THERE was no second half fadeout for Brisbane this week as it welcomed back coach Craig Starcevich with a commanding 28-point win over Greater Western Sydney to vault to the top of Conference A.
LIONS BACK ON TOP Full match coverage and stats
The 7.9 (51) to 3.5 (23) victory at Hickey Park sets up a mouth-watering contest next Sunday against Conference B leaders Fremantle at Fremantle Oval – both teams are unbeaten.
Unlike eight days earlier where Brisbane relinquished a 15-point half-time lead to draw against Gold Coast, there would be no such mistake against the Giants.
On the back of a dominant midfield led by Cathy Svarc (23 disposals, two goals and 11 tackles) and Emily Bates (24 and a goal), and another tantalising performance from young forward Jesse Wardlaw (two goals), the Lions were relentless.
After a heart scare forced him to watch the Suns match from his home rather than the coach's box, Starcevich would be delighted with what he saw.
After leading by 12 points at the main break the Lions slammed the door shut with three unanswered goals in the third quarter.
Svarc not only led the way with ball in hand, but doubled her influence by quelling the output of star Giant Alyce Parker (11 touches).
FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game
Brisbane built its match-winning lead in a superb first quarter, harassing the Giants and creating a plethora of chances inside forward 50.
Starting with a goal off the ground to Svarc, they doubled their lead minutes later when Wardlaw pouched a terrific contested mark and then converted from 40m.
Despite having more of the ball, Brisbane's hunt without it was just as impressive, laying 20 tackles to six and only inaccurate kicking restricted the lead to 11 points.
Ally Anderson (24) and Maria Moloney (14) were also strong around the contest.
If you haven't been paying attention in the first month of the season, it's time to start watching Brisbane's Cathy Svarc. A mature recruit who took the game up only two years ago, the 28-year-old added to her All-Australian case with 23 disposals, two goals and a strong shutdown job of Alyce Parker. Svarc is explosive and has the fitness to run with anyone.
The ladder now
The Lions are in a great spot to play finals after missing out in 2019. Not only did the win move them to the top of Conference A, but just as importantly, six points clear of fourth-placed GWS. Next week is a huge challenge though, facing the four-from-four Conference B leaders Fremantle in the west.
One to watch
It's hard to not be excited by Jesse Wardlaw. Still just 20 years of age, her two goals moved her to the top of the goalkicking table with seven through four rounds. She might be lightly built, but her sticky hands coupled with a 185cm frame make her a difficult match-up. Brisbane has lost marquee forwards Tayla Harris and Sabrina Frederick since the competition's inception, but it has an absolute gem in Wardlaw.
Look no further than Brisbane's pressure from the outset. A staggering 14 players recorded tackles in the first term alone, showing the Lions meant business. They dominated the shell-shocked Giants in all the key statistical areas, winning clearances (27-13), contested possessions (105-85) and tackles (59-45), which all led to a landslide 37 inside 50s to 15.
"There's a lot of things we're finding out about Cathy (Svarc) as footy unfolds. The fact she took on the job so willingly, that's the first bit to get the player to accept their role, and to be as good defensively and offensively is certainly a great asset for us, no doubt." - Brisbane coach Craig Starcevich
"To be honest I thought we got a bit spooked in the first half. We got a bit lucky in the first quarter and they probably could have hurt us a bit more on the scoreboard than they did. Their work-rate is as good as anybody's in the competition." - GWS coach Alan McConnell
Brisbane makes the longest trip in the competition next Sunday to take on fellow Conference-toppers Fremantle at Fremantle Oval at 2.10pm (AWST). Greater Western Sydney will aim to keep itself right in the finals picture when it hosts Richmond at Robertson Oval next Saturday at 5.10pm (AEDT).
BRISBANE 2.5 4.5 7.7 7.9 (51)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.0 2.5 2.5 3.5 (23)
Brisbane: Wardlaw 2, Svarc 2, Bates, Lutkins, Postlethwaite
Greater Western Sydney: Privitelli, Bonner, Schmidt
Brisbane: Svarc, Bates, Wardlaw, Moloney, Anderson, Grider
Greater Western Sydney: Zreika, Bennetts, Barr, Beeson
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Crowd: 3297 at Hickey Park