Brisbane Lions went into their clash against Carlton a club in crisis, but left Etihad Stadium with a gutsy, morale-boosting nine-point win on Sunday.
The winless and last-placed Lions endured a week of intense media scrutiny after they surrendered to Gold Coast in round five, and also faced serious questions about their handling of young players James Aish and Zac O’Brien.
But Justin Leppitsch’s men put aside a week under the blowtorch to play with aggression and grit as they came from behind in the third quarter to post the 12.12 (84) to 11.9 (75) win.
“I think the week was built up more externally than internally but it’s just good to win because we hadn’t won a game yet for our group,” Leppitsch said.
“It’s good for our group to build a little bit of belief.
“It was the ability to play roles and I thought we were diligent today. Not perfect but we restricted the opposition scoring well and more consistent in what our output was.
“That was probably the pleasing thing and hopefully that builds a bit more faith in what we’re doing with the group and a bit more belief.”
The match was punctuated by turnovers and skill errors from both sides, but Leppitsch was pleased with the improved work rate of his players and their desire to “guts it out” in the scrappy affair.
Allen Christensen had a quiet first half but he sparked Brisbane with 10 possessions in the third quarter, while Dane Beams impressed throughout with 29 touches.
Daniel McStay and Josh Green were lively in attack with four and three goals respectively.
Tom Bell, who was outstanding for Carlton with 26 disposals, sliced the margin to just nine points with under five minutes left, but the Blues spurned chances to snatch the win in the frantic final minutes with Levi Casboult and Liam Jones sending shots at goal wide.
Carlton coach Mick Malthouse lamented a crucial period late in the game when his side failed to capitalise on a 15-point lead.
“In that third quarter I thought if we could just squeeze another goal … goals were hard to get for both clubs,” Malthouse said.
“I just thought if we manage to get that next one (to put us) 21 points up … every goal we got we had to fight for and the goals they got I thought they came pretty well-structured.
“We just lost our initiative for 10 minutes – I don’t think we went into our forward line for that 10 minutes.”
Young Lion Nick Robertson was involved in a scary incident in the third term when he clattered into the advertising signage.
He was taken from the field on the cart, but was later cleared to return, with Leppitsch saying it was more of a back issue than a concussion scare.