AFTER back-to-back Grand Final losses, the off-season changes of 2018 hurt the Brisbane Lions in 2019, as the Lions missed finals for the first time in their history. Going through a mini-rebuild, the Lions continued the theme over the off-season given the poaching of players from cross-state rivals, Gold Coast SUNS. They have a number of reasons to be more optimistic heading into season 2020 with more youth walking in the door, and others having more opportunities to step up. They picked up a host of mature-age players at the AFL Women’s Draft to compliment the youth, and a couple of players are returning from long-term injuries. They are a year away from being a serious contender, but similar to the AFL Lions, expect these Lions to roar to life and provide plenty of excitement this year.
Jess Wuetschner (forward turned defender)
With plenty of turnover at the club, the Lions fans will look to the experienced players left and someone like Wuetschner packs out a stadium. She is a classy and talented forward who played in defence during the QAFLW and Winter Series and could line-up down there with reliable defender, Kate Lutkins. If thrown forward fans know she can turn a game on its head and hit the scoreboard, making her a headache for whichever opponent has to stand her.
Lily Postlethwaite (midfielder)
This midfield gem is not just one to be considered a Brisbane Rising Star, but one of the potential contenders overall. Despite often playing against opponents taller than her, Postlethwaite packs a punch and never takes a backwards step. She has good decision making, covers the ground well and will always look for the team option. She is a player who will be popular at the club, and captained Queensland last year at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships on the back of a huge 2018 where she was named best-on in each of the Series Two of the championships. A back-to-back All-Australian.
Sophie Conway (forward)
The classy forward missed 2019 with a season-long knee injury but has been working diligently to be ready for 2020. Considered one of the best players from her draft year, Conway is 170cm and can play forward or through the midfield but most importantly has a bag of tricks with ball-in-hand. Her fitness and work ethic is just as impressive as her technical ability and while there are plenty of players you could name here, she could be the perfect player to slot into a Brisbane side that had a lot of turnover last season.
CONFERENCE OPPONENTS: Adelaide, Geelong, Gold Coast, GWS GIANTS, North Melbourne, Richmond.
Round 1 – vs. Adelaide
Round 2 – @ Geelong
Round 3 – @ Gold Coast
Round 4 – vs. GWS GIANTS
Round 5 – @ Fremantle
Round 6 – vs. Collingwood
Round 7 – @ Richmond
Round 8 – vs. North Melbourne
A tough draw all things considered, with a trip out west to face Fremantle and hosting bogey team Collingwood as the crossover games do not help. Where the Lions finish will be largely determined early in the season with a first-up game at home against reigning premiers, Adelaide. Back-to-back road trips against Conference rivals Geelong and Gold Coast, and a home game against GWS GIANTS, of whom all three are likely to be in the mid-to-bottom end of Conference A. To make finals they realistically will need to win all three of those games, or head into Round 5 with a 3-1 record.
PREDICTION: 5th/6th in Conference A
Losing so many players over the past two off-seasons is always going to be tough, but with the expansion now complete for the SUNS, the Lions know they can begin the process of retaining the players they currently have. The influx of youth and some crucial leaders will guide the club through the season, but Brisbane fans should be patient as success will not happen overnight, particularly with the likes of two-time premiers Adelaide and one of the title contenders in North Melbourne in the Conference.