Starcevich “immensely proud” of grand final-bound Lions

BRISBANE coach Craig Starcevich could not hold back his admiration for his Lions side after they fought off a gallant Geelong to book a record fifth AFL Women’s Grand Final spot. The Lions looked to be on top early, before Geelong hit back, and in a see-sawing clash, the home team eventually saluted, 6.2 (38) to 5.4 (34).

In the wake of the result, Starcevich said the group continued to defy odds, with a stack of new debutants throughout the 2023 season, but finding a way to reach the final game of the year.

“There’s so many great things about coaching this team and it’s a joy,” he said. “You saw the grit there and you’ve probably seen it the last month to be honest. Just their grit and fight to hang in there and keep pushing to the finish line. That bit just makes us immensely proud.

“If you’re a Brisbane Lions supporter sitting back looking at this team going ‘wow we love you guys’. We certainly do as a coaching group, they’re amazing.”

The Lions will be sweating on the fitness of forward Dakota Davidson who came off with a knee injury, but Starcevich said the talented star was keeping positive.

“She’s in good spirits, walking around okay and was actually jogging out to the group,” he said. “Little bit proppy, we’ll just have to wait and see what comes of that.

“Absolutely it will hurt (if she misses), she’s a big part of what we do. If she’s there, she’s there, if she’s not then we just find a way to restructure and come up with a combo that works.”

That element is something the Lions have been able to do plenty this year, with almost the entire playing list getting a game at some point in the season.

“In a winning year, we get to the last game of the year, we’ve played 28 of our 30 this year, which is really unusual for us,” Starcevich said. “That normally happens in a year where we don’t push up that high. They’ve all had a taste of it at some point and we’ve seen bits and pieces, but the ones who didn’t play tonight obviously are not without our current group pushing anyone else.

“But through necessity we’ve always told them ‘just be ready, make sure your attitude is right make sure you’re ready physically and mentally to jump in if needed’ and that might present this week.”

Yesterday it was defender Shannon Campbell who was thrown forward in Davidson’s absence which proved a masterstroke as she kicked the winning goal 11 and a half minutes into the final term.

“You never know when you’re going to need these little things that pop up in games,” Starcevich said. “It’s been an interesting year. We’ve got four or five new ones in the team. Lily (Lily Postlethwaite) who’s back and had a full season, touch wood that continues.

“Just to find our best combo’s been really hard and obviously early in the year we’re throwing people around, had a few people miss for various reasons. We’ve still got Dee (Dee Heslop) who wasn’t able to play finals either. Just to have all of those little moves up your little sleeve just in case and tonight was the just in case moment to throw Shannon forward.”

Brisbane will now await the winner of Adelaide and North Melbourne, with a win from the former enabling the Lions a home grand final, while a victory to the latter will see Starcevich’s group head south to take on the Kangaroos in Melbourne.

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