Don't discount the Lions in March

Expert tips

If history is any guide, it would be unwise to discount the unfancied Brisbane Lions' chances against Geelong this Sunday at the Gabba.

The game between the two sides is set to begin at 12:10pm local time in Brisbane for TV scheduling purposes, and with March not yet over, balmy 29 degrees and 80% humidity conditions are forecast.

The AFL has as a result decided to implement its heat policy, with the quarter time and three quarter time stretching to eight minutes, and 24 minutes being allowed for a half time interval. The sides will also both be permitted to use an additional two trainers.

The record books provide plenty of promise for the Lions, who have historically enjoyed a major home ground advantage early in the season, when conditions are often more oppressive for away teams unfamiliar with the climate. When playing at home in either of the season's first two rounds, Brisbane has lost just four of 18 games since the 1997 merger of Fitzroy and the Brisbane Bears.

The trend is an even more ominous one for Geelong when the focus is narrowed to early-season afternoon encounters. In 1997, the Lions annihilated eventual Grand Finalists St Kilda by 97 points in a match that began at 12:40pm local time, while in a 1:10pm game in 2002, Hawthorn, preliminary finalists of the previous season, were thumped by 102 points by an admittedly monolithic Brisbane outfit.

Even the fledgling Gold Coast Suns have proven difficult to overcome at home in March when assisted by the weather. In the past two seasons, Gold Coast have upset both the Saints and Tigers after kicking away in the final term.

The AFL has generally been reluctant to fixture afternoon matches in the warmer climates of Queensland and Western Australia over the past decade, wary of the risks to player welfare. Indeed the protracted round one was notable for not featuring a single fixture beginning prior to 4:40pm local time.

The Lions were gallant for three quarters last Saturday against Hawthorn before being overpowered by the reigning premiers in Launceston.

They have been installed by bookmakers as heavy underdogs for the clash with Geelong, despite last year producing a miraculous Gabba comeback in Round 13 to topple the Cats, before almost clinching an upset win at the death in the final round return encounter at Simonds Stadium.

The story Don't discount the Lions in March first appeared on WA Today.

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