A dominant Brisbane Lions outfit overcame early Aspley resistance to run out 46-point winners at Yeronga on Sunday afternoon, and claim back-to-back NEAFL Northern Conference flags.
2011’s wooden spoon seems a distant memory for the boys in maroon, blue, and gold, Brisbane emulating last season’s thumping victory over NT Thunder, with a 19.11.125 to 11.13.79 triumph.
In front of a healthy crowd – including AFL stars Simon Black, Daniel Rich, and Dayne Zorko – the minor premiers gave first-year coach Leigh Harding something to smile about; indeed the former Kangaroo couldn’t keep the grin off his face following his side’s 18th – and most significant – win of 2013.
“I’m a very happy man, and it’s great that we were able to go through and win after finishing first at the end of the regular season,” Harding said.
“I thought it was the two best sides playing, so it was a fitting way to finish.”
Jack Crisp followed in the footsteps of fellow Brisbane onballer Claye Beams in winning the Joe Grant Medal as best afield, collecting 28 disposals, seven clearances, and two goals, but it must have been a close-fought affair, considering the impressive games of Callum Bartlett, Patrick Wearden, and Jesse O’Brien.
The Hornets were well-served by midfield trio Jack Stanley, James Ives, and Ryan Matthews, Isaac Conway was strong – particularly in the first half – and Eddie Sansbury kicked three classy goals.
But while almost every Brisbane player did his part– right down to Richard Newell’s unobtrusive but effective tagging job on danger man Cheynee Stiller – the Hornets had too many passengers.
Even team contributions have been one of the cornerstones of the brown and gold’s resurgence this season, but after an admirable opening half, they fell away; the fatigue caused by playing their fourth consecutive week of finals football finally taking hold.
The Lions were fresh from a week off, and they looked it after the main break; kicking 11 goals to five in the closing two quarters, to sweep to their third win over Aspley in 2013.
The second-half assault was sparked by a brilliant 15 minute burst from Bartlett, the nuggetty Geelong junior kicking two goals and setting up two more, to give his side some breathing space, after they led by just 11 points at half-time.
Aided by a blustery wind in the last term, Brisbane never looked likely to be headed, and the sting went out of the contest with the result a formality.
There were some late highlights, headed by a brilliant rove, snap, and goal from Sansbury, and an Aaron Cornelius six-pointer via a check-side banana, but it was elementary by that stage, and the siren sounded to confirm the inevitable.
Prolific utility Patrick Karnezis was a late withdrawal for Brisbane, but the four-pronged attack of Jordan Lisle, Cornelius, Michael Close, and Sam Michael more than compensated for the 21-year-old’s absence.
Cornelius kicked a game-high six goals and plucked 11 marks, Lisle snagged a couple, and Close and Michael put Aspley’s undersized defence under the pump all afternoon.
“I thought our firepower up forward with those guys was the difference in the game,” Harding said.
“Having them in our ranks gave us a lot of confidence going in, and we knew that they’d be very hard to contain.
“They’re so big and strong, you can’t hold them for a whole four quarters, and with nine goals between them they played a big part.”
The defeat means Aspley trio Nathan Clarke, Stiller, and Conway missed the opportunity to win consecutive flags with different clubs, while veteran Aspley mentor John Blair couldn’t add to his tally of four premierships.
Despite that, it’d be remiss of anyone to deem Aspley’s year anything other than a major success, and with another pre-season in the legs of the Hornets’ crop of exciting youngsters, they’ll be an even bigger force to contend with in the revamped NEAFL next year.
For Brisbane though, the party – or as Harding called it “enjoying one another’s company,” – won’t last too long, as they look to freshen up for one final four quarter effort.
The Lions will bid to win their second consecutive cross-conference decider, when they take on Sydney at Graham Road this weekend, with the winner crowned overall NEAFL champion.