Last year’s runners-up, the Brisbane Lions AFLW have a point to prove in 2018. Undefeated until the final siren of the grand final, the Lions will look to continue their match-winning defence again, led by captain Emma Zielke again.
The Coach: Craig Starcevich
Captain: Emma Zielke
Up at the Den, the Lions are just over a week away from opening their season up against the reigning premiers, Adelaide Crows. having squandered opportunities in the grand final, the rematch will be a great indication to see what Brisbane have learned since their fateful day last year at Carrara.
Underneath Zielke, Leah Kaslar has been voted in as vice-captain, while Sabrina Frederick-Traub, Kate Lutkins, Leah Kaslar, Sharni Webb and Emily Bates round out the leadership group.
The list is officially the shortest at an average 168.7cm and the youngest at an average 23 years, 168 days for each player. Stars such as Zielke, key forward Frederick-Traub, classy midfielder Emily Bates and forward Jess Wuetschner, will need more support in 2018. While the Lions aren’t as stacked in elite talent, they have a good rung of players looking to take the next step. 11 players have been brought in through the draft, while Nat Exon and Isabella Ayre were traded into the squad from Carlton. Exon boasts elite outside run and kicking ability, and provides a lot of pressure around the ball.
Perhaps the biggest loss of the off-season was the farewell of Tayla Harris. While Harris didn’t get on the scoreboard as often as she’d have liked, she provided a presence and a distraction for Frederick-Traub. Expect to see more attention on Sabrina this season. While the Lions have another crack at the flag in 2018, they’ll need to make the most of their opportunity before Gold Coast poach players in 2020.
Where they sat in 2017:
The Lions were written off from the start by many pundits, citing a lack of talent in Queensland to support the team. But regardless of opinion, they remained undefeated through the regular season, with only a draw against Carlton in round seven to ruin a perfect record. Defensive pressure was the key to success for most of the season with the Lions ranked first in defensive one-on-ones and second in the scores conceded for each inside 50. However, the preseason will have worked a lot on, stoppages, clearances and contested possessions after a dismal campaign in these categories last year.
The Lions recorded their largest win in round four against GWS by 34 points, but most matches were still close on the scoreboard, with six games decided by 15 points or less. With the Gabba unavailable for the grand final, the Lions were forced to play a home match down the highway at Carrara Oval where they ended up losing by six behinds. At the very least, a lump in the throat will be felt, and redemption is sought after losing the grand final by a kick.
Impressively, eight players were selected to play in the State of Origin match at in September.
IN: Jordan Zanchetta (pick 7), Arianna Clarke (pick 15), Renee Cowan (pick 23), Kalinda Howarth (pick 31), Emma Pittman (pick 37), Ruby Blair (pick 41), Sophie Conway (pick 45), Jessy Keeffe (pick 48), Gabby Collingwood (rookie draft — pick 7), Molly Ritson (rookie draft — pick 14), Krystal Scott (rookie draft — pick 18), Nat Exon (Carlton), Isabella Ayre (Carlton).
OUT: Tayla Harris (Carlton), Caitlin Collins, Kate Deegan, Selina Goodman, Delissa Kimmince, Shaleise Law, Jordan Membrey, Jade Ransfield, Nikki Wallace (delisted).
— Brisbane Lions AFLW (@lionsaflw) May 26, 2017
The preseason so far:
A loss last week to the GWS Giants in a trial match would not have helped confidence levels this early in the season. Although just a practice match, the Lions were down by 29 points at half-time before clawing back to lose by 19 points. Making the most of the opportunity, the two sides played time on to create a fifth-quarter, but assistant-coach Brent Staker admitted there was still a lot of work to be done after the match in hot conditions. All-Australian half-back Sam Virgo will be out for the season after an ACL injury in the QWAFL.
Second last week of pre-season training in full swing. pic.twitter.com/LYAeErLv7y
— Brisbane Lions AFLW (@lionsaflw) January 24, 2018
Who to watch:
Kaitlyn Ashmore is set to take her game to another level this year. Rated by Champion Data as “average”, the 26-year old was a priority selection in the inaugural year but has put in the hard yards in the off-season with hard-running a strong part of her game. The outside-midfielder “Kashy” is a former javelin thrower who gave up her career to take footy back up for the inaugural season. She was the only Lion to represent Victoria in the State of Origin match, named against seven of her teammates.
Draftee Jordan Zanchetta sat out the first season of the AFLW due to a foot injury, but was quickly snapped up by the Lions with pick 7 in the draft. The local product has already played in exhibition matches, and at 22 years-old it’s looking like the best years are ahead of her.
🦁✈️ Kaitlyn Ashmore pic.twitter.com/UYr97HDf83
— Michael Willson (@MichaelCWillson) January 9, 2018
The Lions, of course, travel to Norwood Oval to witness the Crows unveil their premiership flag in round one. In true regular season style, the Lions have no consistent schedule; travelling away, then playing at home, then away, then home throughout all seven weeks, creating a disadvantage of building any momentum at home. Brisbane will see only the three home games this year, perhaps giving exposure to other clubs to play the extra home game after the Lions had the benefit of hosting the grand final. All three home games are in the day, and all four away games are at night, finished with a Friday night match against GWS Giants at Blacktown on March 16.
99 days away. 🦁 pic.twitter.com/AfJq48EMS5
— Brisbane Lions AFLW (@lionsaflw) October 27, 2017
It’s hard to see the Lions doing as much damage this year as they did last. They’re well-placed to have another crack at the flag, but I think other teams will move past them and their young list may be found out early on. I’m going with a 4th placing.
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