Brisbane Lions in crisis mode after US trip fall-out continues

Tyrone's Conor McKenna was a team-mate of McQuillan's during his time at Essendon
Tyrone's Conor McKenna is still out as the Brisbane Lions perform poorly without him Tyrone's Conor McKenna is still out as the Brisbane Lions perform poorly without him

Conor’s McKenna’s winless Brisbane Lions are in crisis mode having lost all three of their matches this season as the fallout from a post-season trip to the United States engulfs the club.

The Lions are today threatening a media boycott over the reporting of an accidental upload of WhatsApp messages to a player’s iCloud, which was seen by his partner, left other teammates’ partners livid, and is believed to have already ended one relationship.

Tyrone Sam Maguire winner Conor McKenna, who has signed for the Lions until the end of season 2025, was not in any of the WhatsApp photos and there are no suggestions of his involvement.

Brisbane footy boss Danny Daly insisted there were “no crisis meetings over the weekend” but confirmed he spoke with co-captains Lachie Neale and Harris Andrews to ascertain if there was a fallout among the beleaguered playing group.

“There are some issues which we don’t need to be aware of,” Daly said.

“It’s an end of season trip for our players – they’re on leave – and whatever happened on that trip wasn’t to the extent that the football club needed to know about it.

“There’s no policies or anything they went outside of that we need to address.

“The issues are of a personal nature and that’s where it’ll be left.”

Brisbane Lions chief executive Greg Swann vehemently denied that the November trip to America was affecting the club’s disappointing start to the season. The Lions gave up leads of 46 points (at home to Carlton) and 25 points (away to Fremantle) in their first two defeats this year.

“If the question is, ‘Is there a split in a group?’ Well, no, there isn’t,” Swann said.

“It’s just bulls***. There’s no split in the group. This was in November, by the way. It’s not the reason we’re going no good.

“We’re not horrible, by the way. It’s just that a few of our good blokes are out of form.

“We asked all the leaders again today and they said, ‘No, there’s nothing in it at all’ in terms of a split in the group.

Eglish man McKenna suffered a hamstring strain during a pre-season intraclub game in the first week of February but after regaining his fitness ahead of schedule, the Lions erred on the side of caution by omitting him from the matchday squad for the opening round defeat at home to Carlton at the Gabba on Friday March 8.

McKenna returned to the Lions starting side for the away defeat to the Fremantle Dockers a fortnight ago but went off in the fourth quarter with a recurrence of the same troublesome hamstring injury.

He is expected to miss another three matches with the Lions round 6 game at home to Geelong pencilled in for his possible comeback.

Former GAA Young Footballer of the Year Oisin Mullin has adapted quickly to the AFL     Picture: Geelong Cats Media
Former GAA Young Footballer of the Year Oisin Mullin has adapted quickly to the AFL Picture: Geelong Cats Media Former GAA Young Footballer of the Year Oisin Mullin has adapted quickly to the AFL Picture: Geelong Cats Media

Overnight, the AFL’s traditional Easter Monday blockbuster clash between Geelong and Hawthorn promised to feature a fab four of Irish players but Zach Tuohy’s untimely hamstring injury reduced the former GAA contingent to an awesome threesome instead with Mark O’Connor, Oisin Mullin, and Conor Nash all in action in front of 67,020 fans at the MCG.

Geelong won the round three showdown 70-106 to notch their third consecutive victory of the season after lightning and torrential rain delayed the start of the fourth quarter by 40 minutes.

Written off with an ageing list in pre-season having failed to make the finals last year, the invigorated Cats have regained their aura and on current form are in pole position to qualify for finals football in September.

Kerry tagger Mark O’Connor, who penned a two-year contract extension last week, played all four quarters to finish with a match tally of 9 disposals (3 kicks & 6 handballs). The Dingle man is a key component of Geelong’s formidable back six.

Mayo’s speedster Oisin Mullin came off the interchange bench in the second quarter to produce one of the most effective performances of his short career. Mullin was given licence to use his explosive pace to join in Geelong’s attacks and playing on the wing he was unafraid to both handpass and kick accurately to create opportunities for Geelong’s forwards to pressure Hawthorn’s defence.

Mullin collected 15 disposals (11 kicks & 4 handballs) and 1 mark.

Accurate kicking was a feature of Geelong’s display. The Cats forward line led by Tom Hawkins, who kicked four goals in his 350th senior appearance, mostly took their chances when they went inside their forward 50m arc to kick goals as opposed to behinds.

On the other side Meath’s Conor Nash has established himself as one of the elite midfielders in the AFL. The bearded former Keegan Cup winner was named as one of Hawthorn’s best players for his match tally of 24 disposals (11 kicks & 13 handballs), 3 marks, and 9 tackles.

Geelong were 36 points (6 goals) up at quarter-time when the match appeared to be over as a contest, but the Hawks booted five goals to one in the second term to turn the match on its head.

They closed the deficit to five points early in the third quarter before Geelong bounced back with six goals to build a seemingly unassailable lead. The unprecedented rain delay, however, turned the tide again with Hawthorn refusing to lie down as they reduced their arrears to 20 points.

In the end Geelong stood firm to secure the points leaving winless Hawthorn second from bottom on the ladder.

On Good Friday, North Melbourne were thrashed 81-137 by Carlton at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium. Tyrone-born Aidan Corr finished with 10 disposals (5 kicks & 5 handballs) for the third-bottom Kangaroos who are looking for their first win of the season.

Also on Good Friday, Mark Keane was in action for the Adelaide Crows in their 69-34 defeat away to Fremantle at Perth’s Optus Stadium.

The Cork dual star was named as one of the Crows best players for his match tally of 26 disposals (19 kicks & 7 handballs) and 11 marks. Keane also gained 427 metres in one of his best performances in the Adelaide defence.

The Crows controversially missed out on finals football in their final home and away game of the season last year, and they are winless so far this term with AFL legend David King accusing the fourth bottom club of “playing safe footy that is easy to defeat”.

Callum Brown's long kicking prowess for GWS Giants has earned him the moniker 'Downtown Brown'     Picture: Phil Hillyard
Callum Brown's long kicking prowess for GWS Giants has earned him the moniker 'Downtown Brown' Picture: Phil Hillyard Callum Brown's long kicking prowess for GWS Giants has earned him the moniker 'Downtown Brown' Picture: Phil Hillyard

Former Derry underage footballer Callum Brown, the standout Irish player in the AFL this season, had the week off with Greater Western Sydney having a round 3 bye.

The Limavady Wolfhounds man took the opportunity to visit young AFL players in the Blue Mountains. Brown has been a regular visitor to the Faulconbridge club since moving to the AFL in 2021.

“I think it’s my fourth year going to Blue Mountains so I see a lot of familiar faces.... It’s always good seeing the young ones evolve,” he said.

Brown’s biggest tip for the youngsters was to always listen to their coaches.

“They only want the best out of you... They really want to see you grow as a person and a footy player, that’s probably the most important thing,” he said.

“Enjoy the game with your friends and stick at it.”

Sitting proudly on top of the ladder, GWS have made their best ever start to an AFL season this year having won all three games. Brown lit up the competition after booting a career best bag of five goals in the Giants season opener at home to Collingwood last month, when he pocketed an LED television for his heroics.

Brown told the Irish News in pre-season that the Giants were capable of going through the season undefeated and he has now unashamedly set his sights on becoming just the fourth Irish player after Tadhg Kennelly Zach Tuohy, and Mark O’Connor to win an AFL Premiership.

“It’s never too early to think you can win the premiership,” Brown said. “We can definitely do it.

“As long as we stick to our traits and the system (coach Adam) Kingsley has provided for us I’m sure we’ll go a long way this year.”

In other news AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon has informed all 18 clubs that the league’s controversial Illicit Drugs Policy will be retained despite reports of an overhaul to a more “punitive” model.

The competition has been rocked to its core recently following MP Andrew Wilkie’s claims in Parliament referencing a former Melbourne Football Club doctor’s claim that teams have deliberately exploited the league’s three-strike regulations with AFL approval.