Lion dares to dream of finals
Home boys: Andrew Raines wants the Gabba to become a Lions fortress. Photo: Getty Images
IT'S understandable the Brisbane Lions are still keen to relive the memories of their famous three-peat, for those teams led by Leigh Matthews and Michael Voss remain among the greatest in the history of the VFL/AFL.
The Lions recently announced a three-peat anniversary luncheon for next year, an event which no doubt will be savoured, but will also prompt questions about the future.
With just the one finals series appearance since that grand era closed in the losing 2004 grand final, the Lions' modern-day band of talent - now led by Voss the coach - understands it's long past time to forge a new identity.
For those involved, team success remains paramount but, individually, the lure of showcasing one's skills in September is equally as appealing.
Andrew Raines is desperate to experience both, and appreciates what it means to be alive come September having digested the tales from his father Geoff, the champion centreman and one of the integral cogs of Richmond's 1980 premiership team.
Andrew Raines grew up in Queensland, watching the success of Matthews' Lions.
''You can't help but notice the stuff around the club, with the pictures, the photos of the great players who you looked up to,'' Raines said. ''Especially for someone like me. I grew up here and watched their success pretty closely.''
Does that still have any impact?
''It's obviously in the back of our minds but I think we are trying to form our own identity,'' he said.
''My previous football club, Richmond, they had success in the '70s and '80s when my old man played. I would always walk around and see the great names on the walls but I don't think it plays a huge part.
''You are obviously educated about the history, which is important to know, but I think it's important to forge your own path, your identity. That's something the boys are trying to achieve at the moment.''
The Lions began to forge their own path last season, winning 10 matches, including their final three. The highlight was a two-point victory over the Eagles at the Gabba in round 10. However, their inconsistency was shown when eight weeks later the Eagles crushed them by 98 points.
Regardless, the development was obvious, with the likes of best-and-fairest winner Joel Patfull, Daniel Rich, Pearce Hanley, Jack Redden and Tom Rockliff impressive.
Raines, 26, was also important, having stamped himself as one of the league's better defensive midfielders.
He had managed only 10 matches in 2010, his first with the Lions, compounding an already miserable period when he managed just five matches in his final two years at Richmond before he was traded. But he was injury-free in 2011 and played 16 matches, and another 19 this year.
Now completing a business degree majoring in property, Raines finds himself in a good place - but he is far from content.
''I am glad I am back out there playing. I think I played 15 games in about three years through injury and not being able to get continuity in my body,'' Raines said.
''In the last two years I have sort of achieved that. Now I am looking onwards and upwards.
''I am not really happy where everything stands - I will be more happy if we are playing finals football. That's a massive goal of mine individually and a team thing, too. I haven't played a final in my career, that's the next thing that I am looking forward to.''
Until recently, the message for the Lions had been simple. ''Two years ago, it was our focus to be competitive again. I think we have sort of achieved that but, at the same time, we have a long way to go,'' Raines said.
The Lions can now dare to dream of finals, not that Raines would admit this. He knows the entire list needs to continue to develop - sport statistics company Champion Data has ranked the Lions 14th in list quality and specifically their midfield for season 2013.
However, there will be greater depth, with former Melbourne pair Stefan Martin and Brent Moloney coming aboard. Moloney has already impressed during training, and will provide a valuable bigger body at stoppages.
''One more big body in there will help us quite a bit,'' Raines said. ''I think our contested footy was down a fair bit last year - that's his
The signs on the training track, both at home and during the Arizona high-altitude camp, have been encouraging. Raines said Sam Docherty, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2011 draft whose debut season was ruined by a hip operation and a hamstring strain, was in good shape.
''Then there are the usual suspects. Redden and Patfull led the way over in Arizona. Moloney has been fantastic, Tommy Rockliff has been in the best shape that I have seen him. He will be looking for a big year, too,'' Raines said.
The Lions plan to again turn the Gabba into something of a fortress. As Raines points out, winning at home can lead to good things on the road. ''That is a big target for us, making the Gabba ours again.
''We lost some close games there last year where we could have won,'' he said. ''If you can do that, you get your confidence up and you can start winning a few on the road, which we did last year. That will be a huge focus point.
''I think everyone is a chance to push for the finals. As you could see last season, it means you have to win 12 or 13 games. We were at the bottom of that middle tier, I suppose, we were definitely in a position towards the end of the season being in calculation for it [finals], but yeah, it's definitely what we will be striving for.
''But as I said: we just have to consolidate and build our start to the year. That's a really important thing and the rest will come from that.''