Last year’s runners up have plenty to look forward to this season, they were the ones to watch during the first half of 2016 and will be looking to kick things off in a similar fashion. It remains to be seen whether the grand final loss will have a negative effect, or whether it will be motivator driving them toward success in 2017. The Lions will have their eye on top spot and will be aiming to get their hands on a week off, if they can, come finals time.
After a big grand final loss to Labrador, PBC identified a need for some bigger bodies to come in and add some physicality to the list. Ex Southport Sharks Jason Burge and Ben Headland come in with a wealth of experience, while Angus Munroe who skippered the Lions to their 2013 premiership has returned to the club. After a big preseason Captain and reigning Grogan medalist Jesse Derrick, can only benefit from the Lion’s added strength around the footy.
Last year’s coach of the year Chad Owens will have his team following the same formula that had them play off for the ultimate prize last year, though supporters can expect some minor changes.
“We’re a little bit taller this year than what we were last year, so it’ll change a little bit. We still want to be an attacking, running side, like every club does I guess, but yeah, we’ll be able to kick the ball a little bit longer this year,” said Owens.
In the first three rounds the Lions will come up against some tough opposition in Morningside, Labrador and Broadbeach, which will give everyone a good idea of their prospects for the season.
“I guess it will be a good indication of the new things that we’ve implemented, have they worked . . . and if they don’t, you don’t just throw them out, we’re just going to have to keep on working on them during the season,” said the coach.
While the Lions coach is pleased they’ve been able to add some size, he’s just as pleased with what has come in to the club in terms of leadership and experience.
“I think it’s massive, because as you’d know, the younger guys these days they’re not as vocal out on the ground as what people, probably, in their thirties are.”
“The young kids are more inclined not to speak as much, having those older guys around and directing them out on the field is huge,” said Owens.
The coaching staff is hopeful that before the first game starts, they’ll have the entire list to pick from which will cause more than a few headaches, but it’s a good problem to have.
“That’s the position we wanted to be in, that’s why we recruited, that’s why we retained probably 90 percent of our list if not a little bit more. We want that competition for spots and the great thing about that is the boys have really embraced it,” said Owens.
It was a big year for Jesse Derrick, both from a team perspective and individually, but the Grogan medalist is keen on forgetting last year and staying focused on the season to come. Many will be waiting to see what Derrick can accomplish now that he has more cover around the ball.
“We’ve got a lot of depth that can run through our midfield this year, and not just in the midfield, in the backline as well. Yeah, it definitely helps having a few bigger bodies and with that as well, they’ve got experience too so it definitely eases the workload on me,” said Derrick.
The wiser heads and hardened bodies will be a factor no doubt, but the young talent at PBC has been a fixture for some time now. Derrick was upbeat about the pre-season contributions of a number of younger players and their scope for improvement in the coming season.
“There’s probably a lot of people that everyone would expect to play, but there’s a lot of young guys who have had a really good pre-season like Jesse Beam, young Shawny Goody, he’s been training really well and of course Joshy Lys in his third year of seniors now, he’s ready to take the next step I think, to come into the midfield and really become a force,” said the Lions skipper.
With the arrival of so many new faces to the midfield there is the option for Derrick to be used in different positions at times, though the PBC captain has no preference for where he plays.
“I think I’ll spend most of my time in the midfield, but like I said before, we’re going to have a lot of depth in there, so look, I’m just happy to be out there and I’ll just play wherever the coach wants me to,” said Derrick.
Now sporting a new look list the Lions will again be very difficult to beat, the added size and experience will see them likely maintain their dominance from last season. Expect them to be around come finals time with a point to prove. Anything less than a grand final berth will be a disappointment to Lions supporters.
By Sean Melrose.