Even Brisbane Lions coach Justin Leppitsch couldn’t help but offer a wry smile as he counted the cost of their eight-point AFL upset win over the finals-bound Western Bulldogs on Saturday.
In what Leppitsch claimed summed up their horror AFL season, injury-plagued veteran Brent Staker was denied a final game when he broke down in the Gabba warm-up.
And cynics would have also had a field day after departing ex-skipper Jed Adcock’s final act as a Lion helped cost Brisbane the next No.1 draft pick by avoiding the wooden spoon.
Told he could not be guaranteed a 2016 start, Adcock saved his best until last with a four-goal, 21-disposal display that lifted a flat Lions after Staker’s loss.
Staker had hoped to end his 160-game career on his terms after a horror injury run in the past five years including two knee reconstructions.
But Leppitsch couldn’t stifle an ironic laugh when asked if he could believe fate had such cruel plans for Staker after the stirring 19.16 (130) to 19.8 (122) win.
“Funny enough I could believe it. It pretty much sums up our year,” Leppitsch said.
“Seriously if it was going to happen to anyone it would have been us.
“I was a bit worried about their emotional state after Stakes limped off at the warm-up.
“It (injuries) has been a dark cloud over the club this year … but we know we have enough there that if we do our jobs, put our heads down we will be okay.”
The Lions are now set to earn the No.2 draft pick after notching just their fourth win, avoiding their first wooden spoon since 1998.
“It does a lot for the spirit,” Leppitsch said of the Lions who bounced back after conceding eight straight goals and trailing by 31 points at the first break on Saturday.
“It is good to know if we play our best footy we have something there.”
But it remains to be seen who the Lions will have at their disposal in 2016 after Jack Redden’s recent surprise request for a trade sparked fears of a second player exodus since 2013.
Adcock is a definite departure while Matthew Leuenberger has been linked to a Sydney trade and James Aish to Collingwood.
Stefan Martin is another who may ask to leave – and he only bumped up demand following his effort against the Bulldogs.
The Lions ruckman dominated with 32 touches, 50 hit-outs and eight clearances.
“He was extraordinary,” Leppitsch said of Martin.
On Adcock, Leppitsch added: “It was a great way to finish.
“He has been a valuable member of our footy club – we sent him out the right way.”
Brisbane also avoided their lowest wins total for a season – three – posted in 1991.
It was just Brisbane’s third win in 11 home games this year.