AFL 2022 Season Review: Brisbane Lions

A year saved from being a total flop, but the flag remains elusive. (Picture: Brisbane Lions; Design: Will Cuckson)

Two against-the-odds finals wins saved the Lions’ year from being a complete failure, but there’s still plenty to be done to take the next step in 2023.

Finishing position: Sixth (15 wins, seven losses, preliminary final)

What worked?

Once again, Brisbane’s assortment of forward riches saw it put up big scores frequently. The Lions had the second most points scored for the year, just 18 behind Richmond.

The three-headed monster of Joe Daniher (39 goals), Daniel McStay (25 goals) and Eric Hipwood (25 goals), went hand in hand with the small forward brigade of Charlie Cameron (54 goals), Zac Bailey (37 goals) and Lincoln McCarthy (35 goals). They helped the Lions to an average of 96 points a game, third behind Richmond and Geelong.

And with Lachie Neale back to near Brownlow winning form, as well as Hugh McCluggage and Keidean Coleman reaching new heights, the Lions had plenty of supply for the forwards.

Charlie Cameron was at his damaging best in 2022. (Picture: Brisbane Lions)

What didn’t?

For all the weapons in the Lions’ forward line, their defence was on several occasions left unable to stop surges down the other end.

In all eight of the Lions’ defeats this season, as well as six other matches, Brisbane conceded five goals or more in a quarter. This included seven-goal bursts at the hands of Melbourne (twice) and Geelong during the preliminary final that blew the Lions out of the water.

Although Harris Andrews was still the Lions’ most prolific defender, his output had dropped off from 2021, while Marcus Adams missed the last five games with injury. This turned out to be a massive blow, with two of the Lions’ biggest losses coming in those last five weeks.

The likes of Brandon Starcevich and Noah Answerth maintaining their form and breaking out respectively in 2022 gives hope that the defence can tighten up and help the Lions retain control on every line.

Breakout stars:

Having missed the entirety of 2021 with groin injuries, Noah Answerth locked down a spot in the Lions’ 22 in Round 1. and held his spot for the year. He only missed two games through COVID health and safety protocols and suspension respectively.

Answerth averaged just over 14 disposals a game in defence (including a personal best 20 in Round 3 against North Melbourne) and took a personal best 11 marks against St Kilda in Round 22, averaging just under five for the season.

Aged just 23, and having achieved career-best numbers in 2022, Answerth may have a bright future to come in the Brisbane defence.

A fully fit Noah Answerth broke through in 2022 for Brisbane. (Picture: Brisbane Lions)

More AFL Season Reviews

AFL 2022 Season Review: Richmond Tigers

AFL 2022 Season Review: Western Bulldogs

AFL 2022 Season Review: Carlton

Highest point:

Revenge was sweet for the Lions during the finals, as they finally overcame a Melbourne side – which had beaten them by a combined total of 122 points during the season – in the semi-final.

Not only was Brisbane facing its bogey side, but it was also at the MCG, where they had not won since 2014. And when Kysaiah Pickett kicked his second goal late in the second quarter, the streak looked set to continue.

In the second half, however, the forward line that had so far failed to fire, saw Eric Hipwood kick three third-quarter goals, and Charlie Cameron, Dan McStay, and Zac Bailey kick two each in the second half.

And with Jarrod Berry’s second-half demolition job on Clayton Oliver, the Lions saw off the reigning premiers in straight sets, ending the MCG hoodoo that had haunted them for eight years.

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Lowest point:

The second-half collapse at the hands of Richmond at the MCG in Round 20 left the thought that the MCG drought would seem even more distant than ever.

Noah Cumberland, in just his fifth game, was the Tigers’ only forward half presence in the first half with Richmond’s first three goals, as Brisbane raced out to a 42-point lead midway through the second quarter.

From there, the Lions were helpless as the Tigers slammed on 11 goals to three (with a previously unsighted Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt combining for six of them) to steal an unbelievable victory and extend the Lions’ MCG drought for another match.

The Lions couldn’t get away from the MCG curse, or Richmond on this day. (Picture: Brisbane Lions)

Where to next?

A few dominoes have already fallen the Lions’ way in terms of new recruits, with Josh Dunkley from the Western Bulldogs choosing Brisbane over Port Adelaide, and highly touted draft pick Will Ashcroft set to join the Lions via father/son.

Jack Gunston has also joined to replace McStay in the forward line, adding another veteran presence to the group.

Top four should be a minimum goal once again, to give the Lions the chance to finally capitalise on their dominance of the last five seasons and land the premiership that has eluded them since 2003.

As long as the youth continues to develop, and the guns continue to fire, there’s no reason Brisbane won’t be in the mix once more in 2023.

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