Daniel Rich wasn’t shy in March when he pumped up the Brisbane Lions’ title chances and imagined what it would be like to lift the AFL premiership cup alongside teammate Dayne Zorko.
“I’d love to be there one day, holding up the cup next to him with my arm around him,” Rich said ahead of round one this year.
“I know that’s thinking a long way ahead, but they’re the thoughts that can run through the back of your mind.”
That’s why it “sucks” that he won’t be in a position to realise that dream should the Lions beat Collingwood in Saturday’s grand final.
Rich will retire with 275 games under his belt after 15 seasons at the club, the longest-standing Lion unable to regain his spot after a mid-season demotion to recapture form and fitness.
The defender, who burst onto the scene in 2009, had regained touch in the VFL before a hamstring injury ruined his comeback story.
He’s again fully fit but couldn’t find a way into a Brisbane defence that’s been super-charged by the form of Conor McKenna, Darcy Wilmot and Keidean Coleman.
“It sucks, so disappointing, but one thing he’s done since he went out of the team is put on a brave face and supported us the whole way,” Zorko said of Rich.
“He wants the absolute best for the team.
“It’s really unfortunate but there are always those stories in grand final week, and Collingwood have their own.”
On the flip side is the resurgence of fellow veteran Ryan Lester, who is married to Zorko’s sister and is the longest-standing Lion behind Rich.
The link between Lions generations, Lester and Rich played with Simon Black, Jonathan Brown, Luke Power and Ash McGrath, and were coached by Michael Voss and Justin Leppitsch.
Dropped 17 times in 13 seasons and surviving on a series of one-year deals over the last six campaigns, his 180th AFL game will be a well-deserved occasion.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s come back in and dominated,” Zorko said.
“He’s been our most consistent player over the last 15 weeks.
“He’s so determined.”
Teammates came from everywhere to celebrate a rare Lester goal in Saturday’s preliminary final win, proof the 31-year-old is one of the club’s most well-liked players.
“He’s definitely the social vibe guy, spends so much time with the younger guys getting to know them and helping them settle in,” Zorko said.
“What an unbelievable opportunity for the whole family to play in a grand final together.
“It’s something we’ll be sharing with our kids and enjoying that moment.”
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