As statements go, Brisbane have made a massive one for the 2019 AFL season with a significant 44-point win over West Coast.
The Lions overhauled a 27-point quarter-time deficit to comprehensively outplay the reigning premiers for the last three terms and claim a 15.12 (102) to 8.10 (58) win at the Gabba on Saturday.
It’s the first time the Lions, tipped to be big improvers this year, have beaten the previous season’s premiers since round 12, 2009.
Even without several of their players from the grand final – veteran Mark LeCras retired while Willie Rioli, Josh Kennedy and Jamie Cripps were all out injured – the size of the Eagles’ defeat came as a shock.
In addition to becoming the defending premiers with the largest defeat in round one since 1981, West Coast added to their own unwanted history.
By failing to kick a single goal in the third quarter the Eagles became the first defending premiers to be kept goalless in round one since… West Coast in 2007.
The team before that? West Coast in 1995.
In VFL/AFL history only one other club has suffered the same fate – St Kilda in 1967 – making the Eagles’ ability to do it three times in 24 years something remarkable.
But the Saints kicked 22 goals in the final three quarters to smash Footscray, West Coast in 1995 west on to beat the Saints and in 2007 they snuck by Sydney.
The difference here is West Coast became the first reigning premiers to be held goalless and lose – admittedly to a team on the rise, but a group who finished 15th last season and won just two games at home.
— Swamp (@sirswampthing) March 23, 2019
“We’ve got tremendous confidence in our players and our ability but we didn’t produce our best tonight and we weren’t good enough tonight, no excuses,” coach Adam Simpson said.
“We’ll look at the positives as much as the negatives but we’re not going to stick our head in the sand. We’re not just going to park up and move on.
“When it really mattered, we didn’t stand up.”
The night belonged to the Lions after what was a richly deserved victory.
New recruits Lachie Neale, Lincoln McCarthy and Jarryd Lyons all had good games while captain Dayne Zorko and forwards Hugh McCluggage and Charlie Cameron were also impressive.
Neale picked up 29 disposals and ex-Geelong forward Lincoln McCarthy booted a career-high four goals.
Lyons, Zorko and McCluggage were three of 10 Lions to pick up 20 or more disposals while Cameron booted three first-half goals in his first AFL match since tearing a Lisfranc tendon in his right ankle last June.
Young gun Cam Rayner booted two goals including a late major which capped off the hugely impressive victory.
“It’s only one game, I suppose, but I was just proud of our blokes today,” Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said.
“We were 27 points down at quarter time, things weren’t looking good.
“It was a good show of mental strength I reckon from our blokes to be able to actually do that.
“Sometimes young teams crumble when the premiership team do that to you in the first quarter but I thought we showed really good resilience.”