Heading into our first finals series since 2009, it certainly feels like it is too good to be true, but in saying that as a passionate fan of the Lions, I am not too surprised.
For the majority of my lifetime as a Brisbane Lions fan, we have been one of the laughing stocks of the AFL – a team which has always finished in the bottom half of the ladder on a consistent basis.
After the highs of the three-peat era – which unfortunately happened when I was too young to remember – the Lions have only played finals once since then, failing to show much fight and hunger as the side failed to develop into a premiership-winning outfit.
The few lowly years after the 2004 Grand Final loss were quickly forgotten when Michael Voss took over as coach in 2009 and led us to our first finals series since that time.
It was a very good time to be a Lions fan, as Daniel Bradshaw’s heroics in the last quarter against Carlton in the Elimination Final saw us overrun the Blues and pull off a remarkable win, certainly one of my most memorable wins.
After bowing out to the Bulldogs the next week at the MCG – the first and only time I have witnessed my boys play in a final – we went into the 2010 season with a lot of hype after the recruitment of Brendan Fevola in the off-season.
But despite a strong start to that 2010 season, the move would fail to live up to the hype as we missed finals and would begin to spiral into a sustained period of poor performances for almost the next decade.
Voss was sacked midway through 2013, which saw Justin Leppitsch installed as coach for 2014 and continue the trend of past Lions’ greats taking charge of the club.
It brought about new optimism, but it again proved to be a false hope as we finished 15th, 17th and 17th in his three seasons as coach before he was sacked.
Not only were we hurting as a club on the field, but it was arguably off the field where we experienced most of the hurt as we went through a terrible period of player pretention.
The infamous ‘go-home five’ was the peak of the player retention problem we had as a club, as youngsters Elliot Yeo, Sam Docherty, Jared Polec, Billy Longer and Patrick Karnezis all requested trades to leave the club at the end of the 2013 season.
So having gone through these troublesome years, the year Brisbane finally got rid of Leppitsch and installed Chris Fagan as coach was the year I could finally see a positive change on the horizon for my beloved Lions.
Fagan was joined by David Noble (General Manager of Football) at the end of the 2016 season which marked the beginning of the miraculous turnaround at the club.
The first season of Fagan’s tenure brought little success as we finished dead last – the first time in our short history as a club.
But despite the poor on-field showing, it was during the draft and trade periods where the pieces were starting to fall together.
In Fagan and Noble’s first off-season, they traded the number two pick in the draft to the Giants for picks three and 16, essentially trading Tim Taranto for Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry – who have both been mainstays in the Lions side this season with McCluggage very close to making the All-Australian team on the wing.
In the same draft, the Lions also drafted Alex Witherden with pick 23, who has been an incredible asset down back for us.
After finishing last in 2017 and receiving the number one pick, Brisbane selected Cam Rayner and also brought in Zac Bailey with pick 15.
Finally, during the 2018 trade period, the Lions brought in Lachie Neale, Lincoln McCarthy and Marcus Adams, rounding out a number of successful off-seasons and ensuring the club would begin to turn for the better.
It was in 2018 where I as a fan began to get some real hope and belief that this club was changing for the better.
Even though we only won five games for the season and finished 15th on the ladder, with a bit more experience under our belts we could have easily been contending for a finals spot, as we lost the majority of our games by a couple of kicks, or we got blown out in the final term.
The signs were there, and despite it being an extremely frustrating season, the hope and belief was ignited as I knew, and many other Brisbane fans knew as well, that if we had just closed out games better and turned a couple of those close losses around, the season could have been very different.
Thus when 2019 came around after the mammoth off-season recruiting haul heading by Lachie Neale, the expectation for the majority of fans was that we were a smokey to sneak into the top eight – but boy were we conservative.
We kept winning games that we should from then on in, with losses to the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle hurting as we were a good chance of winning both, but a round 12 loss to Carlton was the wake-up call we needed.
As a club, we were doing just enough to get wins, and you could certainly say that the side was playing a complacent brand after our red-hot start.
But with this loss came a great lesson, as we would return from the bye and win our next nine games to propel us into premiership contention.
A final round loss to Richmond at the MCG wasn’t the greatest way to end the season, but even as a fan I was encouraged by the loss as I saw enough to make me believe that not only could we play well at the MCG again, but that we could match it with the best of the best.
Going into this weekend’s game against the Tigers, I am certainly hopeful of my Lions pulling through and continuing the fairy-tale, and I’m even prepared to say that I’m quietly confident we’ll progress to a home preliminary final.
Even though Richmond hasn’t lost to us in almost a decade, we have never lost a home final at the Gabba, and just by the way we’ve played at our home ground all season has me reaching for the stars in terms of how far I think we can go into September.
Do I think we will make the Grand Final? That’s a tough one, but with the way this season has gone so far it’s hard to say no.
Whether I think we’ll win it or not, you can ask me that when the time comes, as this has already given me enough satisfaction.
I know that regardless of the outcome this September, this club is heading in the right direction and I’m hopeful this season will be the beginning of our next successful era.