Picks: 4, 22, 40, 58, 76, 94 (prior to any potential compensation and priority picks being handed out)
Out of Contract:
• Mitch Robinson
• Tom Bell
• Rowan Bewick
• Josh Walker
• Claye Beams (rookie)
• Marco Paparone
• Liam Dawson
• Ryan Lester
• Matt Eagles (rookie)
• Mitchell Hinge (rookie)
• Jake Barrett (rookie)
It’s not unreasonable to suggest that the Brisbane Lions are working ahead of schedule, after a reasonably successful 2018 that saw development and improvement across the playing list individually, and a game plan starting to come together that can trouble the best of teams. A spine of Harris Andrews, Darcy Gardiner, Dayne Zorko, Daniel McStay and Eric Hipwood looks set to trouble teams for a decade to come, and you feel like Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry and Alex Witherden could be on the cusp of taking the next step to becoming elite players.
Is it unreasonable to suggest if Brisbane get this off-season right, they’re a smokey to finish in the top 4 in season 2019? No obvious holes that need immediate addressing (Josh Walker and Oscar McInerney are stop-gaps, but filling their roles as spare talls more than adequately), and perhaps another good user of the ball out of the back 50 can’t hurt. Nonetheless, an additional quality midfielder into the mix (and with Dayne Beams now committing to stay in Queensland), and we’re talking a legitimate threat all of a sudden.
Looking at those out of contract, the decisions are fairly clear cut. Tom Bell, Rowan Bewick, Claye Beams, Marco Paparone, Liam Dawson and Jake Barrett were all significant contributors to previous Brisbane regimes, are no longer a factor at match selection and best moved on. Whilst Mitch Robinson, Josh Walker and Ryan Lester are not the most prolific of contributors, they remain handy list depth and perform roles on match day admirably, and certainly worth a one-year extension.
That leaves four spots to fill on the list. The question is whether the Lions decide to cut deeper, and make even further changes with players contracted for the season beyond. Jack Frost and Ryan Bastinac are contracted for another season, but made minimal appearances at senior level this season, and remain unlikely to do so in 2019. Do the Lions have the necessary funds (and salary cap space) to pay them out early? Does anyone have any particular interest in Sam Mayes, whose career has stagnated somewhat this year, playing only the six games?
It is a rare trip to the trade table for the Lions being in a relative position of strength, and not trading to purely accommodate the go-home factor. Dayne Beams has emphatically stated that he will not pursue a trade this off-season and instead serve out the remainder of his contract. With Beams locked away, and the speculation around his immediate future all but squashed, rumored approaches to the Saints for either Jack Steven or Seb Ross, or a deal with Fremantle for Lachie Neale become icing on the cake. A deal for any is well worth the gamble to trade a high draft pick. If Beams had decided to leave, suddenly the Lions were back to square one, with question marks remaining on Dayne Zorko’s constant inability to cope with a tag furthered without Beams to provide an alternative for opposition coaches to consider. It would then have become a need for a Neale, Steven or Ross to come in, even with Steven also being scrutinized for his issues with breaking a tag of late also. Luckily, with Beams going nowhere, and the possibility of a very strong addition this off-season, the Lions' midfield looks set to rival any in the competition.
Do the Lions consider another veteran in Brendon Goddard? If this were the NBA, the Lions would be the equivalent of the Minnesota Timberwolves – the best crop of young talent on the rise, but a questionable destination to play in. Does Goddard chase a ring at the GABBA? Do Brisbane take the risk on his divisive personality, or that he and Luke Hodge play too similar of a role on-field?
I would anticipate that the Lions’ cap space is relatively plentiful at this point, despite the majority of their core locked up on long term deals. It would be surprising to not see the Lions make a big play or two this off-season. The cap space, the draft picks, and the allure for talent to chase a premiership in the not too distant future are too high not to.
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