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Brisbane Lions, Lachie Neale, premiership drought, midfield, Josh Dunkley, Will Ashcroft, flag hopes, bust

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Brisbane star Lachie Neale says it’s premiership or bust for the Lions in 2023 after years of finals’ heartbreak.

The Lions are currently in a 20-year premiership drought, with their last flag coming in 2003 as part of the club’s remarkable three-peat run.

But recent home and away success has not launched the club into its first grand final since 2004, with the Lions bowing out of the race earlier than expected the past four years.

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Neale says teammates are “gunning” for that elusive premiership and have high expectations on the back of the recruitment of mid Josh Dunkley, forward Jack Gunston and the upcoming addition of father-son draftee Will Ashcroft.

“Hopefully premiership medal next year, that’s what we are all gunning for. I feel like we’re very well set up at the moment to attack that as best we can,” Neale said on SEN Queensland.

“That’s what we’re aiming for, that cup next year.

“I think the guys feel like we’ve put all the pieces together.

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“We’ve got some youth coming through (who are) really pushing the guys for selection, (we’ve got) guys in their prime.

“We probably feel like our time is now and over the next few years we really want to capitalise.

“I wouldn’t be the first one to say that next year we should be gunning for a premiership and that’s what our main goal will be.”

Two preliminary final drubbings at the hands of Geelong in 2020 and 2022, plus a one-point heartbreaker against the Western Bulldogs in 2021 and a three-point shock loss to GWS in 2019 have left the Lions with nothing to show for their recent dominance.

But Neale, who fell just one vote short of his second Brownlow Medal this season, said he was focused on heading into next season in the best shape possible.

“I’ve had a few issues with my shoulders in recent years, so trying to get those right and ready to go for pre-season,” he said.

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“I’m trying to get better once again.

“I think if you just rest on your laurels and put your feet up and think it’s just going to happen again, it doesn’t happen.”

He highlighted the “exciting” progress of the likes of Eric Hipwood and Cam Rayner while looking forward to working with former Bulldog Dunkley.

“Josh into the midfield mix is exciting – I can’t wait to play with Dunks. I feel like he’s going to bring so much to us and really help elevate my game,” he said.

Story Credit: foxsports.com.au

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