Chris Fagan is the AFL’s coach of the year.
He is almost certainly going to be the man that leads the Brisbane Lions to their first finals campaign in a decade.
And it’s not just September in Brisbane’s sights, but a top-four finish and a double chance beckons if the Lions can just keep winning.
It’s hard not to be excited about the year the Lions have had.
For a few seasons now, they have threatened to break out and boost up the ladder, slowly piecing the right team together.
And finally we are watching a young and talented Brisbane outfit reap the rewards for effort.
There have been plenty of great additions to their line-up over the past few years – no bigger coup than midfielder Lachie Neale, who is enjoying his best season in the sun.
The former Docker has added class and flair to complement the toughness of captain Dayne Zorko and fellow midfielder Mitch Robinson.
The Lions also threw a lifeline to former Gold Coast Sun Jarryd Lyons, who was delisted at the end of the last season for some bizarre reason.
He’s exactly the kind of the player the Suns need right now, but instead, he’s repaying the faith Brisbane showed in him.
Lyons hasn’t missed a game so far this season and is averaging 22 disposals, 4.7 clearances and 5.4 tackles a game.
We all know how good Charlie Cameron is, but it would be criminal to not give him a mention.
The man is a match-winner and provides a touch of magic.
His 33 goals for 2019 is the most of any Brisbane player, and they come with a touch of flair and entertainment.
And finally, the kids have notched up some good game time and are stepping up as the game demands of them – Cam Rayner, Hugh McCluggage, Eric Hipwood and Noah Answerth just to name a few.
Eric Hipwood’s cameo performance against the Dees in Round 15 was just one of a few signs that the young guns are playing their role in the Lions’ revival.
When that game was well and truly in the balance, Hipwood kicked four goals in a 15-minute burst during the third quarter at the Gabba to help inspire his side to victory.
It’s all come together on field for the Lions, but their good form isn’t based on talent alone.
It has been fuelled by belief and spirit injected into this club since the day coach Chris Fagan walked through the doors.
Fagan’s care for his players can be compared to the relationship between a father and his sons.
The time he takes to check in with his players, console them and ensure them they’re on the right track has been invaluable to the rebuilding of this club both on and off the field.
And the time he’s taken to connect with his players is building a wonderful bond among this playing group and resulting in inspiring performances by the team on a weekly basis.
There have been plenty of examples of Fagan’s attentiveness to his players since arriving in 2017, but none has captured the hearts of onlookers like his interaction with Cam Rayner following Brisbane’s close loss to North Melbourne at the Gabba last year.
Rayner had the chance to win the Round 20 match late for the Lions but he missed the final shot on goal, resulting in a three-point loss.
Immediately after the final siren, Fagan made a beeline for the shattered Rayner and consoled him as the pair walked off the ground with the rest of the team, their arms around each other.
— AFL (@AFL) August 4, 2018
The heart-warming exchange was all the proof you needed that the Lions were on the right track to something great.
And here we are.
Brisbane sit in third place on the ladder with six rounds to go.
And to think all this was done by not only an untried coach, but one who has never played a game of AFL in his life.
Someone should pass that onto Carlton’s football director Chris Judd, who embarrassed interim coach David Teague with his comments on Footy Classified last Monday.
He said, “We (Carlton) want an experienced coach that can takes us to the next step, we don’t want someone with training wheels on.
“He’s (Teague) getting some really good experience now… in effect he coaches his own team, but it’s not really the same as being an actual senior coach of a football team with the pressure that comes with that.”
That’s a nice slap in the face to a man who’s given Carlton fans more enjoyment and excitement in the last four weeks than former coach Brendon Bolton did over almost four seasons.
And how did Teague respond to those comments?
With another win, this time against Sydney at the SCG.
Judd only has to look as far as Teague, Fagan and North Melbourne interim coach Rhyce Shaw to see how much a little belief can do for a football club both on and off the field.
Despite a last-gasp loss for Shaw’s North Melbourne on the weekend, his players appear fonder of him the longer he is in charge.
Journalist Jay Clark told Triple M on Friday that Shaw is in the “box seat” to be appointed North Melbourne coach beyond 2019, largely thanks to the support from his players.
“Most importantly here, he’s got all 44 players in his back pocket,” Clark said.
“How is a coaching selection panel going to say to Jack Ziebell and 40 of his team-mates, ‘Nah boys, I think you got this wrong’ when all the players are saying, ‘We love him. He’s got us playing tremendous football’.”
It’s the spirit and belief Shaw has injected into this group that has boosted morale and seen North take big scalps in Collingwood and Richmond.
That same spirit that’s seen David Teague lead Carlton to three victories from five starts.
And that spirit has been the blueprint for Chris Fagan and his men to charge towards their first finals campaign in a decade.
Of course, performing well on the field is important.
But it’s the boost off the field that’s making the magic happen.