The Brisbane Lions backline has stood up. (Photo: Daniel Cohen)

In the absence of defensive stalwart Kate Lutkins, the Brisbane Lions backline is forging an even tighter group bond.

Reigning premiers the Brisbane Lions have already had to battle through their fair share to start season 2022, with the defensive group hit hard.

The ACL injury to leader and aerial specialist Kate Lutkins in Round 1’s loss to the Crows was about the worst way for their year to start.

A grand final hero, winning the best on ground medal in the club’s inaugural AFLW flag, her absence could have very well left a huge absence in the back five.

But to the Lions’ credit, every player stood up defensively in their return to the field against Carlton. Brisbane hadn’t played a match for 16 days before its first game back at Metricon Stadium, but did so in style.

While they were led in the middle by Emily Bates and up front by Jess Wuetschner and star debutant Zimmorlei Farquharson, plenty of eyes were on how the backline would respond.

Youngster Nat Grider was one of the shining lights of the group, her dash off half back working perfectly in tandem with fellow outside players Jade Ellenger and Wuetschner.

While she was one of the lucky ones to avoid isolation, she felt the drive to get back on the winners list just as much as anyone.

“It’s something that we had to band together for,” Grider told The Inner Sanctum.

“[Not playing] made us all really hungry to get back on the park… we all really missed playing. To get back out there… was a bit weird playing on a Tuesday, but we were so excited to play again as a group.

“The beauty of our list is the depth that we have,” Grider said on the defensive group.

“As you would have seen on Tuesday, we had a few outs,” with winger Sophie Conway unavailable due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

“A long term injury like an ACL is heartbreaking not just for the player, but everyone around them. I was pretty shattered for Lutsy. She’s pretty tough… she doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but I shed a tear or two for her.

“Having played alongside her my whole career, she’s someone I look up to. It was hard for the team, but that’s the nature of footy. These things do happen, but it’s how you persevere.”

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And persevere, the Lions have.

Coming against a Carlton side also having suffered from rescheduled matches, the Lions defensive stalwarts held their opposition to four goals, including a goalless third term.

Grider was one of the main drivers off half-back, alongside new teammate Phoebe Monahan, the pair picking up 32 disposals between them, 19 of those by foot.

Monahan in particular has been one of the best stories in the Lions’ backline this season. She joined the club after being delisted by Richmond, despite being regarded as one of the best rebounding defenders in the league, and easily a best 22 defender.

Monahan runs with the footy. (Photo: Daniel Cohen)

“We’re so lucky to have [Phoebe], and to get her in the off-season was such a win for us,” Grider said.

“She’s really slotted in and earned a spot in the backline. She’s a great player and an even better person, so to have her on the team is definitely a win for us.”

Though missing the obvious leadership in Lutkins down back, captain Bree Koenen is continuing her great form, guiding both young and old through a tumultuous period.

Similarly is the ever-reliable and perennially underrated Shannon Campbell, who talk four marks in a brilliant first half showing.

Youngster Indy Tahau continues to make the most of her opportunities after becoming a premiership player last season.

Brisbane will next face Geelong for its first true home game of the season at Maroochydore Oval on Saturday, at 5:10pm AEDT.

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