Revisiting Brisbane Lions victory as Premier in 2002 before another Pies showdown

This Thursday night, the Brisbane Lions will mark the 20th anniversary of the second in their premiership hat-trick when they host Collingwood at the Gabba in the form of an Easter Thursday blockbuster in Bris Vegas.

The Lions were in the midst of a dominant era which saw them rise from wooden spoons in 1998 to premierships three years later under Leigh Matthews, beating the previous season’s Essendon premierships in the 2001 grand final.

It was Matthews’ second flag as AFL manager, having led the Pies to their famous premiership win (which current AFLW Lions manager Craig Starcevich was a part of) against the Bombers in 1990.

Twelve months later, the northerners qualified for another grand final, this time to face the Pies. They were coached by Mick Malthouse, who led the West Coast Eagles under two flags in 1992 and 1994.

Heading into the Grand Final, Simon Black won the Brownlow Medal with 25 votes, repeating the feat achieved by teammate Jason Akermanis, who won it the previous year with 23 votes.

Jason Cloke missed for the Pies after being suspended for hitting Tyson Edwards in the previous preliminary round.

The decider was a war of attrition, with the margin not higher than single digits for the entire match.

Anthony Rocca scored the only goal of the first quarter to see the Pies lead by six points at the quarter break. It ended a streak of 253 VFL/AFL quarters in which the Lions started at least one major.

The Lions scored their first goal just minutes into the second quarter via Shaun Hart, and their continued inaccuracy in the second quarter meant they were leading by just eight points at halftime, with the Pies refusing to give in.

The tussle continued into the third quarter, with four goals apiece, seeing the Lions take a four-point lead into the final change as they sought to successfully defend their 2001 flag.

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

A goal from Josh Fraser helped the Pies take a three-point lead midway through the final quarter, before goals against Alastair Lynch and Jason Akermanis brought the Lions home by nine points – the biggest margin ever. match.

Despite the Lions victory, it was Pies captain Nathan Buckley who won the Norm Smith medal as man of the match. The voting procedure was largely gutted after the match, as the judges had to vote midway through the final quarter.

Buckley, out of respect for his teammates, removed the medal from around his neck after stepping off the podium.

Many believed that if the judges had been allowed to vote after the final siren, Michael Voss would have won the medal, such was his influence in the latter part of the final quarter when the match was on the line.

The voting procedure for the Norm Smith Medal has been changed so that judges are not required to start voting before the final siren. Since then, only Chris Judd (in 2005) has won the medal on the losing side. Then he captained the West Coast Eagles to the flag the following season.

The Lions completed their premiership hat trick in 2003, demolishing the Pies by 50 points to cement themselves as the greatest premiership team of the new millennium.

It made a remarkable turnaround from where the team was five years earlier, when the club, in its second season as a merged entity, finished last on the ladder and failed to draw over 20,000 fans to one of his home games at the then smaller Gabba.

It also entered a golden period for sport across Queensland, with the Brisbane Broncos winning a Super League premiership and three NRL premierships in ten years between 1997 and 2006, and the Brisbane Bullets winning the NBL Championship in 2007.

That period of success finally caught up with Leigh Matthews’ side, who went from big runners-up in 2004 to also run the following year, suffering a record 139-point loss to St Kilda in the final game of their 2005 season.

With the exception of a berth in the finals in 2009, the Lions have struggled on the pitch in the 14 years since. But under Chris Fagan and David Noble (now Kangaroos manager), the club rose through the ranks, reaching the final for three consecutive seasons.

Lions coach Chris Fagan

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

As for the Pies, three players from that 2002 team – Leon Davis, Alan Didak and Ben Johnson – went on to play in their 2010 Premiership-winning squad under Mick Malthouse.

But it was Nick Davis, for whom the 2002 grand final was his last game for the club, who first beat them to a premiership, being part of the Sydney Swans team that hailed in 2005 .

That brings us to the present now, where despite their dominance in the regular season in recent seasons, the Brisbane Lions have won just one final game in the last decade and twice eliminated from the final in two sets (2019 and 2021).

In between, the Lions missed the unique opportunity to qualify for a grand final at the Gabba when they lost to the Geelong Cats in the preliminary final, denying them the chance to play for a premiership in their very clean backyard.

This season, Chris Fagan’s side have again started the season in impressive fashion, winning their first three games, including beating North Melbourne by 108 points at the Gabba in the third leg. It was their biggest win since Round 16 of 2007.

Last week they suffered their first loss of the season in controversial circumstances when they lost to the Cats by ten points, in a near repeat of the corresponding game last year when Zac Bailey was denied a free kick and the possibility of kicking the winner of the match. goal after the final siren.

The loss meant the Lions had gone winless at Kardinia Park since 2003.

Meanwhile, Collingwood won their first two games of the season but have since given up their last two, giving up a 37-point lead against the Cats to lose by 13 as the 2018 Grand Final Demons came back to haunt them against the Coast. west. Eagles last Saturday night.

A major subplot ahead of this Thursday night’s clash will be the fact that current Pies manager Craig McRae will come up against the club he won the flags hat-trick with, the last two of which were against England. team that he is now at the helm. of.

Revisiting Brisbane Lions victory as Premier in 2002 before another Pies showdown

(Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

Also on the Pies’ coaching panel is former three-time winning teammate and former Lions manager Justin Leppitsch, who reinvented himself during his second stint as assistant coach at Richmond after being fired from his position at Gabba in 2016.

For the Lions, the opportunity to perform on a standalone prime-time stage in front of their home fans comes more than 12 months after last year’s Easter Thursday clash was moved from the Gabba to Marvel Stadium. from Melbourne due to an instant lockdown in Brisbane.

In that game, Zac Bailey scored the game-winning goal for the Lions after starting the season with two straight losses, and put more pressure on then-manager Nathan Buckley, who left his post at halfway through the season.

In the return clash, which moved to the Gabba from its home ground Marvel Stadium, the Lions won by 85 points, but their lack of experience in the finals and nervousness meant they crashed out in straight sets for the second time in three years.

Chris Fagan’s side will be favorites in at least six of their next seven fixtures, with the only potentially tough game in this span being a rare trip to the SCG where the Sydney Swans await in the seventh inning.

Nine wins from 11 games leading up to a trip to Perth to face Fremantle in Round 12 could set them up for another run until September, when they get the chance to right the wrongs of failed final campaigns of the past and to be in the running to claim a first flag since 2003.

As for the Pies, who are a respectable 2-2 after four rounds, it will be their first time leaving Victoria this season and a win on the road could prove invaluable and potentially season-changing as they seek to prove the skeptics wrong. in 2022.

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