The 2021 AFL season is less than a fortnight away and Vendetta Sports Media is running the rule over all 18 teams. Today we look at last seasons darlings, the Brisbane Lions. For our other reviews, please click here:

After a long and steady rebuild the Lions have played in back-to-back finals campaigns, going out in straight sets in 2019, then capitulating to Geelong when faced with the chance to play a home Grand Final last year. In 2021, the Lions will look to continue their ascent towards a premiership.

Brisbane’s home guernsey

Season 2020

2nd position: 14 wins, 3 losses, 124.9%

As mentioned above, the Lions came oh so close to hosting the Grand Final at the Gabba. Unfortunately, for the first time all season, the precocious and confident young Lions faltered, losing their swagger as a battled hardened and veteran laden Geelong side put them to the sword.

Through the regular season, the Lions were magnificent, though circumstance – specifically so many teams being forced to play in Brisbane due to COVID restrictions – most certainly helped. Nonetheless, led by Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale, the Lions were amongst the elite of the competition, strong in all areas of the ground.

Key Ins: Joe Daniher (Bombers), Nakia Cockatoo (Cats), Blake Coleman, Harry Sharp, Henry Smith (all draft)

Key Outs: Alex Witherden (Eagles), Stefan Martin (Bulldogs), Allen Christensen (retired), Matt Eagles (released), Corey Lyons (released)

The Lions perhaps had only one weakness in 2020: goal kicking accuracy. Unfortunately, whilst their big name recruits will help out in practically every area of forward line play, consistently slotting shots at goal is their major flaw.

Joe Daniher is – when healthy – a monster full forward, simply too big and athletic to consistently keep down. You just have to hope he misses when he shoots, which he still does far to often. Nakia Cockatoo has seemingly been on the verge of breaking out for years, yet injuries have held him back, as well. If the Lions can keep their prized recruits on the park, combining them with Eric Hipwood, Cam Rayner, Daniel McStay and the irrepressible Charlie Cameron gives Brisbane an attack that might be the best in the AFL.

That forward line will be fed by the smooth moving Neale, supported by tough nuts in Dayne Zorko, Mitch Robinson, Jarryd Lyons and Hugh McCluggage. The depth that Brisbane boast through the midfield is enviable. Daniel Rich, Zac Bailey, Jarrod Berry and Lincoln McCarthy will all rotate through the midfield, never giving the opposition a rest.

Defensively, the Lions are not nearly as deep, though Harris Andrews is a defensive game plan unto himself. His ability to smother bigs and smalls, dreadnoughts and tricksters alike allows coach Chris Fagan to keep the rest of his defense in their most optimal roles, knowing that Andrews will be able to take on the best opposition forward, no matter who they are. He is to the AFL what Ben Simmons is the NBA – the most versatile elite defender in the world.

It has to be said that losing Witherden hurts the defense, but if Grant Birchall continues to defy the aging process it shouldn’t matter too much. Martin’s defection to the Bulldogs has been painted as a potentially crippling blow,, by some in the football media, but young Oscar McInerney looks ready to take on the mantle of full time first option ruck.

Prediction: 5th

If Daniher and Cockatoo can stay injury free (they’ve both looked in immaculate condition through the preseason – *touches ALL the wood*) and kick straight, then the Lions will again look to claim a top two place on the ladder. Both health and accuracy are big ‘ifs’, though, when it comes to these two.

Perhaps the most telling barometer for Brisbane’s season will be their ability to win away from home. If they can claim six or perhaps seven wins away from the Gabba, they’ll finish close to the top of the ladder. However, it’s fair to expect some regression from a team that last year played almost exclusively at home.

The Lions are a lock to play finals, but finish top four? I’m not so sure.