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HE COULD have been the defining line of it all, the one that articulated how football can be boiled down to one stroke. With players ahead of him and a high-stakes affair on hold, the main point of emphasis was remarkably simple: “What you’ve learned is how hard it is to put pressure on the opposition to submits. “

That line might look like the one cameras showed Damien Hardwick giving his Richmond players ahead of the 2019 Grand Final, the one now known as the “1-wood” speech. It’s easy to imagine Hardwick or Simon Goodwin delivering the same message to Brisbane last year or Perth this year as well, given the immense strength of their respective teams in the fashionable discipline of pressure.

And yet this lineage does not belong to them. In fact, it doesn’t belong to anyone lately.

The deliveryman of this message? Leigh Matthews, to his formidable Brisbane Lions two decades ago.

Footy as a whole may still evolve at an ever increasing speed, but the greatest teams in the game all have the ability to be significantly ahead of this evolutionary curve. And in the aftermath of another prime ministerial post, this time by Melbourne, won thanks to pressure and a push in the second half, Matthews’ Lions look in retrospect perhaps the finest example of all.


Explored in great detail in the exclusive feature documentary ‘Actions To Live By’ on AFL On Demand, the Brisbane Dynasty building at the turn of the century has become incredibly modern in every way it can be.

Michael Voss of Brisbane presents the 2003 Premiership Cup to fans.

As Hardwick would 20 years later, we see Matthews in the film giving a pre-game speech that includes this key message about pressure. It was 1999 when the master coach was building a whole new identity at the heart of his team, a trait-centric identity that now defines successful teams more than any other.

“If we didn’t have the ball,” says Jason Akermanis, one of the documentary’s main subjects, “you attack and throw yourself. If you have to bury them, you bury them. No mercy.”


Akermanis, of course, was a Dynasty Brownlow medalist and one of its biggest stars, a quarterback perhaps of the best midfielder of all time, complemented by Michael Voss, Simon Black and Nigel Lappin. And yet, listening to Aker and Matthews in ‘Actions To Live By’ is to understand that they didn’t perceive talent as their identity – rather it was the way they hunted in groups.

Jason Akermanis speaks to AFL Media for ‘Actions To Live By’

Is this ringtone familiar to what you see and hear now?

Modernity didn’t stop there either.

In recent times, we’ve seen how successful teams embrace human differences and contrasting personalities. In Richmond, the club shied away from stereotypical ideas of alphas and masculinity and instead opened up to vulnerability. Even more recently, we’ve seen Melbourne similarly galvanize around Max Gawn’s unconventional frontman. As always, Matthews was there before them.


Drawing on the personality profiling of Dr. Phil Jauncey, Matthews has been at the forefront of moving away from traditional coaching techniques and embracing new methods. “The psychologist was really important,” said Jonathan Brown, another of the superstars of the day and a key figure in the film. “It has helped Leigh a lot, to understand the players and obviously it has helped us to understand ourselves and our teammates.”

Jonathan Brown speaks to AFL Media for ‘Actions To Live By’

Jauncey’s work with the Lions and Matthews centered around a Venn diagram made up of four categories that increased the coach’s ability to connect with his players.

“Much of his work was based on a personality profiling system,” says Matthews de Jauncey. “What it did was give a good indication of what Phil was talking about as your tendencies under pressure. I found it to be an exceptional management tool. There were four basic personality categories: the Mozzie. , the Enforcer, the Thinker and the Feeler. “

Considering the fierce and towering nature on this side of Brisbane, the group was understandably heavy on Enforcers, as shown in the film. “You have 16 of your starting 21 in the Enforcer style,” Akermanis explains. “At each session, someone hit Leppa [Justin Leppitsch], Leppa would hit someone else. “

But Jauncey’s profiling gave Matthews the ability to tap into the squad and players who were in different segments of the Venn diagram.

“Browny had a lot of Mozzie in him,” Matthews says. “If you wanted Browny to do something, just tell him five minutes before the game, just let him play on his instincts. [Whereas Nigel Lappin] was very in Feeler mode. You could never criticize Nigel for always criticizing himself, more than anyone outside. Marcus Ashcroft had a lot of Thinker in his personality, so if I wanted Marcus to do something in a game or play against someone, give him a few days’ notice and he will work out his battle plan. “

Brisbane teammates Craig McRae (left) and Justin Leppitsch after winning the 2003 flag. Image: AFL photos

And yet Matthews was in control even more.

It’s strange to watch the arc of Brisbane’s first Grand Final triumph in 2001 and not see the same story Melbourne would follow 20 years later. Broken down at halftime thanks to imprecise kicks (Lions entered the main break at 5.10; Demons at 5.9), Matthews Chargers hammered their opponents in a brutal third term that was the result of superior conditioning techniques that pushed the limits of fitness. and recovery.


“Don Lehmann was the Qantas pilot who would fly our planes,” says Matthews, detailing the efforts he and his club have gone through. “Don would fly the plane to the safest and lowest altitude. The idea was that if you could actually fly at 17,000 or 18,000 feet, the pressure would be different in the cabin and that could help your recovery and your dehydration problems. “

They may have flown their planes low, but with a completely modern, holistic approach, Lions have flown as high as anyone.

‘Dynasties’ is a new original series exclusive to AFL on demand which will reveal the incredible inside stories of how the game’s greatest teams have built their Premiership successes and supported them year after year. The series begins with the Brisbane Lions on the 20the anniversary of their first term and will return in 2022 with another installment.

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