Lions leg­ends say 2004 ground de­ci­sion cost them fourth flag

The Advertiser - - SPORT - JAY CLARK

SOME of Bris­bane’s great­est play­ers have hit out at the AFL’s 2004 pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal venue call, say­ing the “hatchet job” was a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to de­rail the Lions.

Premier­ship he­roes Jonathan Brown, Ja­son Ak­er­ma­nis and Michael Voss this week said the con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion to stage the Lions’ cut-throat clash against the Cats at the MCG was a mis­take which had a “huge im­pact” on their at­tempt to win a record-equalling fourth straight flag.

The Lions fin­ished higher than the Cats that year, but were made to play the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal at the MCG in line with the AFL’s con­tentious con­tract with the MCC.

Premier­ship captain Voss said: “It felt bla­tant, at the time.

It re­ally felt like a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to stop us from win­ing the next one.”

Brown said the de­ci­sion from head­quar­ters was “dis­grace­ful”, while Ak­er­ma­nis said 14 years on it “still burns in the soul”.

The rules were changed the fol­low­ing year to give the higher-placed team home ground ad­van­tage on the sec­ond-last week­end of the sea­son.

Brown said the de­ci­sion was still a sore point for most of the squad as the in­jury-hit Lions fell to Port Ade­laide by 40 points in the de­cider.

“It (venue call) had a mas­sive im­pact on us and that is why there is still an un­der­ly­ing frus­tra­tion,” Brown said.

“In the first fi­nal we de­stroyed St Kilda (by 80 points) at the Gabba and we looked as for­mi­da­ble as we did at any stage dur­ing that four years. But by half-time in that pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal it was like a ca­su­alty ward (due to in­juries) and we were on the road.

“Most peo­ple go, ‘You should be happy with three (pre­mier­ships) in a row, but to get so close to equalling his­tory, in terms of four in a row’ (is tough).

“That is why there is that un­der­ly­ing frus­tra­tion.”

Ak­er­ma­nis said the Lions’ side was “rail-roaded” by the top brass.

“It burns in your soul be­cause they stopped us do­ing what we should have had a fair chance to do,” Ak­er­ma­nis said.

“They could have changed the rules at the drop of a hat.

“It was a hatchet job ... I thought the AFL was do­ing ev­ery­thing it could to stop us within these stupid rules.”

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