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Fagan flag in 2020 vision

Brisbane Lions General Manager David Noble (left) and Chris Fagan (right). (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Expert
2nd July, 2018
24
1537 Reads

Chris Fagan mightn’t be running for president in 2020, but his name will run rampant on social media after the Brisbane Lions finish in the top four.

After 14 games, Brisbane has just two wins, against Hawthorn and Fremantle, yet the club has earned the respect of many due to the manner in which they’re playing.

Many have credited the Lions for their ‘honourable losses’ – a term that is severely overplayed in the media and by fans.

Yet it’s important to acknowledge the fact Brisbane has improved considerably in 2018, despite the horrendous win-loss record.

An horrific, percentage-killing loss to Richmond at the MCG earlier in the season is the only true setback Brisbane has experienced from a results perspective, with the average losing margin of the other 11 matches being 21.5 points.

Many are high on Brisbane’s future and believe relative success will eventually come for the Queensland team, however it mightn’t take as long as many people believe.

The addition of Luke Hodge was a genius move by Chris Fagan that has fast-tracked this team’s development by at least two years.

The Lions have been guilty in the past of having players run around like ‘headless chooks’, which has stunted development and growth due to an inability to express freedom and execute basic plans adhering to a structure.

Hodge has clearly bought in at the club, and he and Fagan share a fantastic understanding of how Brisbane’s gameplan should look, both on paper and in reality.

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The veteran’s ability to communicate on field and teach his young teammates about positioning and running patterns has no doubt had a strong influence on the team’s 2018 performance, and it will result in a top-four finish in just two seasons.

Breaking down Brisbane’s list, quick improvement can be seen everywhere.

Defensively, Harris Andrews will be the best key defender in the game, while Darcy Gardiner is one of the most underrated versatile third talls going around. Daniel McStay seems more suited to defence despite his being swung around regularly, while Sam Skinner needs some luck as he’ll be the team’s fullback within the year.

Nick Robertson has turned himself into a smart small defender, with his ability to shut down an opposition crumbing forward being very valuable. He can also collect the ball himself, as displayed by his 26-disposal, 11-mark effort against Fremantle.

The rebounding stocks are fine as well, with Alex Witherden already a gun in that area and Daniel Rich playing relatively well, while it wouldn’t surprise to see Jacob Allisson settle across half-back in 2019.

There is plenty of midfield depth going through the Lions that will have had enough experience to make the big leap by the time 2020 comes around, even putting aside the duo of Beams and Zorko.

Future captain Jarrod Berry and Hugh McCluggage will both have 50 games under their respective belts and will be the star young duo, while Rhys Mathieson will have a breakout season in 2019 and move well beyond any controversy surrounding his attracting of high tackles.

Zac Bailey will be in and around the team, Cam Rayner will get some midfield minutes mixed in with his forward time, as will Charlie Cameron, while Brandon Starcevich should start to get some senior development time.

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Cam Rayner

Cameron Rayner of the Lions (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Corey Lyons is one to watch coming out of the NEAFL, as he can be a perfect role player to do whatever coach Fagan wants from him.

Stefan Martin will be 33 years old and likely still be around the team, but Oscar McInerney should be the future of the ruck division. A genuine 50/50 split is entirely possible if Martin’s fitness holds up, as he could be used as a wingman rather than a resting forward.

Attack is where question marks are most relevant, however existing talent and good recruitment will create a quick fix.

Cameron, Rayner and Lewis Taylor can all run rampant playing different roles, while Cedric Cox could end up settling as a high half-forward rather than the rebounding defender he was drafted as.

Cutler will continue kicking goals off the wing, while all Brisbane’s midfielders have good size about them, making them dangerous resting forwards.
Hipwood will need a partner in crime, and he mightn’t be at the club yet.

Brisbane needs to target Max King or Jack Lukosius in the upcoming draft to cement their 2020 dreams.

Both can have immediate impacts at AFL level and be viable partners for Hipwood, who needs help.

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Toby Wooller has a good future ahead of him and should start to get some game time over the next year, while Connor Ballenden’s future may be a little clouded.

chris-fagan-brisbane-lions-afl-2016

Brisbane Lions General Manager David Noble (left) and Chris Fagan (right). (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

The depth in the squad can go from subpar to well above average in a short amount of time if the likes of Allen Christensen and Mitch Robinson aren’t heavily relied upon.

The sheer number of names that can be solid senior team producers in two years’ time is scary, considering list movements are still to be had. Sam Mayes, Ben Keays and Ryan Lester may be experienced fringe players at Brisbane’s peak.

Brisbane can quickly become an appealing option for players to go to by the end of 2019, which only adds more pieces to the puzzle.

The squad is young and talented enough to reach the start of its window quickly, and while not Brisbane players will necessarily “make it”, most of the club’s current squad are different enough to be offered opportunities in this exciting team.

Lions fans have gone through some pain to get to this point, however come 2020, the mass exodus of the early 2010s will be a distant memory as silverware becomes a reality.

If top four can come in 2020, expect Jarrod Berry to be holding up a premiership cup soon after and Chris Fagan to be trending worldwide.

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