Brisbane went into its first final knowing it had to counter Port Adelaide’s biggest strength. Their response impressed even coach Chris Fagan.
AFL: Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan spoke to the media following their finals week one victory over Port Adelaide.
The Lions are now one win away from a first grand final since 2004 and the manner in which they picked apart a potent Power outfit should have rivals on notice.
Port Adelaide profiled as the competition benchmark for turning stoppages into scores and the Lions were wary of that coming into the contest.
Not only did they stifle the visitors’ attacking threat, it became their own win condition.
Chris Fagan’s side kicked a staggering 13.3 from clearance.
That stat was almost the first thing out of the mouths of both Fagan and Power coach Ken Hinkley after the match, and it was the telling number that dictated the outcome at the Gabba.
“That’s a strength of Port Adelaide’s, that’s something we were really worried about coming into the game,” Fagan revealed.
“They got some clearances but they weren’t those breakaway clearances that you associate with Port Adelaide … they had to scramble the ball out of there, which was really helpful as well. So we got a bit of an edge both ways there.”
Since round 18 the Lions have gone from the 17th-ranked team for ball movement to the best in competition.
The ability to affect turnovers and turn them into scores has underpinned their incredible form over a five-game unbeaten run.
The Gold Coast aberration aside, Brisbane’s only other defeat since round 13 was a one-point loss to Melbourne in a game that it really should have won.
“I sense this year that we’ve taken another little step,” Fagan said.
“I don’t know whether it’s a big enough step for us to go the whole way, but we’re certainly better equipped to do that and take the opportunity if it presents itself.”
Brisbane’s depth across its starting 23 might be the best still standing.
When 12-gamer Jaspa Fletcher is kicking three goals and flying half-back Darcy Wilmot is your third-highest disposal winner in just his 27th start, it bodes well.
That was perhaps the most impressive aspect of Brisbane’s eight-goal triumph – the ability to hold sway in the contest even as its stars were below their best.
The Lions took a 16-point lead into the major break despite their four All-Australian nominees having little impact on the match to halftime.
Lachie Neale had nine touches. Charlie Cameron was goalless and Joe Daniher had just one to his name.
Harris Andrews had been held accountable by young Power key forward Ollie Lord who finished the match with four goals.
The evening ended with Neale willing himself through the Willem Drew tag to have an impact in the middle of the ground, Cameron setting the Gabba alight with two brilliant goals to break the game open and Daniher announcing himself as the man for the moment with five majors.
“The footy world thinks if you tag Lachie Neale you beat Brisbane,” Fagan said.
“Everyone notices when Lachie is tagged successfully but makes no comment when he’s tagged and it’s done unsuccessfully, which happens often.
“We don’t need Lachie to dominate to win, I don’t think. We’re a better team than that now. We have to be, because if that’s the case we can’t go much further.
“I think we’re a much more even team now. You need a lot of good contributors to win finals games.”