The Big Questions – 2024 Brisbane Season Preview

One kick short. One decision different.

What could have been?

I’m sure the scenarios have popped into the minds of Lions fans since the final siren of the 2023 season. The frantic finish to the 2023 AFL Grand Final could have gone either way, but once the game was done, the cup presented, and the medals handed to the victors, just one thing remained.


They were runners-up. So close, yet so far. Closer then before, but not close enough.

The funny thing about winners is people don’t ask how they won; they ask IF they won. And Collingwood will always be able to answer in the affirmative when it comes to 2023.

However, like a middle-aged woman on Facebook, will 2024 bring a “new year, new me” for the Lions?

Not really – they are largely the same team that fell a kick short last year, only with an added edge to them, having come so close to winning it all. Is that sting the thing that drives them one step further in 2024? Is the knowledge that they had Collingwood right where they wanted them enough to push them up and over the summit to claim the flag this year?

Or will that knowledge they were so close and failed eat away at them as they strive to get back to September and claim the prize that has been within touching distance for five years, now?


It’s that time of year, already.

The break after Christmas and New Year is over. The holidays are finished for AFL players, and the hard stuff starts now. Yes, the teams had been training for well over a month prior to Christmas, but as we head into 2024, the ante is upped and the intensity increases.

This is where premierships are won and lost. This is where improvements are made and lists come together. New faces, new colours, old heads with renewed passion… so much feeds into the making of a contender. And as the days tick down toward to the intra-club clashes, practice games, and eventually the real stuff, questions are raised about each team and how they’re going to perform in 2024.

We don’t do things by halves here, at The Mongrel Punt. When we do a season preview, we go all out to make sure it is the best, most comprehensive coverage you’ll receive. We pride ourselves on it. If you are going to read one season preview for your team, or any team, this series provides it.

The way it works is as follows.

Each club has a minimum of 15 questions asked about the upcoming season, their coaches, their players, and their expectations. The answers are not glossed over. We dive deep on each and every one – some singular answers would normally be long enough for an entire column. The first five questions/answers are free for you to consume. The next 10-14 for each club are for our members, including a special appearance from Mrs Mongrel to throw her two cents in the mix.

Isn’t it a bit early for a season preview? Well, I suppose, but do you know how long it takes to write seven thousand words? That’s 18 x 7,000… gets out the calculator… that’s 126,000 words. The average novel is about 85,000 words, so buckle the hell up with these previews.

Also, if there are any issues that arise after the publication of the preview, they will be covered in standalone articles to act as additions to this preview.

You will not read a deeper season preview than this – I guarantee it. This is where we start the run to the new season and believe me – nobody does it better than The Mongrel.




Eric Hipwood kicked 41 goals in 2023.

When you consider that he is a clear third option behind Joe Daniher (61 goals) and Charlie Cameron (59), it’s not a bad result, is it? However, there is an old saying in footy, and in sport in general – you’re only as good as your last game.

Unfortunately, for Hipwood, that last game was the biggest of his, and many of his teammates’ careers. As a matter of fact, Easy E didn’t exactly have the type of finals series he’d like to remember, at all.

Over the three outings, he averaged 11.66 disposals0.66 goals, and one contested mark per game. It was a big fall from grace for a player who looked to have shed the reputation of being a bit of a finals choker, with an impressive 2022 campaign (12.33 disposals, 3.0 goals, and one contested mark per game).

Yep, it was the Hipwood of old in the 2023 decider, and Brisbane supporters have been quite vocal in their disappointment.

So, does he owe this team one?

Only as much as anyone else who was below their best in that game. Does Jarrod Berry owe the team one, as well? Does the Big O? How about Lachie Neale? He was not as his best, either.

Look, players have their ups and downs. Hipwood, as the third wheel, cannot be expected to be Wayne Carey out there, clunking marks like it is what he was born to do, but in his own mind, he would be determined to atone not only for his performance, but for the way the team couldn’t get the job done. It is harsh to place blame for that loss, or any loss, on one player, but the more I listen and the more I read, the more I hear Hipwood’s name.

I know it’s easy to point the finger. I know it’s easy to make someone a scapegoat and play the “if only he did x or y” game, but there were plenty of others out there who weren’t exactly doing their share of the heavy lifting, either, and as much as I don’t think he played well in any way, shape, or form, I reckon he deserves another run at it.



We did.

He wasn’t trying to pull down screamers every week, or giving the minimal required effort when it came to chasing the opposition – he meant business, and he worked his backside off up forward and as the relief ruckman to give the Lions every opportunity to be premiers.

They fell agonisingly short, but Daniher was one of the Lions’ best across all three finals, continuing to provide a strong aerial target, and following up at ground level like a man of much smaller stature.

In front of goal, Daniher has had a better season than his 2023 campaign just once, back in 2017, when his body had not yet started to betray him. Injury free and seemingly with very few cares in the world, Daniher posted 65 goals that season and seemed to be on the trajectory to be the next player to kick 100 in a season. He went from 28 goals, to 34, to 43, and then – bam! He took off and hit 65.

That all fell by the wayside, as a persistent groin injury dogged him for the remainder of his time at Essendon. This was compounded by the fact he didn’t want to be there, trying to first facilitate a trade to Sydney, which was shot down by the Bombers, before he turned his gaze further North and found a home with the Lions.

Not far from the big 3-0, Daniher now looks a long way removed from the precocious and somewhat goofy player he was with the Bombers. As an elder statesman of the team, and a family man, he presents as a player who has been there, done that, and learnt a few things along the way. Sure, he still has fun out there, but that has taken different forms. The exuberance is still part of his game, but it becomes apparent after a teammates has slotted a big goal, or when one of the kids in the team does something special.

With years lost to injury, I reckon Joe now appreciates where he is in the game, and what he has to offer.

As the number one option in a very potent forward line, he has plenty of responsibility, but the fate of the club does not rest solely on his shoulders. He has shared the load brilliantly over the last two seasons to ensure others get a slice of the pie, and with the Lions remaining right in the premiership window, is a career-best season now on the cards for him?

If you’d come to me a few years back and told me that not only would Joe Daniher be kicking 60+ goals in a season again, but that he would also happily be taking on ruck duties on a regular basis, I may have laughed at you. Sure, he would take ruck contests, but he never really seemed overly-enthused to do so.

The current version of Daniher takes them in his stride, perhaps sensing that it is an opportunity to slip away and create an option further afield.

I liked what I saw from Joe in 2023, and I say that coming from a place where I really didn’t know whether he was ever going to mature enough to be the number one man up forward for this club. It’s been fascinating to watch him develop from being a bit of a joker into a leader at Brisbane, and both he, and the club itself should be commended for the way they have worked together over the past three seasons.

Now, just one more hurdle remains…



The first half of the Grand Final is the ceiling, but unlike that game, it doesn’t stop after the siren goes for the main break.

Kiddy was on target to win the Norm Smith Medal as the second quarter ended – with 22 disposals and six rebound fifties, he was controlling the flow of the game for the Lions, carving Collingwood up on the counter-attack, but in what you must begrudgingly give Collingwood credit for, they were able to completely shut him out of the game as they re-emerged for the second half. Coleman finished the game with 26 disposals – just four in the entire second half.

If the first half that game is the ceiling, then what Collingwood did to stop him was a little like the ceiling fan that collected him and sent him crashing back down to Earth as he approached it.

There were some lessons for both Coleman and the Lions from that game. Painful ones.

What he is capable of is no longer a secret. Once a young player starts to excel, for some reason, opposition coaches seem to give them a bit of grace. They’re permitted to go about their games and play their roles, but once it is proven that tight defensive attention can bring that player undone, it’s all over – everything has to be earned the hard way from point onwards.

And it is at that point we find Keidean Coleman as we head into the 2024 season.

There are two parts to the story from here. What does Coleman do when a team starts to clamp down on him and puts the bumpers up, preventing him from getting a clean run? And further to that, what do Brisbane and Chris Fagan do to help the bloke out?

The Lions would have killed for a couple of line-breaking runs from KC in the second half of that Grand Final. Sure, they deferred to others, and that works, but in a game that was decided by less than a goal, I wonder if there have been any sleepless nights wondering what the club could have changed to ensure he remained a big part of the game?

In 2024, Keidean Coleman’s ceiling is only as high as the help around him allows it to be. As wonderful as he was in parts of 2023, Coleman requires support to be as effective as he needs to be. He may get away with it in periods, or for the odd game where the stakes are not as high, but having seen the way Collingwood closed him down, there would be many teams circling his name on the whiteboard as the targeted player in Brisbane’s defence.

Is it time for Coleman to be injected into the All-Australian conversation?


Let’s see how he, and the Lions, go when he starts receiving some attention. It may well be one of the differences between being a finalist and a premier in 2024.



There were points in the finals where the Lions needed someone to power through a contest, break a tackle and a line, and pump the footy inside 50. They have some great ball winners, headlined by Lachie Neale and Josh Dunkley, but in terms of that breakaway speed and power, it just felt as though something was lacking at points.

Yet, when Cam Rayner was around stoppages, he did give the Lions a bit of that, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether he could do some real damage if he were deployed in this role a little more often.

I want to make a comparison, but I think some will recoil at the suggestion. Hell, I don’t like making it because I don’t like people thinking I believe these two are similar players – they’re not. However, when Essendon were able to get the best out of Jake Stringer as a pinch-hitting midfielder, his forte was breaking from the centre and either running to half forward, or pumping the ball long inside fifty. Midfielders are built for endurance. Stringer was built for power, and whilst his form fell away in the two years following the seaosn he moved into the middle, if Rayner can emulate his bash-and-crash style at some centre bounces, it gives the Lions another dynamic to use in the middle.

Rayner attended just 8% of the Lions centre bounces in 2023. That equated to 56 total centre bounces over the year. From that number, he had 16 centre clearances.

Let’s do some maths.

Of the centre bounces he attended, Rayner won the clearance 28.6% of the time.

In comparison, other mids who are not part of the main rotation of Neale/DunkleyAshcroft had the following numbers.

Jarryd Lyons attended 75 centre bounces. He had ten resulting clearances. That’s 13.33% success rate.

Jarrod Berry attended 44 centre bounces. He had nine clearances.That’s a 20.5% success rate.

And Zac Bailey attended 159 centre bounces. He came away with 24 clearances. That’s 15.1%.

Rayner makes an impact when he goes in there, but he lacks the tank to do it as often as the others. Like Stringer in 2021 (he averaged 16.8% success rate by the way), he could go into the guts for selected contests to provide a bit more grunt, but also that powerful first few steps to break through the congestion. He could become a game breaker in there.

For the record, Lachie Neale was at 13.7% success rate in terms of clearances, and Josh Dunkley was at 9.1% success rate.

It makes a bit of sense to put the guy in the middle who is winning it once out of every four times he is in there, huh?



Well, he doesn’t. Not initially, anyway, as he is returning from a knee reconstruction in the middle of the 2023 season, meaning he’ll be right to get back out on the park right around the middle of the 2024 season.

In the meantime, the Lions will look to the old firm of Harris Andrews – our 2023 Defensive Player of the Year, Darcy Gardiner, and the surprising Jack Payne to hold the fort.

When he does make his way into the senior team, Doedee, who is no stranger to rehabilitating a knee, will assume the role of third tall defender. It is the role he plays best in, and made a name for himself in at Adelaide.

So, once he does make his return, what are the expectations on him?

Sure, on paper, Doedee makes the Lions stronger, but I do worry that expectations will be a little high, given his injury. He is crazily courageous, and will not use that knee as an excuse, but I want to see him string four or five games together before we get a solid understanding of where he’s at and how he acclimatises to the Brisbane game plan before we start saying “he should be doing this or that”.

Doedee will be a great addition to the club, in time. However, what Brisbane are getting in 2023 is a bloke who will be working his way through the second stage of his ACL recovery – the psychological stage, where your mind and body don’t quite align, and every little tweak of the joint sends shockwaves of dread through your body. It is in those moments that a player becomes a little more conservative in their efforts; a little more protective of their own body, and it takes a while to overcome.

Doedee will be at his best in 2025, but until I see what he is capable of in his comeback from that ACL, I am pretty reluctant to hitch my wagon to him as a difference-maker. I hope he proves me wrong in short order, but having been there and done that, I reckon he may have a few issues both fitting into the system, and playing at the level we’ve become accustomed to right off the bat.


This concludes the free section of our preview. Not bad, huh? The next two-thirds are for our members. You can join, y’know? Get this stuff all year long…


As mentioned above, the first five questions are free – the next 10-12 are for our members. I believe my work is worth twenty-five cents per day. If you don’t, that’s fine. You’re welcome to join and keep reading