Neale helps Lions show AFL finals grit

·3-min read

Lessons learned from previous heartbreak have lifted the AFL finals monkey off Brisbane's back and, behind Lachie Neale's irrepressible form, restored their premiership belief.

The Brownlow Medal favourite had 39 touches and doubled his season average to finish with 15 clearances in a two-point defeat of Richmond in an elimination final at the Gabba that had 17 lead changes.

Neale played the entire second half to rack up those numbers which came despite the Lions being dominated 55-16 in hit-outs after losing ruckman Oscar McInerney in the third minute.

The final lead change came with 64 seconds to play, Joe Daniher making up for some costly moments earlier in the night to toe home a loose ball for the winning goal.

The 16.10 (106) to 16.8 (104) win was Fagan's second from seven finals games in the last four seasons, a record that's proved a lingering sore point at the club this year.

Captain Dayne Zorko hailed Neale's night as "one of the greatest games he's seen ... in one of the greatest years of all time", telling SEN "hopefully now the (finals) monkey's off the back".

Neale said it showed his men had learnt from their past failings that include gut-wrenching one and three-point finals losses at the Gabba in 2021 and 2019 respectively.

"We've had our fair share of heartbreaks over the last couple of years in finals so to be on the other end of it is a great feeling," he told AAP.

"Learned lessons from the past finals losses ... and we were able to put it to work tonight.

""There were a couple of times where they kicked two in a row or three on a row but we were able to stem that ... in the last few weeks we've allowed teams to eight or nine in a row and get blown away."

Brisbane now play the loser of Friday's qualifying final between Melbourne and Sydney and are suddenly back in the picture.

"We've seen over the last few years where teams have come from elimination finals and make grand finals and Bulldogs won it in 2016 that way," Neale said.

"There's certainly belief."

The Lions went in without midfielder Jarryd Lyons (groin), defender Marcus Adams (concussion) and suspended pair Cam Rayner and Noah Answerth.

And when they lost McInerney in the third minute, there were flashbacks to a year earlier when Dan McStay's early exit paved the way for a straight-sets finals exit.

Coach Chris Fagan was in awe of Neale's clean hands, composure and impact in a fast-paced final while he said their ability to overcome the early injury showed their progress since last year.

"It was one of the great finals games you'll ever see," Fagan said.

"We want to win more finals, so we won't get carried away with ourselves.

"But if ever there was a way for us to show you're made of the right stuff, I think tonight we showed that."

Brisbane won't have McInerney or Adams for next week's semi-final, but after 18-year-old debutant Darcy Wilmot and Deven Robertson's performances Fagan will have welcome headaches reinstating Answerth, Rayner and potentially Lyons.

Darcy Fort, named captain of the Lions' VFL side in his first season at the club, is a capable replacement for McInerney in the ruck.