Brisbane coach, Chris Fagan, recently divulged that match fitness was a critical determinant of his final selection decision, choosing to keep defender Darcy Gardiner on the team as opposed to recalling Jack Payne. This decision was largely influenced by the anticipated heat during Saturday’s grand finals against Collingwood at MCG.
Fagan remained unfazed by his team’s less than stellar record at MCG, with only one win under their belt since 2015. This lone victory came last year in a final against Melbourne, albeit shadowed by a 71-point trounce from the victorious Geelong. Despite these odds and the home-ground advantage for Collingwood, Fagan insists the MCG occasion was no cause for apprehension for his team.
Sip of optimism from the Lions comes from their remarkable training performance, which Fagan cites as ‘uplifting.’ Additionally, the thrilling atmosphere of the Melbourne grand final, teeming with loyal Lions supporters, filled the team with confidence as they prepare to position the first AFL premiership after a 20-year gap.
Despite the Lions’ modest record of one win in their past 15 attempts on the battleground, the energy was palpable. The swollen crowd of supporters provided what Coach Fagan humorously named an ‘ambush,’ triggering a wave of excitement amongst the players, treating the week as a coveted opportunity.
Fagan had no reservations about the omission of the valiant defender Jack Payne despite strong training performance. The 23-year old player had missed only one game in the season due to an ankle injury — a void sufficiently filled by Darcy Gardiner’s striking performance against the Blues. This roster decision boiled down to one paramount factor– match fitness, with Payne’s recent injury leading to a lack of regular game time.
A challenging year saw Fagan muddle through allegations of racism during his tenure at Hawthorn, but the coach remained singularly focused on the team’s win. The arduous journey from a subpar team to the brink of grand finals has been rewarding for everyone associated with the football club.
Undaunted by past records at the intimidating MCG or the air of allegations still choking his personal life, Fagan’s unwavering focus aims purely at victory. As his team prepares for the forthcoming grand finals, the coach stands firm in his conviction for a triumphant finish to an already strenuous season.