It’s the moment that sticks out for master coach Leigh Matthews in Brisbane’s third grand final win in a row that confirmed his Lions as one of the AFL’s greatest teams.
Simon Black remembers his goal minutes before halftime of the 2003 grand final against Collingwood like it was yesterday.
“It was probably my straightest kick ever; I didn’t kick many, but that was my favourite goal I ever kicked,” Black told AAP.
“It put us in a strong position heading into halftime … we were sitting pretty after that.
“I knew I was in a bit of space and had the time I needed to kick the goal.
“I don’t think I’ve ever hit one sweeter that went any straighter.
“I think it really disheartened Collingwood because we had a pretty good lead already and that was just the foot on the throat.”
The Lions led by 42 points at halftime and cruised to a 50-point win to take their place alongside fabled VFL/AFL powerhouse teams like the five-time premiership Hawks of the ’80s and early ’90s and Norm Smith’s dominant Melbourne side that claimed five of six flags from 1955-60.
Black was awarded the Norm Smith Medal after amassing 39 possessions in a dominant display.
“I had a lot of nerves in ’01, I was probably a bit overawed to be honest, and then I felt the weight of expectation in ’02 because I’d just won the Brownlow,” he said.
“I felt like I was carrying a lot of weight that day, but in ’03 I just felt free.
“I just remember running out there relaxed and so in tune and at one with the game.
“It was a special day.”
There were personnel tweaks along the way as the Lions rolled to back-to-back-to-back flags but Black remembers those three premiership sides as one awesome unit.
Black was part of the famed midfield ‘Fab Four’, with Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis and Nigel Lappin, but he says the Lions’ success during that period – which also included a grand final loss to Port Adelaide in 2004 – wasn’t based on star power.
“The midfield has got a lot of credit over time, but the role players in our side didn’t get a lot of attention,” he says.
“As a side we had a lot of guys who contributed who didn’t get their just desserts from the outside.
“We all bought in together.
“There were tweaks but the nature of the group at that time was that we were really united and anyone who came into the group would buy into what we were about.
“We were pretty firm on our expectations of each other.”
Black credits Matthews, who took over a team that finished bottom in 1998, for empowering his players to drive those standards.
“Leigh could simplify a message and give great clarity,” Black said.
“He could make the complicated seem pretty simple.
“His mantra of ‘know your role, accept your role and perform your role’ was the foundation of his coaching and our success.
“We felt like we’d run through a brick wall for him … whatever he said was gospel.
“He had such a great impact on our mentality with regard to footy and life.”