Hodge: 'Sky is the limit' for young Lions
THE "sky is the limit" for the Brisbane Lions this season says 324-game AFL star Luke Hodge.
The four-time premiership winner knows a talented list when he sees one, as "The General" of Hawthorn's defence in the club's recent era of success.
Now as the 34-year-old prepares for his second campaign in Queensland, Hodge believes the Lions have "a good young, emerging list" capable of matching it with the best.
Listing names like Harris Andrews, Cam Rayner, Alex Witherden, Zac Bailey, Jarrod Berry and Hugh McCluggage, Hodge said the Lions had moved beyond the years when Brisbane was seen as a proving ground for young players to be picked clean by Melbourne clubs.
"There's a list of about 15-20 who have stuck together and committed to the club, and that's the best thing for the Lions," he said.
"We were in enough games last year to put us in contention, we were just a little bit raw and a little immature.
"I think we lost five (games) under a goal, and seven under two goals. If we do the right things at the pressure stages of a game, then those wins will get us up near 12-13.
"We only won five games (in 2018), but we were in a lot of them. We've got a list that over the next few years is going to take us somewhere."
A key figure in luring Hodge to the Lions was former Hawthorn assistant coach and now man in charge at Brisbane, Chris Fagan.
Hodge said Fagan had bucked the trend of assistant coaches changing persona once the added pressure of senior coaching was heaped on their shoulders.
"Normally coaches when they go from assistant - when you're an assistant you can have a bit of a joke around, and when they turn into a senior coach they get a bit more serious and change a little bit," Hodge said.
"Fages went through with (Neale) Daniher for nine or 10 years, he was with (Alistair) Clarkson for nine years, and he realised the best coach is normally the one who manages the players and coaches really well.
"The best part is he hasn't changed. From five years ago when I was at Hawthorn with him to now, he still has very good relationships with his players, with staff, and everyone around the club. He wants to be there to support people which is the best thing to have as a coach."
As for his decision to go around for an 18th AFL season, Hodge said it was made easier by being in Queensland.
"I love it up here," he said.
"The biggest thing for us was making sure the family settles in.
"My wife loves it up here, the three kids love their schools - they love the fact they can play outside for 12 months of the year, rather than in Melbourne where for four months you're stuck inside."