Brisbane Lions let go of AFL grand final baggage

Oliver Caffrey |

Harris Andrews says the Lions have tried to celebrate their successes from the 2023 AFL season.
Harris Andrews says the Lions have tried to celebrate their successes from the 2023 AFL season.

Harris Andrews admits he would be lying if he said he still doesn’t think about what could have been.

The Brisbane Lions looked set to pinch their first AFL premiership in 20 years when a Charlie Cameron goal put them in front with five minutes remaining in the 2023 decider against Collingwood.

But a series of moments, which have been heavily analysed in the five months since, saw the Magpies grab back the lead, then hang on in one of the best grand finals in VFL/AFL history.

Rather than shy away from the pain of defeat, the Lions reviewed the 2023 decider – the Lions’ first appearance in a grand final since 2004 – in-depth before going into their off-season break.

Collingwood's Darcy Moore (left) and Brisbane's Harris Andrews
Collingwood’s Darcy Moore (left) and Brisbane’s Harris Andrews with the 2023 AFL premiership cup. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

After being involved in grand final defeats at Melbourne (2000) and Hawthorn (2012), as well as watching how other clubs handled heartbreaking losses from afar, Lions coach Chris Fagan knew the only way to move forward was to immediately tackle the heartbreak.

“The way we reviewed the game, and the year, was probably a little bit different,” Andrews, the Lions’ star defender and co-captain, told AAP.

“We reviewed the game and some of the things, those moments, we wish we could have taken back. 

“Guys were really honest and up-front about that. 

“It’s good to hit that on the head, and that way you then walk into the off-season without carrying a little bit of baggage. 

“I mean, you’d be naive to think you don’t think about it every now and then. 

“But I thought we did a really good job of identifying that and then also just reflecting on the whole year in general.”

Andrews insists the Lions were able to separate falling four points short on grand final day, and instead could celebrate what the group achieved last year.

Brisbane have also played in the past five finals series following years of gloom between 2010 and 2018.

“The disappointment of losing a grand final, you could probably look at the whole year and call it a disaster (because they didn’t win the premiership), but we were able to identify that, yes, it was a disappointing game, but it was also a great year at the same time,” Andrews said.

Defence, once the Lions’ achilles heel, has been boosted by the recruitment of Tom Doedee from Adelaide.

Doedee is making his way back from a serious knee injury, but could debut for the Lions as soon as round three, a grand-final rematch at the Gabba against the Magpies.

Tom Doedee
Brisbane’s defence has been bolstered by the recruitment of Tom Doedee from Adelaide. (Matt Turner/AAP PHOTOS)

“I’ve really admired his game from a distance in the past,” Andrews said of Doedee. 

“He’s just an overall great fella to have around the club, brings really good vibes and good energy, so I’m really pumped for him and the opportunity he’s got.”

Brisbane open their 2024 season against last year’s surprise packets Carlton at the Gabba on March 8.

The Lions will be hoping to repeat the result of last year’s preliminary final at the same venue, when they held off the gallant Blues by 16 points.

AAP