Lions legends say 2004 ground decision cost them fourth flag
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.”