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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Daniel Rich desperate for new Brisbane Lions era to begin

Ten years after thrusting himself into footy’s spotlight as a Rising Star winner, Daniel Rich concedes he could not have imagined how the first decade of his career turned out.
The last surviving member from the Lions’ most recent finals appearance in 2009 hasn’t featured in September action again since that debut season, playing a total of 183 games at a winning ratio of just 31 per cent.
He emerged from the Michael Voss and Justin Leppitsch eras and has done the hard yards as senior member of a team that hasn’t won more than five games in any of the past four seasons.
But there are greener pastures at the Gabba now under the stewardship of Chris Fagan and David Noble, and Rich could be on the verge of reaping the rewards for his loyalty and persistence.
“It’s been a process ever since those guys came to the footy club along with a lot of others and it’s been a build, it hasn’t just happened overnight,” the 28-year-old said.
“We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover to get to where we want to be, but we can see it’s heading in the right direction.
“(In 2009) I definitely wouldn’t have thought it would be this long (without another finals appearance), but everyone has a different story.
“Hopefully when we do get back there, whether it’s this year or next year or in years to come, it just makes it a bit sweeter.”
Rich is one of eight players on the Brisbane list with finals experience.
Former Hawthorn champion Luke Hodge is the only one with a premiership medal, while Lachie Neale (Fremantle) and Charlie Cameron (Adelaide) played losing grand finals with their previous clubs.
“I’m lucky that I have played finals,” Rich said, reflecting on a narrow win over Carlton and heavy defeat to the Western Bulldogs a decade ago.
“Dayne Zorko has been at the footy club a fair while (eight years) and hasn’t played a final, so there are guys out there with harsher stories.
“But I definitely want to be back there sooner rather than later, that’s for sure.”
Brisbane won only five games last season, but were within five goals of their opponents in a dozen of the defeats.
Five were by single-figure deficits, and only three losses were by more than six goals.
The average losing margin of 26 points was a vast improvement on the regular beltings of 2017, when Fagan first arrived to help turn the tide.
The Lions unearthed a gem in Cam Rayner and were buoyed by the strong and steady development of Jarrod Berry, Hugh McCluggage, Alex Witherden and Eric Hipwood, among others.
Rich endured a rocky start, hurting an ankle badly in round one.
He recovered to play another 17 games, predominantly across half-back with short bursts through the midfield, but the injury required constant management throughout the season.
The off-season provided a new dawn and Rich’s pre-season has been one of his best, with no major setbacks to speak of.
“I’m in a good position to attack the season and looking forward to it,” Rich said.