‘Bitter’ Lions ‘close’ to premiership breakthrough

Dayne Zorko (right) and his Lions teammates are ‘bitter’ about their finals’ exit. Picture: Steve Bell/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

Brisbane captain Dayne Zorko has called for the Lions to bolster their backline depth to challenge for the 2022 AFL premiership.

Zorko and his Lions teammates are still coming to terms with the club’s straight sets finals exit after securing a top-four ladder spot for the third successive year.

There was a further blow last week when four-time premiership-winning defender Grant Birchall announced his retirement.

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Zorko, this year’s winner of the Lions’ club champion award, said Birchall’s departure meant Brisbane’s backline needed bolstering.

“There’s no doubt ‘Fages’ (coach Chris Fagan) and ‘DD’ (football manager Danny Daly) and the footy department will have a good hard look at where we need to keep building that depth and create that competition for spots to give ourselves the best chance when we get to the business end of the year,” Zorko said.

“With Grant retiring, we’re probably going to have a look at (someone) around that half-back line.

“What we’re doing at the moment is creating a lot of depth in our team, in our squad. We’ve been able to debut a few players this year, and our younger crop had a fair stint at AFL level, which is great, and we’ve got those guys that have been injured throughout the year to come back in.”

Dayne Zorko with his partner Talia de Marco at the Lions’ club champion dinner. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Dayne Zorko with his partner Talia de Marco at the Lions’ club champion dinner. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Zorko can’t help but think about what might have been this season, particularly after watching the Bulldogs, who beat Brisbane by just a point to end the Lions’ season, thrash Port Adelaide by 71 points in the preliminary final.

“This year we did it under a fair bit of adversity,” he said.

“When we got there (to the finals) we thought we were in probably the best shape we’ve been over (the past three years).

“To be knocked out by the two grand finals teams (Melbourne and the Bulldogs) is a little bit bitter but at the same time I think we understand that we are really close.

“Our finals system’s a little bit different. It allows teams that get a bit of momentum to keep rolling and that’s probably something that we were hoping that we could get.

“Unfortunately, we fell short, but credit to the Dogs. They’ve done it under a fair bit of scrutiny as well with a lot of injuries as well.”

As for his own form this season, 32-year-old Zorko said he was humbled to have become a Merrett-Murray medallist for the fifth time, an honour he shares with club legend Michael Voss.

“It’s hard to replicate consistency for a long period of time and as I’ve gotten older, you find it a little bit more difficult when you’ve got such a great young crop players coming through.

“To be able to play at a consistent level over a number of years is probably what I’ve been most proud of,” he said.

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