metre go up by seasons end.
There are exciting times ahead for the Lions but it is a long way back from the AFL wilderness. If things were to go well it is definitely realistic to see Brisbane climb out of the bottom four for the first time since 2013 but it is hard to see them challenge for a pace in the top eight.
The year ahead in a sentence
The Lions are stirring but they are no kings of the jungle just yet.
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