Not many footy fans in Victoria will harbour much sympathy for the Brisbane Lions this season.
Whilst the club has been one of the worst performing in recent memory they will most likely avoid a deserved wooden spoon, and will be eligible for draft concessions in November.
It wasn’t that long ago when Brisbane were lauded as one of the ‘best ever’ teams as they won three consecutive premierships at the turn of the century. Supporters of Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda, and Western Bulldogs would give their right arm to see even one glorious day in September, or as it is this season, October.
You cannot deny Brisbane is a club bordering on crisis but a few seasons of dismal on-field play has resulted in poor attendances in what is still considered a very pro rugby league city. When the AFL decided to locate a team just down the road in Gold Coast and throw whatever concessions they were allowed by the clubs Brisbane saw this as an immediate threat to their status in the Queensland sporting landscape and rightly so.
The extremely generous concessions afforded to Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney was approved by the league and now Brisbane wants to put their hand out to receive an injection of talent. There is no denying in hindsight those concessions could now be adjudged far too generous but we cannot continue to bleed the traditional markets dry of draft talent to overcompensate non performing clubs in non traditional football markets.
Brisbane enjoyed the benefits of ‘merging’ with Fitzroy and became an AFL powerhouse and now is experiencing what footy fans have been enduring for generations.
Draft concessions and not being situated in an ideal location hasn’t been the only things holding Brisbane back, their draft selections over time must also be looked at. Even going back to 2009 when Brisbane last made the finals their decision to draft Brendan Fevola amongst other experience talent was at the time said by many as a masterstroke from the club. The 2010 season was a disaster both on and off the field with the club falling to high expectations and not being able to control high profile signing Fevola.
In the 2009 draft Brisbane had to wait until selection 27 for their first selection in a draft that included Dustin Martin, Nathan Fyfe, Daniel Menzel and Jake Carlisle. Brisbane rolled the dice to keep their premiership window open and failed, consequently spent the next few years recovering from their mistakes.
Topping up talent with recycled players can provide benefits for a core squad, but it also must have considerable talent surrounding it. If you look at Richmond over the last few years they have also tried they recycle player method to keep their club in finals contention. It was a calculated risk from Brisbane which they have never really recovered from.
With consecutive seventeenth placed finishes likely now for the besieged lions the club must be prepared to make the hard decisions off the field and put in place a constructive plan to essentially rebuild the club. Brisbane must place itself in the market to attract the right types of person to the club and make Brisbane a destination where footballers want to ply their trade.
With only one winner in an eighteen club competition the AFL isn’t an easy competition and Brisbane must be reminded of this before crying poor to the AFL with their palms facing outwards expecting considerable controls to end their current barren period.
Under Justin Leppitsch the club is putting games into young talent and their style of play is certainly on the right path, particularly when playing at the Gabba but club officials and supporters must be prepared for a few more winters in the shade before seeing a September yield.