Finally, the pride has returned to the Brisbane Lions’ midfield.
But who will be kicking the goals?
Life after retired great Jonathan Brown was never going to be easy for the Lions entering yet another rebuilding year.
However, supply appears no problem.
Collingwood premiership player Dayne Beams, ex-Geelong match-winner Allen Christensen and former Blue Mitch Robinson have settled into their new club.
Daniel Rich and Jack Redden are fully fit again.
Add new captain Tom Rockliff, Pearce Hanley – albeit when back from hip injury mid-season – and last year’s Rising Star winner Lewis Taylor and no wonder Lions coach Justin Leppitsch is excited.
“To have three very talented players in Beams, Christensen and Robinson come in which fans don’t have to wait three or four years to see the best of, is very good,” Leppitsch told AAP.
“Guys like (James) Aish, (Tom) Cutler and (Sam) Mayes – their best footy is still two or three years away.
“To have a couple of readymade players is exciting for fans.”
But who will be their inside 50m target?
Michael Close, Brent Staker, Luke McGuane and Jackson Paine loom as candidates.
However, Leppitsch reckons his much-envied midfield could also help solve the goal-kicking problem.
“We will rely on our midfield to kick goals a fair bit seeing we have a lot of them,” Leppitsch said.
“We probably don’t hit the scoreboard enough as a midfield group – Dayne will help with that,” he said.
“We will need to manufacture goals at times but we think we have the gameplan to do that.”
Rockliff hoped they could do justice to Leppitsch’s vision in their coach’s second year at the helm.
“Obviously last year everything was fresh – it was always going to be difficult to pick up the gameplan,” he said.
“Twelve months in we feel we have made massive improvements.
“But once you play opposition it changes and the pressure comes on – so that’s the real test.”
Leppitsch already likes what he sees.
“Stefan Martin and Matthew Leuenberger are probably two of the best ruckmen in the comp,” he said.
“Combining with Beams, Rockliff, Rich, Redden and Christensen – it is a pretty exciting group.”
Then there’s Rockliff, who replaces Jed Adcock as skipper.
“Tom is going to be a terrific captain for us for a long period of time,” Leppitsch said.
“It’s a generational change for us, a young captain for a young team.”
Even the retirement of the last of the Lions’ 2001-03 premiership group last year – Brown and Ash McGrath – couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
“One thing about football careers – they all start and they all finish,” Leppitsch said.
“Where we are at right now is we have a lot of youth – the future is pretty good.”
So good that Leppitsch wouldn’t rule out finals for 2015.
“Every club wants to play finals. There are a lot of factors that go into it why you do and don’t – form and injuries are two of them,” he said.
“Both have to be kind on us for us to play finals because we don’t have the list depth.
“We would need a few things to go our way to make the eight but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”
Coach: Justin Leppitsch
Captain: Tom Rockliff
Last five years: 13-15-13-12-15
Premierships: 3 (2001-03)
Key five: Tom Rockliff, Dayne Beams, Jack Redden, Matthew Leuenberger, Dayne Zorko.
One to watch: Dayne Beams. The star onballer shocked the Magpies with his trade demand, but Collingwood’s loss is Brisbane’s gain. Beams is still only 25 and shapes to be a prime mover for the Lions as they look to move back up the ladder in 2015 and beyond.
Ins: Harris Andrews (Aspley, Qld), Dayne Beams (Collingwood), Allen Christensen (Geelong), Josh Clayton (Sandringham U18), Liam Dawson (Aspley, Qld), Jaden McGrath (Bendigo U18), Josh McGuinness (Lauderdale, Tas), Mitch Robinson (Carlton), Josh Watts (Glenorchy, Tas).
Outs: Jonathan Brown (retired), Jack Crisp (Collingwood), Jordan Lisle (delisted), Ashley McGrath (retired), Brent Moloney (retired), Joel Patfull (GWS), James Polkinghorne (delisted), Andrew Raines (delisted), Patrick Wearden (delisted).
B: Jed Adcock, Daniel Merrett, Darcy Gardiner
HB: Pearce Hanley, Justin Clarke, Sam Mayes
C: Marco Paparone, Daniel Rich, Jack Redden
HF: Allen Christensen, Michael Close, Dayne Zorko
F: Lewis Taylor, Brent Staker, Josh Green
R: Matthew Leuenberger, Dayne Beams, Tom Rockliff
I: Stefan Martin, James Aish, Rohan Bewick, Mitch Robinson
Predicted finish: 10th
Betting (William Hill):
To win the flag: $34
To make the top eight: $3.25
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