‘Our season’s not over’: Lions mull reset options

Murray Wenzel |

The Brisbane Lions have endured a tough start to 2024, losing to Carlton and Fremantle.
The Brisbane Lions have endured a tough start to 2024, losing to Carlton and Fremantle.

Dayne Zorko looms as a solution to the Brisbane Lions’ scarcity of backline game-breakers for their high-stakes clash with Collingwood.

Thursday’s AFL grand final rematch will pit two winless teams against each other, with the Lions 0-2 and premiers 0-3 ahead of what’s set to be a Gabba sell-out.

North Melbourne were the most-recent team to start with three straight defeats and win the premiership – in 1975 – and the last to start 0-3 and make a grand final, just a year later.

Geelong, the 2022 premiers, went 0-3 to begin their defence last season. They finished 12th.

The Lions, losers to Carlton and Fremantle in the opening fortnight, are fresh off a bye and defender Ryan Lester is confident that time off was spent wisely.

“It gave us a bit of a reset, let Fages (coach Chris Fagan) and the coaches analyse a little bit deeper to find out where we’ve gone wrong,” he said on Monday.

“Momentum, we haven’t been able to stop it … our pressure and intensity dropped away.

“It’s nothing too strategic that’s going to change. It’s not confusing when you watch the vision. It’s pretty clear.

“When we’re kicking goals we’re outnumbering the opposition, looking really good.

“When they start to come at us … everyone’s a little reactive.

“We’ve got to dig in a bit more … it’s something we can change pretty quickly.”

Lester said he hadn’t given Brisbane’s four-point grand final loss to the Magpies any thought ahead of the teams’ first battle since last year’s MCG thriller.

“For some players maybe it is real motivation, but for me – and I think most of the guys – it’s about this season and trying to get it on track,” he said.

“We’ve been in this position before, we know our season’s not over.”

Injuries to Keidean Coleman, Darcy Gardiner and Conor McKenna, and the demotion of Jack Payne after the first round, have complicated things for what had been a steady Lions back six in recent years.

Adelaide recruit Tom Doedee is poised to make his first AFL appearance for Brisbane after a successful return at VFL level on the weekend following his second anterior cruciate ligament rupture.

Lester, who has played 182 AFL games since debuting in 2011, said the Crows pick-up would be a “mainstay for the next five years”.

“Bring him in when he’s ready to go … he’s a very reliable player, tough, courageous,” he said.

Zorko, who began the year at half-forward, could be just as influential if he is utilised in defence, according to Lester.

“Those two guys (Coleman and McKenna) are no doubt our most creative kickers and ball users off halfback,” he said.

“And Richy (Daniel Rich) retiring last year; they’re your three halfbacks … who can break open a game for us.

“Whether it’s Zork, or collectively, we all stand up.”

Brisbane’s Irish pair Darragh Joyce and James Madden shaved their heads as part of the World’s Greatest Shave on Monday, raising money for blood cancer research.

Lester praised the pair’s efforts and said the initiative hit home after long-time Lions administration manager Nicole Duncan, who had leukaemia, died earlier this year.