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Queens of the Jungle: Lions overcome plenty to reclaim the throne

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How Dakota Davidson got up for the AFLW Grand Final (1:44)

The ESPN Footy Podcast discusses how Dakota Davidson got up for the AFLW Grand Final after suffering a knee injury the week prior. (1:44)

The Brisbane Lions are 2023 AFLW premiers after coming from behind in hostile territory to defeat North Melbourne by 11 points in front of a 12,600-strong crowd at Ikon Park.

When North's Kate Shierlaw marked and goaled and Alice O'Loughlin added another in the shadows of three-quarter time, the Lions trailed by seven points. But, instead of bowing to the pressure and falling to a fourth defeat in five Grand Finals, the Lions used their experience to run over the top of Kangaroos and extend their era success as one of AFLW's 'big clubs'.

In winning their second flag, the stat that stood out for the Lions was their tackling; Brisbane tallied 109 tackles for the game to North's 75, and it was the ferocity at the contest -- especially in the back half -- which was one reason why Brisbane got over the top of the Kangaroos, grinding them down over the course of the afternoon.

The other area of the ground that shone for the Lions was their defence. It was always going to be a hard task containing the Kangaroos' forwards, spearheaded by Tahlia Randall and Kate Shierlaw, but the defensive end was up for the challenge.

Spurred on by Skipper Bre Koenen, who was often the goalkeeper for the Lions - especially in that first term, when North Melbourne went to surge inside 50, most of the time Koenen was there. She had nine intercept possessions for the game, and was just as crucial in the second half when the skipper then moved into the midfield to play a defensive role against North Melbourne star Jasmine Garner.

Koenen finished the match with 19 disposals, 7 tackles and a goal which ended up being the sealer late in the fourth quarter. The premiership skipper was also awarded the best-on-ground medal to go along with her premiership medallion.

The other stand out was Dakota Davidson, who just over a week ago was inconsolable on the bench after going down with a knee injury against the Cats in a preliminary final, with many unsure if she'd get up for the Grand Final.

Flash forward to this week's match, and it was a clutch Davidson who actively turned the tide in the last and kicked two fourth-quarter goals to give the Lions a handy five-point lead turning into the back end of the game.

Speaking post match, Lions coach Craig Starcevich said that while normally Davidson gets on the board early which provides that spark, today was different but he was glad that she rose to the occasion.

"I did say to her before the game that it's unlikely that a key forward is going to dominate a Grand Final because I haven't seen that happen for yonks," Starcevich said.

"It was terrific that she hung in the game and not get frustrated with, she's normally conquered a few early in the game and she's getting everyone up and about and that's how she normally rolls.

"Today it was more about perseverance and hanging in there and waiting for your opportunity. The more people field got on top of their roles, the more supply that's coming in and just make sure you're in the right spot, but she loves those moments."

But the biggest storyline to come out of the match is Brisbane's ability to continually challenge for the flag despite losing plenty of players to expansion. Brisbane missing out on the finals completely has been a rare occasion, with the Lions having made five out of a possible seven AFLW Grand Finals.

Over this off-season, Brisbane lost league Best and Fairest winner Emily Bates, Greta Bodey and Jesse Wardlaw to expansion, then Kate Lutkins missed the season as she welcomed her first child into the world. The Lions were able to back in their system and had players step up. Belle Dawes is probably the biggest one, who had more time in the middle this season in the absence of Bates who departed the club for Hawthorn.

Dawes grew into a star for the Lions as the season progressed and the Grand Final was no different. The midfielder was among the Lions best, finishing the match with 20 disposals, seven clearances, and a mammoth 13 tackles.

And there's Lily Postlethwaite who after two ACL injuries is now a premiership player. Posethwaite featured in all 13 games for the Lions this season and grew as the season went on. While she didn't rack up the possessions on the day, she was able to stand up in a few critical moments across the game.

Then there's Jennifer Dunne who, up until the start of the season, had never played a game of AFLW footy. Although the Lions probably weren't expecting her to come in as quickly as she did with a debut in Round 3 this season, the Irishwoman quickly became an important part of the Brisbane backline. It comes off the back of a whirlwind four months, with Dunne joining the Lions off the back of her fourth All Ireland Gaelic Football Championship win.

Starcevich highlighted the resilience of Postlethwaite and Dunne's spectacular last six months when talking to the media post-match.

"There's a lot of stories out in today's game. Lily Postlethwaite had to wait two or three years to get a chance to chalk up 25 games and her 25th is in a flag, Jennifer Dunne just won two flags in four months if you don't mind," he said.

"So there's some stuff here that's amazing when you think about it."