20/04/2024

Brisbane Lions 2022 season preview. Photo: Brisbane Lions FC

The Brisbane Lions will be looking to make their first Grand Final since 2004 after three consecutive top-four finishes.

The Brisbane Lions will be looking to make their first Grand Final since 2004 after three consecutive top-four finishes.

Last season:

4th (15-7), 133.3%

The Lions’ 2021 season ended in heartbreak with a one-point loss to the Western Bulldogs in the semi-final. This was the second time in three years that Brisbane had gone out in straight sets. The Lions barely scraped into the top four at the end of the home-and-away season, needing a last-minute behind in their round 23 clash with West Coast enough to sneak into fourth place in the last game of the season.

It was a sluggish start to the season for the Lions, winning just one of their opening four games. However, they quickly stabilised their season winning 10 of their next 11 games.

Chris Fagan’s side was often plagued with injuries throughout their 2021 campaign, with Cam Rayner missing the entirety of the season with an ACL injury. Eric Hipwood also went down with an ACL injury midway through the season, and isn’t expected to make a return until May.

Meanwhile, the likes of Lachie Neale, Darcy Gardiner, Ryan Lester, and Daniel McStay were all regulars on the injury list in 2021. When the Brisbane Lions were at their best, they played at a level capable of winning beating anyone. However, inconsistency left them again ruing what could have been.

Ins:

Darcy Wilmot (Pick 16 – Northern Knights), Kai Lohmann (Pick 20 – GWV Rebels), James Tunstill (Pick 41 – East Perth), Darcy Fort (Trade – Geelong).

Outs:

Grant Birchall (retired), Archie Smith (delisted), Connor Ballenden (delisted), Tom Joyce (delisted), Brock Smith (delisted).

Cam Ellis-Yolmen has been placed on the Lions’ inactive list.

Track watch:

Joe Daniher has continued his solid form from 2021 into the pre-season, with the 27-year-old leading the goalkickers for Brisbane in their first match simulation of the season. Daniher kicked a goal in every round of the home-and-away season in 2021, making him the first player to do that since he achieved that feat in 2017 for Essendon.

Cam Rayner has looked exciting after a year absent due to his ACL injury, making an impact in both the forward line and in the midfield.

While Keidean Coleman has also been shining light in the backline with him regularly getting involved at halfback, a position which he only began playing in last season. His defensive work has continued to develop in training while his attacking runs from the backline make him an excellent attacking outlet for Brisbane.

Lachie Neale has continued to be a serial ball-winner. The 2020 Brownlow Medallist will be crucial to the Lions’ hopes of claiming their first flag since 2003.

Meanwhile, Nakia Cockatoo has continued his form from the end of last season into the Lions’ first match-sim. Cockatoo struggled to break into the squad in the early stages of his first season with the Lions. However, he has since been a regular member of the first team and looks set to continue that into 2022.

Nakia Cockatoo has shown plenty of promising signs this preseason. (Photo: Brisbane Lions)

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What to look forward to:

The Brisbane Lions have a wealth of young talent coming through their ranks, with Coleman and Zac Bailey both coming off the back of brilliant seasons. Bailey had a breakout year in 2021, going from a squad player for the Lions to a crucial midfielder/forward.

The 22-year-old kicked a goal after the siren in Round 3 to win the game against Collingwood and has continued to improve since. He kicked a career-high 31 goals in the season.

The return of Rayner will be a boost to the entire side, with the constant energy and excitement he brings to his game. Rayner will have the impact of a new recruit with the 22-year-old not playing at all last season.

Daniel Rich sits just four games away from reaching his 250th game milestone. The Western Australian halfback is the longest-serving active Lions player having made his debut for Brisbane in 2009.

Daniel Rich unleashing one of his trademark left-foot bombs. (Photo: Brisbane Lions)

Rich had a remarkable 2021 where he earned himself his first-ever All-Australian inclusion, and is widely regarded as one of the best kicks in the league.

It’s a big year for:

Jarryd Lyons set himself out as an elite midfielder for the Brisbane Lions in the absence of Neale last year. The 29-year-old is entering the peak of his career. Lyons improved in leaps and bounds in 2021 and will look to continue that brilliant form into 2022.

Lyons was one of the stand-out performers for Brisbane in 2021. (Photo: Brisbane Lions)

The former Gold Coast Sun, won the Marcus Ashcroft Medal in both QClash games last year, while also polling 23 votes in the Brownlow Medal. If Lyons can continue the development that he has shown since joining Brisbane in 2019, then the Lions will have an elite-level midfield capable of winning any contest when at full strength.

Daniher will also be a player to keep a keen eye on in the upcoming season. He will be the Lions’ main key forward for the opening half of the season with Hipwood missing for the early part of the season. The former Essendon forward showed plenty of promising signs in his first season with the Lions, kicking 46 goals.

However, if Brisbane wants to challenge for the Premiership, then they will need him to step up further and have a greater impact in big games. Daniher was often a passenger for the Lions in crucial games, something that will need to change if Brisbane wants to win the flag.

The 27-year-old began to form a strong partnership with Charlie Cameron in the Lions’ forward line towards the end of last season. This season will be Daniher’s chance to prove whether or not he is an elite-level key forward. He has a team capable of giving him enough chances to shine, it’s now down to him as to whether or not he makes the most of it.

Biggest unanswered question:

Can Brisbane cope with the pressure of finals?

The Lions have finished in the top four in the last three seasons, earning them a double chance at qualifying for the preliminary finals. However, the Lions have gone out in straight sets twice and lost a home preliminary final to Geelong in 2020.

Brisbane has been renowned for making the Gabba their fortress under Fagan, however, when it comes to finals, they’ve only won one from five games. The Lions have the capability of winning these contests but need their star players to start stepping up in the finals.

Coach pressure index:

Low

Even after what would be considered a disappointing 2021 campaign where Brisbane failed to reach the heights of their previous two years, Chris Fagan is under little to no pressure. His demeanour is loved by Lions faithful and after years of turmoil, there is a real positive atmosphere around the club.

When you look at the state of Brisbane now as opposed to what it was like when Fagan took over, he has every right to be under little to no pressure. The 60-year-old has turned Brisbane into a destination club and has developed a side that is more than capable of challenging for a Premiership.

However, questions may begin to be asked if the Lions falter in the finals again in 2022.

Predicted Round 1 lineup:

Ladder range:

1st – 4th

If Brisbane can stay relatively injury-free then it is hard to see Chris Fagan’s side not challenging in the top four. The Lions boast a squad with plenty of depth and a mixture of experience and youth. They will be bolstered by the fact that key forward Eric Hipwood is set to return midway through the season as well.

The Brisbane Lions’ premiership window remains wide open, however, they need to start making the most of it and improve on their one win from six games in finals footy over the last three years.

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