Lions must pounce to move forward
THE fact they are two of the biggest underperformers in 2012 will not stop Travis Cloke and Kurt Tippett being two of the most in-demand players at season's end.
For one, they're out of contract. Two, they're big blokes who can take a big mark in front of the big sticks - and usually kick the big goal, and three, they're both 25 and should be at, or nearing, the peak of their powers.
While their on-field numbers may be down, due to form and injury, their contract figures will rise wherever they sign. And with first Collingwood and now Adelaide putting contract talks off until their seasons are over, the chances are the pair will do that signing elsewhere.
Ex-Adelaide skipper Mark Ricciuto hit the nail on the head last week, saying: "History has shown that players who put their contracts on hold until the end of the year are the ones who walk. Gary Ablett, Tom Scully and Jack Gunston come to mind."
And to think the Magpies went to the trouble of drafting his older (and far less talented) brothers Jason and Cameron - not to mention putting up with their father and manager David - just to ensure they would eventually get Travis.
Cloke wants a five-year deal and while Collingwood has been prepared to offer him only four, there are plenty of other suitors willing to bow to the demands being made by the 196cm, 108kg powerhouse.
Fremantle, Carlton and Richmond are cashed up and keen to add to their firepower up front (Matthew Pavlich, Jarrad Waite and Jack Riewoldt respectively) to have a genuine crack a premiership.
One power forward is great, but as we've seen time and time again - most recently with Hawthorn in 2008 (Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead), Geelong in 2009 (Tom Hawkins and Cam Mooney) and 2011 (Hawkins and James Podsiadly), and Collingwood in 2010 (Cloke and Chris Dawes) - it takes two in order for teams to adequately tango for a flag.
Cloke's former coach, Mick Malthouse, reckons the big man is a 50-50 chance to stay, saying this week, "There's a bit more to this than what I first thought".
If Cloke's a 50% chance to go, there is a 95% chance Tippett will be packing his substantial 203cm, 105kg surf-loving frame and heading back to Queensland.
Gold Coast is the home where his heart is - he already owns two properties there - but just up the road at Brisbane is where his playing future probably lies.
And the Lions should go after him, concussion concerns or not.
Jonathan Brown will be 31 by the start of next season and while Jordan Lisle (22, 196cm, 92kg), Aaron Cornelius (22, 192cm 86cm), Patrick Karnezis (20, 191cm, 80kg) and Bryce Retzlaff (21, 195cm, 86kg) all show promise, the jury is still out on whether any of them can spearhead Brisbane's next premiership tilt.
Since the days of having Brown, Daniel Bradshaw and Alastair Lynch all roaming around the forward half, the Lions have seen Brendan Fevola, Mitch Clark, Lachlan Henderson and even Tippett's younger brother, Joel, come and go.
Tippett wouldn't have done a lot to endear himself to Brisbane fans when towelled up by Daniel Merrett during the Lions' upset win at the Gabba last week, kept to seven touches and no goals, but he was returning from a five-week lay-off with concussion.
More so, it highlighted the fact "Big Red" belongs down back and not as a stop-gap measure in attack.
As Lion-hearted as they have been, Matty Maguire and Joel Patful come up short when taking on opposition power forwards, and big Irishman Niall McKeever is a work in progress.
With Jack Redden, Tom Rockliff, Daniel Rich and ruckman Matt Leuenberger comprising an elite midfield, Merrett shoring up the defence and Brown and Tippett up forward, there would be a lot to like about the Lions of 2013.