McKenna Bolsters Brisbane’s Defence, Lions Eye Premiership Victory

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Triple-premiership champion Mal Michael sees Conor McKenna’s addition to Brisbane’s defence as a potential linchpin in the Lions’ quest for the premiership. As a key player in the Lions’ successful campaign from 2001 to 2003, Michael had expressed concerns about Brisbane’s defensive strategy.

Yet this aura of skepticism was lifted with the arrival of the swiftly nimble Irishman and ex-Bomber McKenna, alongside the rising talents of Jack Payne and Darcy Wilmot. The new strategy’s focus on defence and the transition into swift attacks appears to have rejuvenated the Lions, who are preparing to face Port Adelaide in the upcoming qualifying final at the Gabba on Saturday night.

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The unsuitability of Lions’ defence had been their major setback, but they took action to resolve it. The team has been fortunate with Conor’s half-back line performance, accompanied by significant improvements from Payne and Wilmot, all playing stellar footy and creating a synergy within the team.

The key area that concerned Michael in the past, the half-back line’s speed deficiency, is now overcome with the presence of McKenna and Keidean Coleman adding to the rebound capacity. The team is distinct from its predecessors and often initiates their strikes from the half-back flank. Stability and solidity define the Lions’ current backline, creating a well-balanced team at all levels.

Even in the midfield, Brisbane has improved. The recruitment of former Western Bulldogs star, Josh Dunkley, according to Michael, has made a mammoth contribution to the Lions’ stability.

The only outstanding achievement for the Lions is thus winning the premiership, or at least reaching the grand final, a feat not achieved since their 2004 defeat to Port Adelaide, who crushed Brisbane’s dreams of a quadruple.

Michael insists that in the present season, the Lions must reach the grand finale. In retrospect, he believes they missed their golden opportunity in 2020. Despite the season was held primarily in Queensland due to Covid-19 implications, Lions had the home advantage.

Their finals performance in 2021 and 2022 were not up to the mark as they lacked in experience. However, after accruing five years of invaluable experience, Michael feels that the Lions are ready for the big stage.