A duo of blow-out preliminary finals has set in stone the grand final match-up: Melbourne taking on the Western Bulldogs.
Dayne Zorko admits he didn’t need any convincing to address an alarming rise in free kicks conceded to begin the AFL season.
Nobody wants to be at the top of the AFL’s free-kick list.
So, averaging four a game across the first four rounds, it didn’t take Dayne Zorko any convincing to go looking for a solution to stem the flow.
He said an emphasis on patience while attempting to tackle at training has helped, the Brisbane skipper now averaging 1.4 and coincidentally back to his influential best in the five games since.
“I had a look at the free kicks I was giving away and a lot were high tackles, getting there too early and anxious to lay the tackle,” he said ahead of Friday’s date at the Gabba with the injury-hit Richmond.
“It was all a technique thing so I’m glad I could fix that up, because there’s nothing worse than seeing your name at the top of the free-kick list.”
Coach Chris Fagan reflected on the fine line on which his captain operates.
“He looked at the numbers and thought ‘that doesn’t look too good’ and tried to modify his technique a bit and be bit less feisty if that’s possible,” he said.
“And those numbers have turned around a fair bit.
“I want him to pay like he always does, but there’s some little things you can do to prevent those free-kicks and he’s done that.”
Zorko on Thursday officially extended his tenure at Brisbane for another season, the captain in the midst of his tenth campaign after he was overlooked in the draft four years running.
Even then it took eight seasons to play finals football, just a year after finishing 15th and another season after collecting a wooden spoon.
“I wondered if I was ever going to play in a team that was ever going to play finals,” he said.
“And a lot of the experts didn’t think we could make it happen as quickly as we have made the change here.
“To flip it from last, then 16th or 15th to second (in 2019 and 2020) … it can be done and I saw that as the challenge to turn this team around.”
Fagan said the 32-year-old had plenty to do with the side’s change of fortunes while he’d adapted from a specialist midfielder to become more versatile and serve the team’s needs.
“Whenever the history of our footy club is written about over the last ten years he’s an important part of it,” Fagan said.
“He’s helped me and the other coaches really change the culture of our football club.
“He’s such an optimist, he’s resilient and has encouraged the rest of them to grow and improve more than anyone.”
Trent Cotchin, Shai Bolton, Shane Edwards, Dion Prestia and Kane Lambert remain out for the Tigers.
Brisbane are still missing Lachie Neale and Jarrod Berry while Keidean Coleman and Irishman James Madden have come in for injured defenders Darcy Gardiner and Ryan Lester.