For the Brisbane Lions, there is only one way they can look in 2012 – up.
The Lions will be very much akin to the Adelaide Crows. This season will be another long season, however fans should see an improvement.
We didn’t hear Brisbane’s mighty roar often last season, with their meagre four wins coming against North Melbourne, Adelaide, Port Adelaide and the Gold Coast youngsters.
Despite their low numbers, the Lions were competitive. They lost six games by 13 points or fewer and four games by eight or fewer.
It was always going to be a tough ask for Brisbane after they lost their fearless leader and most courageous player Jonathan Brown in the first round. He collided headfirst with Fremantle player Luke McPharlin’s knee.
That same game Brent Staker went down after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament. If that wasn’t enough, Daniel Merrett managed only 10 games with a back injury.
While the injuries were a key contributor to the losses, the Lions young guns were the mainstay for their competitiveness – two best-and-fairest winner Tom Rockliff and third-placed Jack Redden.
Redden is fast becoming a star midfielder as he enters his fourth season in the league. His disposal count and efficiency has increased in each season. I particularly like the way the 21 year old plays defensively and wins the contested ball.
If you want to know how good Rockliff is, just watch his last nine games. In seven of them he picked up 30-plus possessions. The best and fairest had the eighth-highest disposal average in the league last season. While his tally of 12 goals will need to improve, he had a lot of scoring assists.
In the midfield, the Lions have been lucky – first they had Voss and Black, now it seems Redden and Rockliff are fast becoming elite ball-winners.
For me, there are three players to watch in 2012 for the Lions. Aaron Cornelius could step up big-time this year with Mitch Clark relocating to Melbourne. Patrick Karnezis will impress up forward, and mature-age recruit Dayne Zorko is a prolific ball winner and defensive stopper who has dominated in the AFLQ and NEAFL.
Jared Polec, Billy Longer and Claye Beams are also on the radar.
Amid the new arrivals to pull on the maroon, gold, and blue are former Bulldog ruckman Ben Hudson and former Hawk Jordon Lisle.
Another addition to the Lions outfit this year is former Fremantle head coach Mark Harvey, who will join Voss in the coaches box as an assistant.
If Brisbane have a full team for the entire season and the youngsters can continue their surge, the Lions should do better than the last two years. On the road to recovery, though, it will still mean a bottom eight finish for the Lions in 2012.