The AFL finals are here and a big week of action begins with an elimination final showdown between the Brisbane Lions and Richmond Tigers at the Gabba.
The Lions find themselves out of the top four for once and if they are to finally win a flag under coach Chris Fagan they will have to do it the hard way.
There are no second chances here and whoever loses this game will see their 2022 AFL season come to an end, so the stakes could not be higher.
Richmond have won three premierships under coach Damien Hardwick in recent seasons, but never from outside of the top four so this is new ground for them.
However they know how to win a premiership and will fancy their chances of going all the way to make it grand final win number four under Hardwick’s tenure.
It is a do-or-die clash at the Gabba that could go either way, so let’s take a closer look at both sides as game-day fast approaches.
What: Brisbane Lions v Richmond Tigers
Where: The Gabba, Brisbane
When: 19:20 (AEST) Thursday 1st September 2022
How to watch: 7mate, Foxtel, Kayo
Odds: Brisbane 59/50, Richmond 7/10
Brisbane have a poor record in finals and will need to reverse it if they are to go far in 2022. Over the last three seasons they have won just one out of six finals games. And this year there is no double chance. Lose and they are out.
This season they missed out on a place in the top four after they lost the final game of the home and away season 115-57 against Melbourne at the Gabba.
It meant they had to settle for fifth spot on the ladder, losing the opportunity of a double chance in finals, which could prove costly.
Defence has been a big concern for the Lions in the latter part of the season and it needs to be much better if they are to have any chance against the Tigers.
Since round 15 the Lions have conceded an average of 89 points, which is way too many. They ranked 15th in the AFL, and it is no surprise they slipped out of the top four.
There are positives though as they have dominated centre clearances over the last month, while Eric Hipwood has also been in good touch in recent meetings against the Tigers.
He booted four goals in each of the last two games against Richmond, and the Lions would love a repeat of that at the Gabba on Thursday night.
Lachie Neale will also be a huge player for the Lions. The midfielder feels he is in better form than when he won the Brownlow Medal in 2020 and the Lions will need him to be at the top of his game.
The same can be said of Jarryd Lyons, Rhys Mathieson, Zac Bailey and Charlie Cameron, while captain Dayne Zorko needs to put a tough couple of weeks behind him and be at his best.
The good news is key forward Joe Daniher says his shoulder issues are behind him and he is feeling good heading into the Richmond showdown. He has 17 goals in 10 games and will need to bring his shooting boots to the Gabba.
Richmond have only lost two games at the Gabba since 2005, but one of them was the 2020 qualifying final.
They did bounce back from that defeat to win the grand final against Geelong at the same the venue after it was switched from the MCG.
Richmond head into finals full of confidence after winning the last four games on the bounce, one of which was against the Lions, who they beat 104-97 at the MCG.
The Tigers look to be hitting their straps at just the right time. Star forward Tom Lynch is producing career-best form and booted four goals in the recent win over the Lions.
Lynch has 36 goals to his name this season, the same as fellow forward Jack Riewoldt and the duo look set to be a thorn in the side of Brisbane at the Gabba.
Damien Hardwick’s side will also be boosted by the return of gun midfielder Dustin Martin, who is known for rising to the biggest of occasions.
Richmond are one of the highest-scoring teams in the AFL and will be looking to pile more misery on a Brisbane defence that has leaked points in the second half of the season.
Elsewhere, the Tigers are also relieved to hear that Noah Cumberland has been passed fit to play after recovering from a lower leg injury he suffered in training last week.