AFL – Are Brisbane’s flag hopes slipping?

Brisbane is losing momentum despite their prospects for a Top 4 finish in 2022, and with it their AFL premiership hopes are slipping.

In the early stages of this season, Brisbane were the clear second-favourites for the 2022 premiership. While Melbourne burst out of the blocks to 10-0, the Lions were just behind them in flag betting each week from Round 2 onwards. In fact, up until AFL Round 14 Chris Fagan’s men remained the key second choice for most punters, and at that stage were $5.00 hopes with Palmerbet. But something has changed at the Lions, and momentum is stalling at a crucial point in the season. In fact, Brisbane are now out to equal-fourth favourites at $10; level with Fremantle, and behind the Swans, Cats and Dees.

So, what’s been the trigger?

Round 15 scarring

The build-up to the Lions’s Round 15 clash with Melbourne could hardly have been bigger. Billed as a precursor to the 2022 AFL Grand Final, the Lions went in as huge chances against a Melbourne side that, while still flag favourites, had lost their last three games amid a string of off-field controversies. Whoever won the encounter at the MCG, it was proposed pre-game, were likely to take flag favouritism.

But, as it turned out, Brisbane gave up without a whimper. In being hammered by 64 points, the Lions not only immediately lengthened in the premiership market (and were overtaken by a rampant Geelong), but clearly began to question whether they were up to it in 2022. “Do Brisbane have the physical and mental toughness to win a flag? Based on that performance, you’d nearly go down to the rooms and read the last rites, because it just wasn’t there,” four-time AFL premiership player Jason Dunstall told Fox Footy post-game. “Now they’ll get a chance to redeem themselves throughout the course of the year, but when you face these tests, if you put in dismal performances like that, it saps the very belief of the group.”

Pressure builds on Fagan

Which ever way you assess it, Chris Fagan’s time at Brisbane has been an undisputed success. The popular coach took the Lions from 15th in 2018 to three-straight Top 4 finishes since. But while Brisbane doesn’t like talking about it, they have been perennial chokers once they’ve reached September. In fact, Fagan has led the Lions to just one win in the six AFL Finals he has coached. Further, they’ve never reached the Grand Final despite the double-chance in all three seasons. And now, in another season in which they shape as strong Top 4 hopes (currently $1.72 with Palmerbet), they’re losing momentum at the exact stage of the year it needs to be trending upwards. The pressure is showing, and reared its head after losing to Essendon on home soil a fortnight ago.

To come

It’s a tricky run home for the Lions, with all five remaining games in the home-and-away season against clubs in finals contention. And it starts this weekend with a hugely anticipated Q-clash on Saturday night. The Suns will treat the rivalry game as a quasi-final, knowing defeat almost certainly knocks them out of contention for the final spot in the AFL Top 8 they’re gunning for.