24/04/2024

After an impressive home and away season, the Brisbane Lions fell just short of making back-to-back grand finals. (Image: lions.com.au)

After a strong home and away season, the Brisbane Lions ultimately fell short of a successful premiership defence.

After a strong home and away season, the Brisbane Lions ultimately fell short of a successful premiership defence.

Coming into the season as the reigning premiers, the Lions were expected to be thereabouts in 2022. And despite losing their season opener, Brisbane would go on a stellar run thereafter to comfortably make the finals.

Their home and away season form would hold up in the finals, cruising through to the prelim the Lions season would ultimately end with four point loss to the Demons. Though they finished the home and away season with a good record and made the prelim final, Brisbane will feel they somewhat underachieved having missed out on an opportunity to win back-to-back premierships.

Finishing position: 3rd (eight wins, two losses)

What worked?

A strong area for the Lions was the productivity of the their forward line. Spearheaded by Greta Bodey who finished the season as the Lions leading goal scorer with 13 goals, no side kicked more goals than Brisbane this season.

Finishing first for goals kicked this season, the Lions kicked 83 for the season, 11 more than grand finalists Demons, and 15 more than the third ranked Dockers after having kicked just 67 in their premiership winning season last year. Averaging 6.9 goals per game, it would the most prolific season for the Lions since the inception of the AFLW competition.

A major contributing factor to being one of the highest scoring teams of the competition was their ability be multidimensional going forward, rather than being heavily reliant on Bodey. Sophie Conway, Jesse Wardlaw, Courtney Hodder and Zimmorlei Farquharson in her first AFLW season were handy contributors.

Another strong area was their ability to pressure the opposition, with only the Dockers recording more tackles in 2022 than Brisbane. Cathy Svarc and Emily Bates were the leaders for the side putting in a monstrous109 and 85 tackles respectively.

What didn’t?

In a mostly positive season, there wasn’t too many things that the Lions didn’t do well, though a concern would be their game style not holding up against the other top teams of the competition, in the Brisbane Lions and Melbourne Demons.

Having won the premiership off the back of a high intensity and attacking game plan, Craig Starcevich opted to play a similar way in 2022. And while it worked wonders for the most part, they were exposed against the Crows in Round One, going down by 30 points and were unable to best the Demons on two occasions.

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Who Impressed?

Midfielder Emily Bates was the best player in the AFLW competition this season. Once again proving to be the engine of the Lions midfield group, Bates would had a career best season, averaging over 20 disposals a game for the first time in her career.

Having finished the season with 256 touches, she was by far the leading ball winner at Brisbane, with only three other players in the entire competition finding the footy more than her. Her work rate around stoppages was crucial to the Lions success, with Bates the AFLW’s leading clearance winner. After a brilliant season, she was rewarded for her effort, being named in the All-Australian squad, and taking out both the AFLW’s Best and Fairest and the player’s association’s MVP.

Emily Bates had a memorable 2022, finishing the season as the best player in the competition. (Image: AFL.com)

Fellow midfielder Natalie Grider was also impressive, rotating through the midfield and across half-back, she was able to be influential wherever used around the ground. Though finishing the season inside the top five disposals getters for the Lions, she was wasn’t a prolific ball winner. Her defensive side of her game the stand out, shutting her opponents out of games with regularity and like Bates was rewarded with making the All-Australian squad.

Natalie Grider was impressive in 2022. (Image: Lions.com.au)

Irish native Orla O’Dwyer also stepped up this season as she transitioned away from playing predominantly in the forward line, and was given more opportunities as an outside midfielder. She would would prove to be one of the most important players for the Lions in 2022. Proving valuable with her run and carry and still hitting the scoreboard, finishing the season with six goals.

Forward duo Greta Bodey and Sophie Conway would make for a good attacking tandem, as both finished the season with 13 and 10 goals respectively. Finishing the season one the competitions top goal-kickers and leading Brisbane for goals, Bodey too would be called up to the All-Australian squad.

Highs and Lows

A highlight for the Lions would be their performance in the qualifying final, with their 50-point win over Collingwood at the Gabba going down as their best win of the season.

Ahead by nine points at quarter time, Brisbane would dominate the contest thereafter going on to record a memorable eight goal victory, it was one the side’s highest ever total scores, and one of the side’s biggest winning margins since their inaugural season back in 2017.

Another high point for the Lions would be their record breaking win against the West Coast Eagles in Round Eight. The week prior, they’d kicked their biggest ever total against the Gold Coast Suns, narrowly missing out on the AFLW’s biggest ever score and winning margin.

In Round Eight they’d top their efforts, scoring an incredible 15.8 (98) to the Eagles 4.0 (24), two points shy of the ton and a margin of 74 points, an AFLW record that’ll take some topping.

The Brisbane Lions put in a record breaking performance against the Eagles in Round Eight. (Image: AFL.com)

Alternatively, the low points for the Lions would be how they fared against the eventual grand finalists, the Adelaide Crows and Melbourne Demons, during the season. Facing the Crows just once, in the season opener, the reigning premiers had one of their worst performances of the season losing by five goals, and kicking one goal for the game. Given their prolific season, finishing the game with one major was a huge disappointment.

While they were competitive against the Demons, they were ultimately bested on both occasions, going down by three points during the season, and four points in the preliminary final. Having been the defending premiers, not returning to the big stage would be a sore point for the Lions.

Who’s on the move?

Having retained the bulk of their squad after their 2021 AFLW premiership, there’s no reason to suggest the Lions won’t be doing the same this coming offseason despite the league expansion.

While there were rumblings that Bates was departing, it looks like she’ll be staying a Lion.

What’s next?

Though a side that attack minded, Brisbane during the offseason will want to address some of their defensive woes. Though boasting the best attacking record in the competition this season, the Lions conceded 252 points for the season. In comparison the Crows conceded just 187 points.

Though statistically Brisbane had the equal third best defensive record in the competition, the side need to tighten up if they are to get back if they are to get wins rather than just be competitive against the likes of the Demons and Crows.

Whether structurally the Lions change things up during the offseason and put more emphasis on defence, or whether they target defenders during the draft and trade period.

Having one of the best squads on paper in the competition, the Lions will be looking to be in premiership contention next season.

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