If It Bleeds…

Has it been 22 years since Michael Voss and his Brisbane Lions looked across the field at the all-conquering Essendon team with the words of their coach ringing in their ears?

“If it bleeds, we can kill it.”

It remains one of the most significant quotes from that era of footy, with Leigh Matthews throwing down the gauntlet to his team – knock over this Essendon team that everyone was claiming to be one of the greatest ever. He was challenging his team, not just as footy players, but as men. Stand up to them. Hurt them. Take them down!

Of course, Lethal Leigh Matthews lifted the phrase from the Arnold Schwarzenegger move Predator and was applying it to the Bombers as though they were the alien life force destroying every team in their path.

And in a way,  they were.

The reigning premiers had won 32 of 34 games at that point heading into their Round Ten clash with the Lions, with many predicting they would cruise to back-to-back flags. However, as good as Essendon were, the Lions were building something of their own at that stage. Names like Voss, Jonathon Brown, Mal Michael, Chris and Brad Scott, and Chris Johnson were forging a reputation of their own. Hard, tough, uncompromising – it would be that group that would end the Bombers’ dynasty before it even got going (really, one flag from that group at Essendon is a huge underachievement) and create their own in the process, going on to win three-straight flags.

Whilst there were many moments that made the Brisbane three-peat special, I reckon you could trace the most important back to that day in 2001. It was the day they started to believe in themselves.

On that day, to many watching, the Lions were facing a massive task. Beating the Bombers, for a team sitting at 4-5 after nine rounds, looked to be something of a pipe dream. But Lethal and Voss were looking at turning that dream into a nightmare for the Bombers.

“We reckon Essendon can bleed,” concluded Matthews.

Brisbane would go on to defeat Essendon by 28 points, and it would catapult the team to a similar result (26 points) in the 2001 Grand Final.

Perhaps Voss now feels similarly  about the Lions of 2023? Maybe it is time they bleed?

Brisbane have been all-conquering in their own right this season, undefeated at home and playing some irresistible footy at the Gabba. They no longer have that hard edge to them they did when they were preparing to win those three premierships – no team really does in this day and age, but they have a resolve about them in 2023 after owning a spot in the top four for years without the ultimate success. They’re ready and they deserve their favouritism. Yet, staring across the Gabba from them this Saturday will be a team that Voss may see a bit of himself and his version of the Lions in.

It was after their Round Nine loss in 2001 that Matthews eyeballed the team, telling them in no uncertain terms that they needed to abandon the individuality of football and embrace the team before all else. He saw the issues in the Lions team and went about rectifying them, much the same as Voss has done with the Blues in 2023.

Where were the Blues after nine rounds in 2023? Not that far removed from those Lions of 2001, needing to embrace Voss’ way and follow their coach. And once they did, success soon followed.

You can picture Voss preparing for this Preliminary Final clash, leading his Blues against his former team and smiling just a little. Yes, the Gabba is a fortress. Yes, the Lions have owned the venue all season long. And yes, they would be supremely confident heading into the game with that knowledge. However, Michael Voss is the man that owns the Gabba in his own right. This is not just another team venturing up into hostile territory – this is Michael F’n Voss leading his team out onto the park for the biggest game in years for the Blues.

I don’t think he will be overwhelmed by a visit to his old stomping ground. If anything, I reckon he might think all the pressure is on his former team. They’re the ones who have underachieved with so many finals opportunities over the past five years. They’re the ones expected to win, and win handsomely. They’re the undefeated ones at the venue. Maybe they’ll start feeling it.

Voss and his Blues?

Well, they’re just making up the numbers, right? Nothing is expected of them – many think they played their Grand Final against the Dees with their last gasp win.

Beware – a team with nothing to lose is dangerous, and the Blues have danger written all over them heading into this game.

Ten minutes before game time, Michel Voss will have one last opportunity to gather his charges, look his players in the eye and deliver a message. If you walked in his shoes, knowing what you know about this ground, these teams, and this situation, what would your words to the Carlton 23 be?

I reckon he doesn’t need to say much for it to hit home.

“I reckon Brisbane can bleed.”

And from there, it will be up to his players to make it happen.

Bring on the Prelim.


This one is a freebie – the last one this week from me. The review of this game and next preview article of it will be for members.

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