The Lions' Stefan Martin gets the ball away as the Crows close in at the Gabba on May 18. Picture: Darren England/AAP
The Lions' Stefan Martin gets the ball away as the Crows close in at the Gabba on May 18. Picture: Darren England/AAP

Lions put on high alert after Carlton's change of coach

A DROUGHT-breaking finals campaign beckons, but the Brisbane Lions are determined to stick to the old football adage of "taking it one week at a time".

Powerful ruckman Stef Martin has more reason than most to ponder a top-eight finish - he's played 169 games without a finals appearance.

But, like the rest of the team, which sits fifth on the ladder with 7-4 win-loss record, for him the focus is solely on the "next game".

"We've done well to bank some wins, but it can fall (apart) pretty quickly too," Martin said.

"The comp is so even, within a number of weeks you could fall down the ladder a fair bit.

"We literally do have to take it one opponent at a time ... as boring as that is to say."

Their next opponent certainly does present significant danger - Carlton at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium this afternoon.

The bottom-placed Blues sacked coach Brendon Bolton earlier this week, and it has the Lions wary.

"We went over the breakdown of it. After a coach gets sacked, teams have won nine and lost 14 or something in recent history," Martin said.

"Even if it's something around 30 or 40 per cent, it's still higher than their win percentage initially. They still get a boost from that (change).

"And also, Carlton have actually been tracking fairly well. In most of their games they have been competitive even if they haven't been winning.

Stefan Martin has played 169 games without a finals appearance. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England
Stefan Martin has played 169 games without a finals appearance. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England

"The two points there are at the forefront of our minds - we can't afford to take anyone lightly, we really need to produce our best."

The Lions haven't played finals in 10 years. One-time Demon Martin has been forced to wait longer.

Only former teammates Tom Rockliff (182) and Jack Watts (174), both now at Port Adelaide after crossing from Brisbane and Melbourne respectively, have played more games without a final."It's been 12 years ... I've been nowhere near finals," Martin said.

"The thought has crossed my mind of course. We're all human ... that would be amazing, but I try to redirect it pretty promptly so that I don't get carried away.

"Like I said, it can all change fairly quickly."

While there's been the continued improvement of the well-stocked young guns, a major part of the Lions' surge this season is due to the arrival of Lachie Neale and Jarryd Lyons from Fremantle and Gold Coast respectively.

"They come with a lot of knowledge," Martin said.

"They help us get organised, which is a big part of the battle in footy, especially in the midfield.

"They are really smart at dissecting opposition teams, they've got really good game sense... and they are two gun footy players as well.

Lachie Neale has been super for the Lions. Picture: AAP
Lachie Neale has been super for the Lions. Picture: AAP

"Our midfield is tracking better than it was last year - I think even Lachie has taken his game to an even slightly higher level.

"JL ... a lot of us are amazed he wasn't getting a regular game at the Gold Coast.

"His contested and his clearance work is unreal."

Martin, 32, has been joined in the side of late by the man that ultimately wants his job as first ruck, Archie Smith. Ruck-forward Oscar McInerney (shoulder) is sidelined.

"We've had frank discussions ... we don't walk around the elephant in the room," Martin said.

"There's three of us. At the moment only two of us will be able to get a game.

"At the same time ... I think we all care for each together. We wish each other the best.

"It's a funny dynamic. We still talk to each other about how to play our best footy."

News Corp Australia


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