Queenslander Zorko calls time on Lions captaincy

Dayne Zorko will go down in history as one of the most decorated Brisbane Lions captains after calling time on a remarkable five-year stint as skipper of the AFL club.

While his AFL playing days will continue, the announcement that there will be a new Lions captain in 2023 presents an opportunity to reflect on the journey and achievements of one of the greatest players to come from Queensland.

A story of persistence and an unconventional path to the top, the former Surfers Paradise junior dominated the local Queensland competition for years before getting the call up to an AFL list, finally realising his dream of playing at the elite level as a 23-year-old in 2012.

Originally from Surfers Paradise, Zorko captained the Queensland U18 side in 2007 – the same year he first entered the National AFL Draft but was overlooked.

Dayne Zorko of Queensland is tackled by Jethro Calma-Holt of the Northern Territory during the 2007 NAB AFL Under 18 Championship match between Northern Territory and Queensland at Victoria Park in Melbourne.

The then 18-year-old joined Broadbeach’s QAFL team and went on to win the club’s best-and-fairest for four consecutive seasons.

He captained the Queensland U21 side but didn’t make the AFL until the end of 2011 when an outstanding campaign that year put him back on the radar of AFL clubs.

In his final QAFL season, Zorko won the Syd Guildford Trophy as the Football Record Player of the Year, the Zane Taylor Medal for Best on Ground in Queensland’s narrow loss to Western Australian where he booted four goals and finished the QAFL season just one vote short of the Grogan Medal – his third top-10 finish in the competition best-and-fairest award across a four-year span.  

The Gold Coast SUNS eventually picked Zorko up as a Queensland Priority Selection before trading him to the Brisbane Lions in exchange for pick 34 in the 2011 AFL National Draft.

He made his AFL debut in 2012 and six years later became the 57th person to captain the Brisbane Lions in their combined 133-year VFL/AFL history of Fitzroy and the Brisbane Bears, and the 11th captain post-merger in 1997.

He led the team for 105 games, placing him in a special group of Lions greats that have captained the club, behind only Michael Voss (210), Jonathan Brown (128) and Roger Merrett (125) in the modern Brisbane era. Only three players captained Fitzroy more times – Kevin Murray (159), Paul Roos (122) and Alan Ruthven (110).

Zorko is showing no signs of slowing down this season as he eyes his 250th AFL game.

Head of AFL Queensland Trish Squires thanked Zorko for his leadership and commitment to the game.

“Dayne has been a prolific player for many years and helped lead Brisbane’s resurgence in the competition,” she said.

“He started out playing community footy right here for Surfers Paradise and the Broadbeach Cats, to go on and become one of the most decorated captains in the AFL is a huge feat.

“It shows our programs are helping shape talented AFL stars like Dayne Zorko and we’re looking forward to watching him continue to soar in the 2023 season.”

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