Red-headed, premiership-winning prodigal sons returning to coach are nothing new at the Brisbane Lions.
But Justin Leppitsch will hope that’s where the similarities end with his predecessor and former captain Michael Voss at the Lions helm in 2014.
Brisbane showed their ruthless streak for the first time since their early 2000s heyday last season – unfortunately for Voss it was displayed off the field.
In scenes that would have been inexplicable five months earlier when Brisbane won the pre-season final, Voss was sacked by the board in August with three games left and the side still in the finals mix.
The move to install main target Paul Roos fell apart in spectacular fashion.
A very public Lions boardroom stoush erupted.
Team harmony was questioned.
Young guns Elliot Yeo (West Coast), Billy Longer (St Kilda), Patrick Karnezis (Collingwood), Sam Docherty (Carlton) and Jared Polec (Port Adelaide) left citing “homesickness”.
And legendary forward Jonathan Brown looked set to follow fellow triple premiership winner Simon Black into retirement.
When the dust settled, Leppitsch was the man asked to help pick up the pieces as coach after completing what Voss never did – a long apprenticeship as an AFL assistant.
The former Richmond and Lions assistant’s experience as a player – not his obvious coaching talent – helped him empathise with, then heal, the fractured group.
“I was a 17-year-old drafted to Brisbane as well so I understand their fears,” he said.
“I nearly left myself after two years.
“Every club tends to lose players every year. Last season was unusually high but we’re hoping it was just a blip.
“We’ve met about it, we’ve managed it. We’re not going to talk too much about the details but it’s something we definitely have addressed.
“We can only do so much about fixing the past. We have to make sure these things don’t happen again.”
In the end, James Polkinghorne and Brent Staker were convinced to stay.
And Brown did not need his arm twisted to agree to play a 15th season after a serious foot injury ended his 2013 campaign prematurely.
Black became an assistant coach.
On a roll, Leppitsch convinced the new-look Lions board now headed by Bob Sharpless to to finance a 30-strong squad to bond on a two-week high altitude pre-season camp in Arizona.
Leppitsch continued to listen – a new leadership structure was introduced for 2014 with Jed Adcock sole captain, Tom Rockliff his deputy and former skipper Brown a mentor.
“It will help Brownie personally but it will also help the club develop new leaders. I think it is time for the next generation to come through,” Leppitsch said.
Still, the more things change at Brisbane, the more they stay the same.
The Lions again boast an impressive midfield with the likes of Rockliff, Jack Redden and Daniel Rich.
But once again Brisbane are still scratching their heads over who can help – and eventually succeed – evergreen forward Brown.
The once mighty Brisbane have not made the top eight since 2009.
Leppitsch may have impressed in his short time, but it is results that will count at a club hungry for success.
Just ask Voss.
Coach: Justin Leppitsch
Captain: Jed Adcock
Last five years: 6-13-15-13-12
Premierships: 3 (2001-03)
Key five: Jack Redden, Pearce Hanley, Matthew Leuenberger, Jonathan Brown, Joel Patfull.
One to watch: Joel Patfull. Has there ever been a back-to-back club best and fairest winner with a lower profile? The defender is equally proficient playing on tall and small opponents.
Ins: James Aish (Norwood SANFL), Tom Cutler (Oakleigh U18), Jonathan Freeman (Aspley Qld), Darcy Gardiner (Geelong U18), Luke McGuane (Richmond), Daniel McStay (Eastern U18), Jackson Paine (Collingwood), Nick Robertson (West Perth WAFL), Lewis Taylor (Geelong U18), Trent West (Geelong).
Outs: Todd Banfield (Richmond rookie list), Simon Black (retired), Aaron Cornelius (delisted), Sam Docherty (Carlton), Patrick Karnezis (Collingwood), Billy Longer (St Kilda), Niall McKeever (delisted), Jesse O’Brien (delisted), Jared Polec (Port Adelaide), Elliot Yeo (West Coast).
Best 22: B: Mitch Golby, Daniel Merrett, Joel Patfull
HB: Pearce Hanley, Matt Maguire, Jed Adcock
C: Jack Redden, Brent Moloney, Sam Mayes
HF: Dayne Zorko, Jonathan Brown, Ash McGrath
F: Brent Staker, Luke McGuane, Josh Green
R: Matthew Leuenberger, Tom Rockliff, Daniel Rich
I: Trent West, Andrew Raines, Rohan Bewick, Justin Clarke
Predicted finish: 14th
To win the flag: $101
To make the top eight: $5