Lions banish hoodoo in dramatic AFL final

·3-min read

Chris Fagan has hailed his players' fighting character after Brisbane buried their MCG hoodoo with a thrilling AFL semi-final comeback win over bogey side Melbourne.

The Lions rallied from 28 points down late in the second quarter on Friday, kicking 11 goals to five after halftime to snatch a 14.8 (92) to 11.13 (79) victory in front of 62,162 fans.

It was Brisbane's first win at the home of football since 2014 - ending an 11-match losing streak - and set up a preliminary final date with Geelong next week.

It came after four straight defeats to the Demons by an average of 44 points over the last two years.

"It was a pretty good time to do it, wasn't it? You just pick the right day to do these things," Lions coach Chris Fagan said.

"Some good teams play at the MCG so it's not that easy to win here and we don't play here all that often.

"We've had three goes in the last nine or 10 weeks and that probably helped us a little bit, but it was just character from our players."

The move of Jarrod Berry onto Melbourne champion Clayton Oliver was massive in swinging the game in the second half.

Berry held Oliver to seven disposals after halftime and had 22 himself, but will come under scrutiny for putting his hand near Oliver's eyes in a third-quarter incident that sparked a fierce scrap between the pair.

After Joe Daniher was a late withdrawal to be with his partner for the birth of their child, fellow key forward Eric Hipwood stepped up with four goals and Charlie Cameron kicked three.

Lachie Neale was influential, overcoming a slow start to finish with 26 disposals, 18 contested possessions and 10 clearances, while fill-in ruckman Darcy Fort, Hugh McCluggage and Dayne Zorko were also important in the Lions' fightback.

Melbourne dominated clearances (51-37) and could have led by more than 22 points at the main break but wasted chances, kicking 6.8 to 3.4 in the first half.

"I thought we were in a bit of trouble early," Fagan said.

"Melbourne were all over us and we were probably a little bit fortunate they didn't kick straight.

"But we were in the game at halftime, which I think gave our group a fair bit of confidence, and Melbourne's second halves this year have not always been the best.

"We were aware of that so we gave ourselves a chance and we played a brilliant second half.

"The highlight was the pressure, and that Cam Rayner spoil late in the game typified the effort and the mindset of our players."

Five consecutive goals drew Brisbane level in the third term and they eventually rolled over the top as the Demons ran out of steam.

Christian Petracca was Melbourne's top disposal-winner with 27, brushing off concerns over a minor fracture in his fibia and corked calf.

The result ended Melbourne's dream of claiming back-to-back premierships.

"It's obviously devastating," Demons coach Simon Goodwin said.

"To give up nearly 70 points in the second half, you've got to give credit to Brisbane.

"The game swung a bit their way and we weren't able to execute the basics of the game for long enough.

"We speak about this a lot, in finals, generally your vulnerabilities come out in games and we've had some throughout the second half of the year especially.

"When we've lost games of footy, teams have been able to impact in the second half of the game and mow down leads, and it happened again tonight."

The contest was billed as a grudge match after the sledging saga that revolved around Zorko's unsavoury comments, which reduced Melbourne defender Harrison Petty to tears when the teams met last month.

The Brisbane captain was jeered by the home crowd whenever he went near the ball and teammate Lincoln McCarthy made a 'crying' gesture to Petty during one heated moment before halftime.