Season Preview: Brisbane Lions Reserves
Take a look at how the Lions reserves are shaping up for 2013.
The Brisbane Lions reserves face a tough test to back up their spectacular 2012 turnaround, which saw them go from wooden spooners to premiership winners in only one season.
With strong reserves contributors Cheynee Stiller and James Hawksley delisted by the Lions and Amon Buchanan retiring, the side will look to some younger players to shoulder the leadership load this season.
The Lions reserves also have a new face at the helm, with former North Melbourne player Leigh Harding taking the reins this season.
Harding, who played 141 games for the Kangaroos before retiring in 2010, said his focus would be on maintaining a strong link between the seniors and reserves this season.
“I think continuity with game style is important,” he said.
“You want to be ingraining the game style so they don’t have to be changing too much when they actually play in the AFL side.”
Harding said the departure of some senior players could be a blessing in disguise for his younger charges.
“There are guys that will pop up and will be good contributors,” he said.
“It will also allow the younger guys to come out of their shell a bit. That’s the key for those guys who have been around the club for two or three years.”
Coaching an AFL reserves side in the NEAFL competition presents a unique challenge, with wins and losses sometimes superceded for a focus on player development.
Harding said he would be concentrating on aiding players’ transition to the highest level.
“I want to give them every chance to play AFL. You want them to be better footballers and better people during the time they’re actually at the club, whether they’re here two years or 10 years.”
Making the transition easier from state league is only going to help their footy going forward.”
While Harding has only recently started in his new role, after an assistant coaching stint at Werribee, he said he had already seen some guys stand out.
“It’s still a bit early to tell but young [Marco] Paparone, a first year draftee, looks like he’s going to be a good player,” Harding said.
Paparone, pick 23 in the 2012 National Draft, has attracted plenty of attention fans this pre-season, after showing incredible athleticism for a player of his 193cm frame.
Some other draftees who will be looking to make a big impact this season will be 2011 no. 12 draft pick, Sam Docherty, who showed promise last season.
Sam Mayes, no.8 in the 2012 draft, will be another young star to watch after a strong pre-season, but he looks likely to slot into the Lions senior side come Round 1.
With a key forward spot up for grabs in the Lions senior team, players such as Aaron Cornelius and Jordan Lisle will also be looking to make an impression in the NEAFL side.
The new coach said he was looking forward to getting stuck into practice matches after a “whirlwind” introduction to his new job.
The Lions reserves open their premiership defence agaisnt Morningside on March 30 at Esplen Oval.