If ever a club has hoped that a player’s name proves to be apt, then it must be the Brisbane Lions in relation to Daniel McStay. Promisingly for the Lions, the early signs suggest that is the case. The tall defender was one of six interstate recruits selected by the club at November’s National Draft. That the number was so high came as a by-product of last year’s mass exodus, in which five young Lions all sought trades back to their native states. It was a sizeable chunk of talent gone in the blink of an eye, and a significant setback to the club’s future plans.
The upshot was a stockpile of draft selections, one of which (Pick 25) was used on McStay. A product of the Eastern Rangers, he is adamant that so far the replacement deck is “coping well” with the move.
He also senses the efforts being made by the club to ensure that any mistakes which led to the regrettable situation of 2013 are not repeated.
“The welfare staff have been great in really making us feel welcome and bringing us together, McStay said at the AFL Players’ Induction Camp last week.
And it’s not only club officials striving to assist the integration process. Older players understand the the responsibility must be shared.
“In our first week at the club, the second and third year players took us away to an island and we had a weekend away with the boys…we were just mucking around, went to the beach and having some fun, it was good just to relax with the guys and get to know them, nothing too serious.”
McStay joined James Aish (South Australia), Nick Robertson (Western Australia), and fellow Victorians Lewis Taylor, Darcy Gardiner and Tom Cutler as draft night additions to the Sunshine State club, with McStay explaining how perhaps more than any other other party, it is his fellow draftees who have provided greatest comfort during the adjustment process.
“It’s a lot easier to communicate with guys going through the same thing, moving interstate and dealing with the same kind of things and if you ever need anyone to talk to, who better than the people who you’re going through it with, so that’s made it a lot easier.”
One matter on which almost the entire Lions playing list can relate is a lack of familiarity with rookie coach Justin Leppitsch’s football mantras.
“I guess we’re in all in the same boat, with the senior players as well having a new coach so all the structures are pretty new to most of the blokes, some have been passed on from Vossy though but there’s still a lot of new stuff so we’re all on the same page and learning it together.”
The Lions were flattered by their finals near-miss last season, a percentage of 89.6% probably a better reflection of their output. And having conceded the fourth most points in the competition, patching up the defensive crevices has been a priority for Leppitsch.
“[The focus has been] that when we attack we’re in a position where we’re able to defend, it’s a really defensive game plan I guess and everything’s really based on that.”
That game plan will be unveiled for the first time on February 13 when the Lions; last year winners of the now defunct NAB Cup, take on Hawthorn in their NAB Challenge opener at Etihad Stadium. However that particular assignment is looks to be well down the list of priorities.
“[The coaches] haven’t mentioned it at all, it’s really about focusing on day-to-day training and just making sure that you’re doing all the little things right in recovery and rehab and those sorts of things.”
On a personal level, McStay is taking a pragmatic approach with respect to his personal development. Still casting a svelte figure, he accepts that his chances of tasting AFL football in his first season are slim.
“Being a key position player it’s obviously a lot tougher to break out in your first year of AFL footy, so I’m planning on just getting on the training track and doing everything possible to improve and work on my deficiencies, and just become a good NEAFL player if that’s possible.”
“The plan is basically to stay injury free for my first year and take it from there I guess.”
The article originally appeared on The Back Page Lead