As we hit the bye rounds in the AFL season, The Inner Sanctum will be conducting our mid-season reviews of all 18 clubs and assessing the first half of the season and what fortunes may lie ahead.
Up next, Brisbane.
Last year’s preliminary finalist had a start to the season that no one could’ve predicted.
After a 0-2 record, tides changed for Brisbane momentarily as it secured the first win of the season in the thrilling one-point victory against Collingwood in round three.
After a loss in round four, Brisbane, on the road due to COVID-19 concerns in Queensland, found themselves placed 16th on the ladder with one win and three losses. Many began to doubt whether they were flag contenders. Oh, how wrong they were.
From that moment, it was onwards and upwards, winning seven straight games before losing to Melbourne before the bye, despite leading for most of the game.
Brisbane, at the midseason mark, is placed fourth with eight wins and four losses and are well in top-four contention, however, losses to Sydney, the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and of course the controversial loss to Geelong has put a question mark lingering over them.
However, in two of those losses, they were still in the game and had a chance to win. The result could’ve gone either way, but unfortunately, it didn’t work in their favour.
On the flip side, despite struggling against some of the better teams, victories over Richmond and Port Adelaide bode well for them and definitely places them in the conversation for the top four.
Fans have seen a glimpse into the future, with three debutants and numerous emerging stars taking the field and seriously impressing.
Childhood friends Deven Robertson and Jaxon Prior have been valuable and played important roles through the middle to cover the absence of stars such as Lachie Neale have been on the sideline.
Robertson debuted in round one last year but has made the most of his opportunities in the side this season, meanwhile, his partner in crime debuted this season in round two and, similarly, has fulfilled his role in the midfield too.
In other areas of the ground, it has been business as usual for a number of their other established and emerging players.
Down back, Harris Andrews is as solid as ever, reinforcing himself as one of the leagues top defenders. Ranked first in total marks (107), second in intercepts (112) and fourth in contested marks (27), he has once again put his hand up for All Australian contention.
His supporting cast consists of Daniel Rich, who is having one of his best seasons in years, and Brandon Starcevich is beginning to put his name on the map.
The 21-year old has developed into a superb lockdown defender whose stats may not look too flash, but the ability to eliminate some of the game’s most threatening forwards from the game does. Impressively, he has silenced Tom Papley, Robbie Gray and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and negated their influence.
When the ball hits the deck, the Lions’ ground ball gets are also sublime. When the ball hits the deck on the forward line, a brigade of Charlie Cameron, Lincoln McCarthy, Callum Ah Chee and Zac Bailey are ready to swoop in, collect the ball and go for goal.
With all those players rated in the top 25 for ground ball gets, it’s no wonder their forward line looks so dangerous.
Still classy on the wing is Hugh McCluggage, and often finds himself among Brisbane’s best players on the ground and is rewarded for this in the AFL Coaches’ Association voting, coming fourth in the race.
After two selections in the 40-man All Australian Squad, he is giving himself every chance to go further and receive the blazer this year in his best season yet.
To cover Stefan Martin’s absence, Oscar McInerney has had to step up this year to become the number one ruckman and has done so comfortably. Of his 114 possessions, 82.46% have been contested, placing him first in the league in this area.
Despite having an army of elite ground ball users, Brisbane’s inside 50 efficiency has been poor. Across the four losses, 9.825% less effective on average against their opponents.
But this trend is also applicable to other areas of the ground, as their overall disposal efficiency is poor. Ranked dead last, the Lions have an average efficiency of 70.9% and in their losses, they have been as high as -7.6% lower than their opponent in this area, suggesting a lot of work is needed to improve this area.
But back to their forward 50, the ball finds itself in there much less than the oppositions in some cases. In all but one loss, the ball enters inside 50 5.75 fewer times than the opposing side, due to a lack of supply from the midfield.
So, to summarise, areas, where Brisbane falls flat, is in their delivery to the forward 50, locking it in there, and using the ball effectively around the ground, particularly in front of goal.
Had they not missed crucial shots on goal, they could’ve avoided at least one loss and be higher on the ladder.
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Best and Fairest (Merrett-Murray Medal) Contenders
In Lachie Neale‘s absence, one midfielder has stepped up to fill the gaping hole left in the middle and that midfielder is Jarryd Lyons.
He has been a stand out for Brisbane this season, taking charge and having a noticeable impact in the engine room, and has already received recognition for his efforts in the Q-Clash with the Marcus Ashcroft medal.
On paper, he is difficult to look past, leading Brisbane in possessions, tackles, contested possessions and clearances. Overall, he is ranked fourth in contested possessions (162), 12th in possessions (333), 9th in tackles (66) and seventh in tackles (77).
With his name among the likes of Darcy Parish, Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca regarding statistics, it’s difficult to leave him out of the conversation for the Merrett-Murray Medal.
Another name in the conversation is defender Daniel Rich, who has played some of his best football in years over the past two years.
The 31-year-old’s attacking game has gone to the next level and will be a difficult name to exclude from the All Australian side, performing well in several areas of the game.
Known for his thumping kick, it’s no surprise he’s ranked first in total kicks with 264. In addition, he’s ranked 20th in total possessions (315) and is one of the league’s most effective ball users, third in average metres gained (594.50) and fourth in rebound 50s (85).
Although the best and fairest medals tend to favour midfielders and forwards, a performance like Rich’s definitely puts him well in the conversation.
Who needs to lift?
One of the most high profile trades last season was Joe Daniher to Brisbane, and while he has kicked a handy 19 goals for the Lions, he barely averages two goals a game.
Set shots have long been an issue for the former Bomber and this problem is still evident this season, rated below average in goal accuracy at 45.2%, with 19 goals and 16 behinds. Additionally, his marks inside 50 are few and far, only taking 1.5 a game.
His pressure and defensive work needs working on too, with only 7.6 pressure acts per game and 0.4 tackles inside 50.
For a big recruit who has been an outstanding player in previous years and has come off excellent preseason, many people expected more. For Daniher to not even be a top two-goal scorer for Brisbane come midseason is slightly alarming and suggests improvements need to be made.
Expectations for 2nd half of the season
Brisbane is well on the way to another top-four finish should they keep building their momentum into the second half of the season, and with a key cog in Lachie Neale returning, they look as dangerous as ever.
However, the home run isn’t kind for the Lions, as tests against Geelong, Richmond and West Coast are on the horizon. Hopefully in 2021, they have what it takes to go to the next level.
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