Entertaining Lions regain roar appeal with their fans
THE Brisbane Lions are counting on a raucous home crowd to again give them an edge in tomorrow's crucial clash with Melbourne.
Fans have flocked back to the Gabba as the Lions push towards their first finals appearance in a decade.
With the fifth-placed Lions 5-1 at home (and 8-13 overall), average attendances have shot up to 23,000 - a 10-year high.
Tomorrow they host the underperforming yet dangerous Demons (4-9), who have won the past four encounters between the two sides.
"One of our focuses as a group for the past 18 months has been making the Gabba a really hard place to play," third-year defender Alex Witherden said. "You look at the successful interstate sides, they've always had a really strong home ground advantage."
Witherden says the players are feeding off the energy provided by fans, helping to build momentum.
"That's how we get our three, four, five-goal run-ons, it's because of the support they've given us," he said.
"There's 25,000 at some of our games, but it honestly feels like 50,000 it's so loud ... it echoes around.
"In previous years, and you have the Victorian teams come up, they've probably had more fans at the ground, but now we're outnumbering them, and out-voicing them, and it's been a huge advantage for us."
The Lions are not only winning games but doing it in entertaining fashion as the fourth-highest scoring team in the league.
"It's because of blokes like Charlie Cameron, Cam Rayner, those excitement machines in the forward half," Witherden said. "They bring the crowd to life."
Cameron is coming off a five-goal haul in the runaway win over St Kilda.
"When we do a bit of match simulation, you get stuck on him from time to time," Witherden said of the red-hot crumber.
"It's a good opportunity to play on one of the best small forwards in the competition.
"You learn tips from him. He's always helping us backs.
"We take that on board and implement some of the stuff on game day."
Witherden's housemate, Rayner, played his best game of the year against the Saints.
"By his own admission, his own standards, he wasn't performing the way he would liked to leading into the bye," Witherden said.
"He had a good opportunity to get away from footy, refresh. He came back with real energy, attacked the contest, won some ground balls which led to scores for us."
While the attack has been getting the plaudits, the defence is having slightly less to do.
Witherden's disposal numbers are down slightly, through no fault of his own.
"On the weekend we only defended 40 inside 50s," he said.
"Over the previous two seasons we've been defending an average of 60 to 61."