The experts may have written Brisbane off pre-game, especially when star forward Joe Daniher was a late omission from the semi final for personal reasons.
But Lions superstar Lachie Neale says that doubt only “fuelled” the side to score a remarkable 13-point win over Melbourne and book a preliminary final showdown with minor premiers Geelong.
Down by 28 points late in the second term, the Lions found their fight to simply overwork and overrun Melbourne in the second half to stay alive in season 2022.
Watch every match prior to the AFL grand final Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
The win is Brisbane’s first in a final at the MCG since 2004.
“No one gave us a chance against Richmond, certainly no one gave us a chance tonight,” Neale said post-match.
“We certainly use that as fuel as well. We knew our backs were against the wall.
“I feel like we play our best footy when we’re underdogs … we’ll go in next week (against Geelong) as the underdogs again.”
The Lions were getting “beaten up” by Melbourne in the first half, according to Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon as statistics showed they were down in contested ball, pressure and inside 50s.
Even Neale conceded the Lions were “a bit spooked” to start the contest.
But they came out firing in the second half – finishing +3 in contested possessions, with a 214 pressure rating, 31 inside 50s and +35 points.
“(Coach Chris Fagan) Fages’ message has always been you don’t lose, you learn,” Neale said.
“Our games against Melbourne both times was dismal, they were our poorest performances by far for the season.
“I thought tonight we put those lessons to good use.”
Lyon was full of praise for Brisbane’s “backs to the wall story” as the Lions booked a ticket into the final four.
“As it got dirtier and the pressure came in, it suited Brisbane more. The better off they were,” he praised.
“They stood up (in second half).”
Fox Footy analyst Nathan Buckley said it was a “well deserved” win for the Lions as they beat Melbourne at their own game.
“Brisbane, it was the never-give-in attitude that just continued through and if the coaches push that through, well then that’s an amazing thing, but the players still need to do it,” he said.
“They just plugged away – their competitive effort in the second half just completely overwhelmed Melbourne.
“It started at the coalface and they got their hands dirty. They beat them at their own game and it’s a fair effort.”
Nick Riewoldt said he was “stunned” by the 13-point Lions win, given the way the first half unfolded.
“The ability for Brisbane to test the Melbourne defence the other way – it was a complete reversal of what we saw in the first half,” he said.
“It was stunning the turnaround. You could not see this coming.”
The semi final win will come as a massive relief for a club that had won just one of their past six finals heading into this series – including two straight sets exits in 2019 and 2021.