New head coach Chris Fagan has breathed new life into what was fast becoming a stale football club. The past 3 seasons have been miserable affairs for the Brisbane Lions and its supporters, characterized by the inability to retain prized players. The future continued to look gloomier as more than 8 top 25 draft picks walked out of the club in those 3 years. Justin Leppitsch was left with the unassailable task of making this team competitive, and sadly he couldn’t. Brisbane broke records by averaging 130 points conceded a game in what was Leppitsch’s last season.
Fagan’s first priority was to address the captaincy issues and by installing a strong and able leader in Dayne Beams, I think he has addressed it admirably. Tom Rockliff has caused many scandals in his time at the club, particularly on Twitter, causing speculation around his ability to captain the side. Fagan took a meeting with Rockliff shortly after signing with the club and made his intentions clear that Rockliff was in the mix to reclaim his captaincy, however he had to prove worthy. Beams trumped him. Beams knowledge and premiership experience aided his case for the captaincy. Fagan was after someone to not only lead the team on the field, but an absolute professional off it as well. Beams battle with injuries has shown how strong and resilient he is. This sets a perfect example for the younger recruits who look to Beams for advice.
Fagan’s next job was to stop the bleeding in defense. Conceding 130 points a game for an entire season is unprecedented. Therefore, the new coach had to adopt a game-style that would reduce the mind-numbing losses. We saw the first inkling of this in Brisbane’s upset win over Gold Coast. Play fast and direct through the middle, hit them before the opposition even know you’re coming. The Lions piled on a staggering 45 first quarter points, and only conceded 2 goals from the Gold Coast. After that the game slowed down and the ball was much harder to move. It had a sense of hit them early, then strangle the life out of this game. Whatever the exact plan was, it worked. Conceding 96 points is quite a lot better than 130. However, in this case, the win is all that matters.
Fagan’s final priority was to pick his best 22. The Lions are a young team, but, they do not have the depth of youth quite yet. Hugh McCluggage, Rhys Mathieson, Claye Beams, Allen Christensen, Jack Frost and Josh Schache all figure to come back into the side over the next 6 weeks. There’s also countless other players who will be tried and tested throughout the season. The side that was put out on Saturday night will probably be different every round until Fagan can find the right balance. The right players who will commit to his game plan and suit his needs. Don’t be surprised if over 32 of the players on Brisbane’s list play a game this season.
With all of this in mind, Fagan has done an outstanding job so far. He has already won the support of the fans by getting his first win against close rivals Gold Coast. He has the support of the boardroom with his coaching background and Hawthorn apprenticeship. Most importantly he has done something that Justin Leppitsch just never quite seemed to do. He has already won the support of the players.