It’s no coincidence that the Brisbane Lions have reached an AFL grand final for the first time since 2004 less than 12 months after moving into their state-of-the-art Springfield training facility.
Having been knocking on the premiership door for the past five years, the Lions have finally reached another decider, Saturday’s grand final against Collingwood at the MCG.
The Lions’ resurgence under “father figure” and coach Chris Fagan from cellar dwellers in 2017 to a powerhouse of the competition has been a steady climb with players who have been part of the whole journey and the addition a few stars along the way, including now dual Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale, mercurial forward Joe Daniher and midfield gun Josh Dunkley.
However, hindering the Lions was a nomadic existence due to the lack of a permanent training base.
While the Gabba was, and still is, the club’s home ground, constantly training there wasn’t an option because of the venue’s cricket commitments.
As a result, the Lions were forced to use a host of different suburban fields to train.
However, that all changed at the end of last year with the completion of Brighton Homes Arena.
Former Lions chairman Bob Sharpless was instrumental in the establishment of the Springfield facility.
“The football team were like nomads until they moved to Springfield,” said Sharpless, whose position as Springfield City Group deputy chairman was not regarded as a conflict of interest by the AFL when it pushed for him to head the Lions board in 2013.
“Pre-season was always about trying to find an oval that they had access to. That varied from Coorparoo, Yeronga, Morningside … because the club don’t have access to the Gabba because it was being used for the cricket.
“The facilities they have are now the best in the competition, whereas where they were before, those facilities were a long way short of best in the competition.
“Just to have a home, to be able to train in the one spot, have all your gear in one spot, have your gym in one spot – it’s massive.”
Springfield has also embraced the Lions, with the Ipswich suburb second to only Coorparoo in having the second highest amount of club members that now total a Lions record of more than 52,000.
“They’re fishing in a different pond now,” Sharpless said.
“The move to Springfield has seen them totally change the financial position of the footy club.
“They’re generating profits, their membership’s very strong, and in under 12 months, they’re playing in a grand final, and they haven’t done that for 19 years, so I’m just thrilled.”