05/03/2024

Can Craig Starcevich become the first AFLW coach to go back-to-back in 2022? (Photo: Brisbane Lions AFLW/Twitter)

Reigning AFLW premiership coach Craig Starcevich wants to see his Lions side recognised for their greatness across Australia in 2022.

Despite being one of the most dominant sides in the history of the AFLW, the Brisbane Lions are still on a journey in search of “recognition nationwide, particularly in Victoria”, according to senior coach Craig Starcevich

The 2021 premiership coach is gearing up for his sixth season in charge of the Lions, and knows the pressure that will be applied to his side. Incredibly, the Lions have found themselves competing in three of the four AFLW Grand Finals that have been played, but many still hold questions over his side. 

Queensland has often been out of sight for many in the footballing landscape. Starcevich is adopting an ‘us against them’ mentality when it comes to the success of the Lions under his reign.

“We’re still grasping for some sort of recognition nationwide, particularly Victoria,” he told media at Captains’ Day.

“That journey will never end, we’ll have to fight tooth and nail to be up the top of the ladder to get the footy establishment to accept that we’re okay, but we’re happy to take that fight up.”

The Lions were set to open their campaign against West Coast, but due to border restrictions from the WA Government, the match has been postponed until Round 8.

It has forced AFLW HQ to swiftly bring forward the much-anticipated Grand Final rematch in the opening round against the Crows in SA.

With COVID-19 already wreaking havoc with the opening round fixture, Starcevich took a pragmatic approach as to how his side will adapt this season.

“We’re a pretty resilient team that’s happy to play anywhere, a lot of that is ingrained in the group and they’re excited about what’s around the corner,” he said.

“When you come to Round 1 the nerves start lifting up a level, we’re ready to compete. We’ve got a group that obviously went okay last year.”

Premiers on the hunt: Lions searching for yet another home ground
The Brisbane side who “went okay” last year according to coach Craig Starcevich. (Photo: AFL Women’s)

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“Okay”, is an understatement to how they performed in 2021.

Coming into the season as the reigning premiers, they will no doubt become ‘the hunted’. The challenge to go back-to-back is even tougher with the post-premiership retirements of Lauren Arnell and premiership captain Emma Zielke. 

As the inevitable question came about the prospects of his side winning consecutive titles, Starcevich didn’t want to give any consideration to what he’ll be doing on Saturday, April 2.

“It’s no different to any other year, we start every season with the premiership in mind,” he said.

“The fact that we’ve just come off one, doesn’t change our approach to this year. The focus is on the first game, it’s pointless looking too far ahead because it’s way too far down the track to even consider.”  

Five of the AFLW’s 14 captains have picked Brisbane to feature again in this year’s Grand Final.

Breanna Koenen will lead the Lions’ charge this season, and isn’t buying into the notion that reflecting on the success of 2021 will automatically lead to further success in 2022.

“We obviously have spoken about that in great detail, what we want to be perceived as by the rest of the competition and we always like to be that high-pressure team, the hunters,” she said.

“We are really trying to put that at the back of our mind and look forward… we’ve just got to prepare the best we can”

The Lions will play all of their home games in the 2022 AFLW season on the Sunshine Coast, with upgrades being made to their home facilities.

It is another opportunity for Starcevich to get his point across that Brisbane is doing their bit to push and grow the game of Australian rules football in Queensland. It is after-all the home of the Lions AFLW academy and an untapped stream of future stars.

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