Dayne Zorko reckons Brisbane’s commitment to stay “brave and bold” is paying off after the Lions’ ruthless defeat of a plucky Port Adelaide shot them into an AFL preliminary final.
The hosts were challenged by the Power at the Gabba on Saturday, Port Adelaide rallying in the second and third terms before the Lions slammed the door shut to win 19.9 (123) to 11.9 (75).
Hugh McCluggage pulled the strings with 26 precise touches, nine clearances, four score assists and a goal, stepping up when Lachie Neale (19 disposals) was well held in the first half.
Joe Daniher (five goals) enhanced his reputation with an imposing finals performance, as did Cam Rayner (three goals) during a brilliant first half.
Rookie Jaspa Fletcher (three goals) was among the best while Darcy Wilmot (20 disposals) also showed confidence belying his 26 games of experience.
Victory was the Lions’ third from their last four finals games and improved that record under coach Chris Fagan to 4-6, from 1-5 before last year’s post-season.
They’ll play the winners of Melbourne and Carlton at the Gabba in a fortnight for a spot in their first grand final since 2004.
Former captain Zorko said his side had made a pact to back their brand after “going into their shell” and allowing the Demons to storm home for a one-point win two months ago.
“That was really important for the growth of our team and we’ve taken steps forward since then,” he told AAP.
“We wanted to be bold and brave in everything we do.
“And since then we’ve been a lot more brave, played our way and that held us in good stead for the finals series.
“It was awesome tonight; it was exactly what we were after, playing the game, not the occasion.
“We’ve learnt a lot over the last four years (since returning to finals) and thought we put it on show.”
Coach Chris Fagan said the side’s ability to “embrace failure” had helped them mature to this point.
“All those experiences just harden you,” he said.
“I’ve always felt we’ve gradually been getting better and I sensed this year we’ve taken another little step.
“I don’t know if it’s a big enough step to say we’ll go the whole way, but we’re certainly better equipped to do that and take the opportunity that presents itself.
“We have another final to come, and we have to be able to do it again.”