Grant Birchall - AFL - AthletesVoice
Grant Birchall - AFL - AthletesVoice


Forging a new future

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Forging a new future


I never thought I’d leave the Hawks. I didn’t think I’d play eight games in three years due to injury either. When things change, they certainly change quickly.


I’m at the Brisbane Lions now, putting on a different-coloured uniform, listening to different people, hearing different terminology. I’m still learning where everything is. It feels a bit weird, but at the same time it’s exciting.


An old teammate from the Hawks, Luke Hodge, has been picking me up and taking me to training. I’m lucky to have him here, and the Lions were lucky to have him playing for them the last two years.


He was the perfect guy for Brisbane at that point in time, in no small part due to his leadership skills. When Hodgey arrived at the Lions, it was a very different club to the one it is today, as he helped transform them into a finals team.


I won’t get the chance to play alongside him at Brisbane, however his presence is still very much felt up here. He has a role with the club as a mentoring coach, and he has certainly helped me with my move by providing a sense of familiarity. It’s helping me feel settled at my second footballing home in 13 years as a professional.


I’m a different player compared to Luke; I have my own personality and I contribute to the team in a different manner. He was more vocal, while I’m more meticulous. But I think I’ll be able to provide similar leadership in this young group – particularly down back – which was lost when Hodgey retired.




A familiar voice

The Lions are a really exciting team, playing a terrific brand of footy, and they’re in the right hands with Chris Fagan as coach.


Chris is just the second head coach I’ve played under in my career, after 248 games with Alistair Clarkson, but his voice isn’t daunting. It’s not as if I haven’t heard it before. I knew Chris from his time at Hawthorn when he was football manager.


The program up here in Brisbane is similar to the Hawks as far as what days they train and when they schedule days off, but in other ways it’s very different.


The terminology is different. There are exercises that I haven’t heard of. I don’t know the strength or conditioning coaches and I haven’t spent any time with them. I’m going to have to get on top of that pretty quickly.


My knees are great now. I’ve had issues with soft tissue injuries in the past few years, but to be honest I wasn’t always conditioned to play week to week. The reason that I got back playing last season was to prove that my knees can hold up to the rigours of the modern game. 


I’m on a bit of a modified program at the moment, but I should be able to jump in with the boys for skills training after the Christmas break.




The move has done wonders for me

It’s hot in Brisbane, bloody hot. But the move up here from Melbourne has cleared the air for a fresh start. The change of scenery has done wonders for me mentally, and I’m really looking forward to playing in front of the Gabba crowd.


Naturally, no matter where you are in Australia, there is always going to be pressure in football. Considering what the Lions achieved last year, there is even more pressure this time around. Teams know we’re on the way up. They’re paying closer attention to us. 


Round one is against Hawthorn. Honestly, I haven’t really thought about it. I haven’t. 


There are things that will happen throughout the game that will remind me of where I am, playing them at the ‘G. I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about that.


Playing against some of my close mates at the Hawks, guys that I’ve had a lot of success with, will feel weird. But I’m the type of guy who just gets on with it. 


Whatever cards you get dealt, so be it; play your best footy and help your team win. In my case, that team is Brisbane and with home ground advantage up here at the Gabba, we’re going to be tough to beat next season.


I want to come up here and contribute. I want to be a leader and help these guys become better players. If that ends in a premiership that would be absolutely amazing.





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