Disappointment and a lack of competitiveness were evident to see throughout the 2016 AFL season for Brisbane.
In the third season with Justin Leppitsch as coach, the Lions went backwards in terms of results, performances and player development.
Although some promising youngsters have emerged such as Josh Schache, Rhys Mathieson, and Jarrad Jansen, Brisbane looks like it is in worse shape than what it was in 2013 when Michael Voss was sacked as senior coach and Angus Johnson stepped down as club chairman.
Dismal Performances, Dismal Results
There were many occasions in which the Lions played some dour and uninspiring football and that should not be a surprise considering that the Queenslander club lost 19 games.
The 138-point defeat to Adelaide in Round 20 was clearly the worst of the lot but most of the other losses were just as humiliating and embarrassing. More often than not, Brisbane looked non-competitive and devoid of inspiration and determination.
Injury woes did have an effect on Leppitsch’s squad selections and missing players such as Dayne Beams, Allen Christensen, Tom Bell, and Tom Rockliff for parts of the season, if not all of it, meant that the remaining players available had to improve on their performances. Unfortunately many experienced players underperformed this season.
Aside from the absentees due to injuries and the underachievement of key players in 2016, Leppitsch showed a lack of tactical know-how and motivational skills. He couldn’t structure the team properly or inspire the players to keep battling in tough circumstances.
Many Brisbane fans complain about a lack of effort from the players but the coaching staff have not shown that they are capable of analysing mistakes and rectifying them.
The Lions players handball and chip the footy sideways and backwards and they are easily placed under pressure. The defence is usually very open and there is no evident structure in the defensive 50.
Leppitsch wants to implement a run and gun style of play but that requires the players to think, move, and dispose of the ball quickly. At their best, the Lions can play in that style but the players usually go into their shells against stronger opposition and ‘Leppa’ has done little to shrug off their fears.
From seven victories in 2014, four last year, and just three this year, Brisbane is clearly regressing under Leppitsch and it is doubtful that he can possibly turn things around.
Promising Youngsters Offer Hope for the Future
Although Brisbane finished 17th on the ladder, there have been some youngsters who showed some glimpses of potential throughout 2016.
Key forwards Schache and Eric Hipwood are lanky targets but they showed mobility and some ability to read the play. With more time to bulk-up in the gym and greater know-how of beating their opponents, they can be the future goal-kicking duo of the Lions.
Midfielders Mathieson, Jansen and Ben Keays were given regular playing time this season. Although Keays faded as the season went on, Jansen demonstrated his ability to collect contested possessions, and Mathieson plays with the swagger and confidence that belies his age.
In defence Harris Andrews was solid again as a key defender despite a lack of support and Tom Cutler played like the running defender that the Lions are in desperate need of.
What Should Brisbane Do to Make 2017 a Better Year?
Sacking Leppitsch as coach is a must. Even if he was given the task to build-up a list with youngsters, the team as a collective are poor and the results show that the Lions are going backwards.
Fans with rose-coloured glasses praise him for giving youngsters a chance but ‘Leppa’ and assistants aren’t developing the skills and decision making of the players.
Robert Walls granted playing opportunities to young footballers at the Brisbane Bears and became part of the ‘three-peat’ at the Brisbane Lions but they needed a great coach like Leigh Matthews to place them into the right positions and give them discipline and belief. ‘Wallsy’ could not have done what ‘Lethal’ did.
An experienced coach like Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson or Brett Ratten would be good or an assistant with a good pedigree like Stuart Dew or Simon Lloyd could be handy. Either way, Brisbane needs a senior coach with no previous association with the Lions.
Changes at board level are required because Chairman Bob Sharpless has done little to construct new administration offices and training facilities. A majority of board members are civil engineers but an AFL club needs people with great business minds as well as a passion for footy. From the outside looking in, the current board does not display any of these qualities.
Although the players cannot be blamed entirely for the flaws of the board and the coaching staff, they still need to improve greatly in 2017. They need to embrace the views of the new coach if Leppitsch is sacked and they need to be a united group.
These footballers must show that they can play with skill and confidence and appreciate the fact that they are AFL footballers, not players in a suburban or country league.