AFL: Rich and Lions ready for Geelong

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His advancing years and several seasons of Brisbane Lions mediocrity has Daniel Rich relishing the prospect of a preliminary final at the MCG on Friday night.

Rich, 32, is the longest-serving Lions player in Brisbane’s squad.

In a Lions career dating back to 2009 and spanning 267 AFL games, the West Australian product has learnt to take nothing “for granted”.

And with good reason.

Rich seemed to have the world at his feet in his first year of AFL football.

He not only won the Rising Star Award but was part of a Lions side that played finals football.

You couldn’t have blamed Rich for thinking that he and Brisbane would feature in the finals for several years to come considering the team at that stage still included the likes of premiership winners Jonathan Brown, Simon Black, Luke Power and Ashley McGrath, not to mention the following season’s arrival of Brendan Fevola from Carlton.

However, things soon went pear-shaped for Brisbane.

Fevola’s move north proved a disaster, and the Lions went backwards.

While the club won a pre-season title in 2013, AFL credibility largely eluded Brisbane for the best part of a decade, and Rich didn’t play in another final series until 2019.

“Naturally, you relish these big games as you get older – you don’t know when your last finals game’s going to be,” Rich said ahead of the Lions’ preliminary final date with minor premiers Geelong on Friday night.

“A lot of work goes into getting there and I definitely don’t take it for granted having played finals in my first year and then not playing finals for 10 years after that.

“I definitely just relish the opportunity we’ve been given. Even though we’ve played in the finals for the last few years now, you just can’t expect that’s it just going to happen year in, year out.”

This is the fourth successive season the Lions have reached the finals under coach Chris Fagan.

Three top-four ladder finishes were followed by a sixth-placed table effort this year.

With there already being doubts about the Lions’ ability to deliver in September following a record of just one win from six finals appearances in the previous three years, few gave them any hope of going deep into this season’s top-eight series because of the sudden-death nature of this month’s journey.

However, thrilling wins over Richmond and Melbourne have the Lions just one victory away from their first AFL grand final appearance since 2004.

“There has been a bit of a different mentality this year, but it’s been exciting at the same time,” Rich said.

“We know that we’ve had to win each week to stay alive. Nobody really expected us to beat Melbourne, and they don’t expect us to win this weekend either, but there’s nothing wrong with being an underdog.

“There’s no point getting too stressed or worried about it. It’s more exciting than anything.”

Rich’s message to the Lions’ younger players this week has been to “keep things as normal as possible” but be ready for “one of the toughest games you’re going to play in”.

“You have to be ready to go mentally because moments matter in finals – that’s shown over time,” he said.

“Geelong finished on top of the ladder for a reason. They’re a pretty classy outfit, and they’ve got a lot of quality players.

“We know we’re going to have to bring our best to get the job done. We’re under no illusions about that.”

Originally published as A preliminary final ‘excites’ Lions veteran Daniel Rich after Brisbane’s barren years


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