By MYLES STEDMAN
“It’s been a tough few years for the club, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Brisbane Lions have pulled off an astounding 2017 NEAFL Grand Final win over the Sydney Swans, tormenting the minor premiers for the third time for the year.
The Queenslanders prevailed by three points in arguably the most exciting decider in the competition’s history, repelling a peppering from the home side in the closing moments of the match to hang on for the 12.13 (85) to 10.22 (82) triumph.
Brisbane captain Claye Beams spoke euphoniously of the win, and the direction in which the club is heading.win.
“We appreciate the support the fans have given us,” he said.
“They’ve stuck by us and we can repay them in the near future.”
As expected, the midfield battle was hard-going from the outset, both teams keen to physically impose themselves on the match early on.
In contrast to a usual Sydney-Brisbane clash, the Grand Final did not look like it was going to be the free flowing, high-scoring hit-out we’d seen previously between the two sides.
It was a full 17 minutes before a highly contentious Aliir Aliir 50-metre penalty gifted the Lions the first goal of the match through 19-year-old Academy player Luke O’Sullivan, much to the displeasure of the sizeable crowd.
Less than 120 seconds later, another teenage Brisbane Academy boy and draft hopeful Connor Ballenden added his club’s second, stretching the margin to nine points.
Twenty-five minutes in, and the first Swans goal of the match off the boot of Jordan Dawson woke the home crowd up, and another shortly after through local Academy product Sam Wicks sent the stands into raptures.
However, the Bloods had looked far from their clinical selves in the first quarter, the score at the break 2.6 (18) to 2.2 (14).
Goals to Claye Beams, Shaun Edwards and Blake Grewar kept proceedings close through the early stages of the second quarter, but neither side looked at its brilliant best.
Halfway through the term, it was the Lions who had opened up a five-point advantage, with one more goal from 11 scoring shots for both sides.
A brilliant goal from 50 out on the run from evergreen Blood Jordan Dawson poked the Swans’ beaks back in front before young Lion Ben Keays stretched his side’s tail ahead with a crafty snap goal from the middle of a pack.
Just moments before the siren, a crucial Brisbane holding the ball decision right in front of goal looked to have gifted Sydney a hard-fought halftime lead.
However, Brisbane responded in instantaneous fashion, Grewar kicking his second of the match from a tight angle to snatch back the lead at the half, 5.10.40 to 6.7.43.
It might not have been the high-scoring classic many were expecting, but the game hit the sheds with plenty of intrigue, 10 lead changes for the half providing an unpredictable Grand Final waiting to be won by either side.
Brisbane wasted no time asserting themselves back into the contest after halftime, Ballenden kicking his second for the match within 90 seconds to take a game-high 10-point lead.
Within the space of five minutes, the Lions benefited from the fall of the ball twice in their own forward 50, Keays and Grewar extending their side’s lead to 16.
The Bloods looked well and truly rattled on their home turf for the first time since their Round 1 loss to their Grand Final opposition.
Two goals within two minutes to Jacob Allison saw the away team kick their fifth goal to one for the quarter, opening up a near-match-winning four-goal lead.
Just moments out from the end of the quarter, Jordan Foote looked as if he’d kicked his side back into it with a booming set shot from outside 50, only to have the goal taken off him by a Brisbane hand.
At three-quarter time, the minor premiers had it all to do, trailing a seemingly unloseable Grand Final by 20 points.
The red and white sprung into action straight from the outset of the fourth quarter, Dawson kicking his fourth of the match to awaken Sydney from their slumber.
Swans hearts quickly broke a few plays later though when Corey Lyons rolled through a highlight goal to return the lead to 20 points.
However, the Bloods would not be deterred. Two gutsy goals to Ben Ronke and Colin O’Riordon had the home team right back in it, trailing by just four only halfway through the term.
A pulsating final 15 saw both sides take the footy from end to end, the red and white missing multiple chances to take the lead and the Lions likewise to extend theirs.
Matt Eagles’ led the field in marks, and his 11th and last grab saw him end up with the ball in his hands as the final siren rang, securing Brisbane’s third NEAFL premiership – by far their most astounding yet.
The Lions players stormed the field as Sydney slumped to their feet, having lost the third NEAFL Grand Final, the fourth in a row decider by less than a goal.
“The heart rate was going pretty fast,” Beams said.
“I wasn’t sure how long was left towards the end, but our defenders were absolutely massive and they got us over the line.
“We’ve had a really good year, and we’ve backed ourselves.
“No one gave us a chance today, I’m really proud of the boys, it was a massive effort.”
2017 NEAFL Grand Final
Sydney Swans v Brisbane Lions at the SCG
BRISBANE 2.2 6.7 11.9 12.13 (85)
SYDNEY 2.6 5.10 7.13 10.22 (82)
GOALS – Brisbane: B Grewar 3 J Allison 2 C Ballenden 2 B Keays 2 C Beams L O’Sullivan C Lyons. Sydney: J Dawson 4 T Pink 2 S Wicks C O’Riordan S Edwards B Ronke.
BEST – Brisbane: B Keays M Eagles M Hinge J Allison B Grewar J Jansen. Sydney: J Foote W Hayward T Pink O Florent J Dawson.
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