Thrilling matches, tense finals, huge marks and a series of unforgettable storylines made the 2019 AFL season one to remember.
The evenness of the AFL’s top bracket of sides was shown by the fact just one win separated Geelong, who finished first, and the fifth-placed West Coast, while Greater Western Sydney went from sixth to reach the grand final after a stunning September run.
It was Richmond who would ultimately win the premiership, their second in three years, Damien Hardwick’s side finishing the season full of momentum.
A new campaign brings fresh hope for all 18 clubs, though, and our 2019 season reviews take a look at what went right, what went wrong, each side’s best players and how every club can improve.
The next team in the spotlight is Brisbane Lions.
- Ladder position: Second
- Eventual finish: Semi-finalists
- Home and away win-loss ratio: 16-6
- Home and away percentage: 118.3
Brisbane Lions AFL 2019 Season Performance Review
What a difference one year makes. The Lions won just five games in 2018 and finished 15th, making their feats in 2019 remarkable. Chris Fagan’s side ended the home and away season in second on the ladder, winning 16 matches and exciting the competition with a seriously eye-catching brand of football. A nine-game winning streak between Round 14 and Round 22 was particularly impressive, with Lachie Neale and Dayne Zorko leading the way for a side with emerging young players on every line. Brisbane ran out of steam, though, losing their last three matches, with a straight-sets exit from the finals cruel given their outstanding campaign. A fade-out of some description was always expected due to the youthful nature of Brisbane’s list but there is the sense that the Lions’ best is yet to come.
There were several to choose from, but Brisbane’s one-point win over Geelong in Round 22 at the ‘Gabba was particularly memorable. The Lions trailed by nine points at the final change and Geelong soon extended that lead to 17 but the Lions fought hard in front of a raucous crowd, coming from behind in an epic final quarter. Charlie Cameron booted five majors for the victors, but it was fellow small forward Lincoln McCarthy who was the hero, his late goal sinking the Cats and putting the Lions – who had not made the finals since 2009 – into top spot.
Brisbane were less than three minutes away from reaching the preliminary final in a fiercely contested semi-final against Greater Western Sydney at the ‘Gabba. The Lions trailed at half time and three-quarter time but Allen Christensen’s goal put them in front in the dying stages, only for Brent Daniels to snag a clever goal on the run and nudge the Giants back in front. It was far from a poor performance from the Lions, but the manner of the defeat – and the fact that it ended Brisbane’s season – left a bitter taste.
The best and fairest
Unsurprisingly, Neale took home the Merrett-Murray Medal as Brisbane’s club champion, the ex-Docker enjoying a simply brilliant 2019 season. In his first year in Brisbane, Neale led the count for the entire evening. He averaged 30.9 disposals per game and led the AFL in clearances, centre clearances and contested possessions as he helped fire the Lions into the top four. Brisbane skipper Dayne Zorko finished second, while promising midfielder Hugh McCluggage came third.
The vote getters
Neale won 26 votes from the umpires in the Brownlow Medal, finishing seven votes behind winner Nathan Fyfe. He ended the count in a tie for third, while Zorko also polled well, finishing 10th with 19 votes. Jarryd Lyons – also in his first season at Brisbane – won 13 votes, while livewire forward Cameron polled 11.
Harris Andrews held down the full-back spot in the All-Australian team after a tremendous season in defence. The young defender could be a star of the competition for the next 10 years and reads the play particularly well. He averaged 13.2 disposals per match and 5.9 marks in 2019. Andrews was joined in the final 22 by Neale and Cameron. McCluggage and Zorko made the 40-man squad but missed out on the final term.
The goal kickers
Cameron’s always-dangerous presence in the forward line saw him finish with 57 goals in 2019. He laid 49 tackles, too, and his success played a major role in Brisbane’s rise. Just four players in the competition kicked more goals than Cameron in 2019. Key forward Eric Hipwood continued to get better and finished with 35.29 for the season. If Hipwood can improve his goal kicking, Brisbane will be delighted.
The reason to be hopeful
Boasting an outstanding crop of young stars including McCluggage, Andrews, Hipwood, Cam Rayner and Alex Witherden, Brisbane could easily improve. The likes of Neale (26) and Cameron (25) are coming into their prime, too, and while finishing second again will prove difficult, there is no reason why Brisbane cannot contend again in 2020, particularly if their home form remains strong.