BRISBANE entered the draft to just top up its depth across the field, picking up predominantly inside-leaning players, but also those who are versatile and slide either forward or back to enable a flexible best 22 when all have developed.
Ely Smith – Inside Midfielder
Smith was a late call-up to the National AFL Draft night, and the rumours that Brisbane invited him were true with the Lions selecting him in the first round. Smith has enjoyed a terrific season for the Murray Bushrangers, going from virtually unknown in draft calculations, to a first round pick. He famously missed out on Vic Country selection, then received a late call-up there too, to show off at GMHBA Stadium in the final game. What Smith brings to the table is his terrific hands and vision in close, often winning the ball at the coalface and dishing off to a teammate on the outside with a no-fuss approach to his football. He is ready to go if required, and is a good size as that prototype midfielder.
Tom Berry – Medium Utility
It was almost the draft’s worst kept secret, with Brisbane keen on obtaining Jarrod Berry’s younger brother. They got their man, and Tom is a player who can play anywhere on the field. He needs to sharpen up his kicking, but has elite speed and agility which adds a point of difference to the Lions midfield. Berry, like his brother, does not take a backwards step, and he will attack the ball with vigour every time he goes near it. He can start off at half-forward, before transitioning into the middle, and has those athletic traits that few others possess. Not quite as tall as Smith, but a little bit quicker as well.
Tom Joyce – Inside Midfielder
Brisbane are not afraid to pick a West Australian after taking Brandon Starcevich last year. Joyce missed the year through injury, but as a member of the AFL Academy, he has plenty of runs on the board through junior football. While Joyce is a little on the short side for an inside role, he has terrific leadership and will add to the ever-growing culture at the Lions. He could become that pressure forward, or play a defensive role. It might have been a bit of a surprise selection given the Lions’ inside-leaning two picks prior to Joyce, and with McFadyen to come, but he does have different traits to the others.
Connor McFadyen – Inside Midfielder/Forward
McFadyen was always likely to head to the Lions, and is that inside midfielder who possesses similar speed and agility to Berry. He uses the ball better than Berry, but could also use his athletic gifts more effectively in a game. He is a blank canvas in many ways, with his consistency an area to work on, but he has some traits that very few have, being a great overhead mark for his size, and an ability to play a role similar to Jordan De Goey at Collingwood out of the square or in the guts. He has more of an impact up forward than the other selections, which is his point of difference here.
Noah Answerth – Medium Utility
A value get late in the draft, Answerth is that player all clubs need. Not flashy, but can just get the job done with very few deficiencies in his game. He can play back, forward or midfield, and he will play an offensive brand of football, or lock down if you need him to. After a horror back injury in 2017, Answerth put his best foot forward in 2018 and captained the Oakleigh Chargers to a grand final in the TAC Cup. Like many of the others selected, Answerth is a natural born leader and has a no-fuss approach to his football.
Ryan Bastinac – Balanced Midfielder
The former North Melbourne midfielder was redrafted by the Lions as a rookie, and offers some good depth to an ever-strengthening midfield. Bastinac can play elsewhere around the ground, and the Lions were always keen to hold onto him.
Jacob Allison – Tall Utility
A former Brisbane Lions Academy member, Allison was always viewed as a long-term prospect, so while he is still developing, the Lions have moved him from the senior to rookie list, and will continue to work with him.
Brisbane have certainly targeted tough, uncompromising leaders who are never going to take a backwards step. The players they picked up are not necessarily going to feature on too many highlight reels – bar perhaps McFadyen or Berry with their speed and contested marking – but will be those fan favourites they can rely upon. When a club is ascending up the ladder, teams need reliable players who they can turn to and know what they will produce each week. These selections are just that, but are also players who can slot straight into the best 22 if needed. Expect them to share games between them in 2019, and all of them could be future leaders either on or off the field, or both.