AFL great Luke Hodge is confident the young Brisbane Lions will not experience a similar drop-off to the one Hawthorn produced in 2009, claiming motivation is high to make amends for last year’s disappointing finish.
Despite having the league’s second-youngest list, Hodge and the Lions stunned the footy world in 2019 to finish second on the AFL ladder, only to flop in the finals and be knocked out in straight sets. Hodge then announced his retirement almost immediately after the second loss to the Giants.
While Hodge and the young 2008 Hawks didn’t fall from the same height – they won the premiership that year – they struggled to back-up their form the next season, finishing ninth in 2009 and missing the finals.
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Speaking on SEN Breakfast, Hodge, who’s still at the Lions as a part-time mentoring coach, said he didn’t expect the Lions to get “left behind” in 2020.
“If you look at how we finished, I guess it gets the boys prepared for a solid pre-season. Yeah the boys went through and finished second, but with the two finals a lot of the guys finished the season with disappointment – and there’s no more motivation than finishing the season like that,” Hodge told SEN on Tuesday.
“You could tell when the pre-season started, they were eager to make up for the two finals losses to Richmond and GWS.
“I think one thing that gets teams caught – and I know it did in 2008 with Hawthorn – is blokes are comfortable with where they’re at and also if the game style doesn’t change and doesn’t adapt, you sort of get left behind.
“The motivation is there with the young Lions group, but also the coaches realise that they need to continue to adapt the game style.”
Hodge said there would be some minor changes to the Lions’ gamestyle, but added the coaching group was keen to solidify the style to the club’s younger brigade – a style that proved successful during the 2019 home and away campaign.
“There’s just little tweaks where you look at what other teams do and areas that you weren’t that good in last year and you just try and tweak them a little bit,” Hodge said.
“This is the prime time (to do it), everyone’s fit and running around … but you wouldn’t want to make massive changes.”
A four-time premiership Hawk and dual Norm Smith medallist, Hodge also revealed he’d make a cameo one-off appearance at country footy level at some stage this season.
The 346-game defender will play alongside several mates in Learmonth’s Round 1 clash in the Central Highlands Football League.
“You know when you say to mates ‘if you get a few of the boys together I’ll go and have a kick? But you say it a bit blasé?” Hodge said with a laugh.
“A couple of mates, one down at Corang and one at Ballarat, a few school mates and a few mates I’ve grown up with over the years – we’ll all get together for a kick.
“I’m tipping a calf will be done in the warm-up or in the first quarter.
“When I finished footy, I said I always wanted to go back and have a kick with school mates and mates I didn’t get a chance to play with growing up.
“I say it’ll be a bit tongue in cheek and a bit of fun with the boys.”