2019 finish: 4th (Conference B)

2020 finish: 3rd (Conference A)

Grade: A


In a Nutshell

Watching Brisbane in 2020 was only half the story. The Lions won three and a half games this season, stunning the pundits who had watched the club bleed throughout a trade and equalisation period that cost them 11 players. So, to watch Craig Starcevich’s side cartwheel out of the blocks and become one of the league’s best rebounding sides was nothing short of a joy. The Lions’ pace and penetration off the half-back line was driven by usual defensive suspects Kate Lutkins, Shannon Campbell and Breanna Koenen, as well as first-year players Catherine Svarc and Irish recruit Orla O’Dwyer.

Even with the Crows’ injuries, no one expected these decimated Lions to defeat Adelaide in Round 1. The Lions got the victory and then proved it was no fluke when they travelled to Geelong and streaked past the hosts in the second half. These two wins showcased the direct line-breaking offense that Brisbane brought at its best in 2020: the Lions lost disposals by 33 and 27 respectively but their efficiency Inside 50 was twice that of their opponents.

The initial loss of Jess Wuetschner (struck by lightning while working on the docks) threatened to wipe Brisbane’s forward line entirely. The small forward had 26 career goals coming into 2020 – the next best Lion was Sophie Conway, returning from an ACL, with five.

Starcevich’s prayers were answered when a talented, athletic 20-year old colt came onto the radar. Kicking decisive bags against Geelong in Round 2 and GWS in Round 3, Jesse Wardlaw will head into 2021 fighting with fellow young gun Kalinda Howarth (Gold Coast) for the status of best key forward in the north.

Brisbane came up against Carlton in the semi-final and held the home side for three quarters before the Blues broke free in the last.

For 2021

The Lions were caught out by Fremantle, Collingwood and Carlton and the statistical consistency shows that the midfield was the hole in the set-up. The defence could rebound and the forward line was efficient but sheer weight of numbers were the Lions’ doom: they lost the Inside 50 count by an average of 12 and the clearances by three in defeats. The Lions were also caught lacking in resilience: Brisbane led at half time in all but one of the matches it won or drew but trailed at half time four times and managed to fight back and win only against Geelong in Round 2.