The Lions coach claimed he hadn't spoken about the criticism of Harris Andrews during the week- but Cam Rayner spilled the beans!
With finals just around the corner, the Brisbane Lions’ focus continues to be towards clinching another double chance as they attempt to put an end to a near-two decade premiership drought.
But there are also a few pressing matters that they will need to focus on – their dismal record at the MCG, in finals matches of recent, and against Richmond dating back to 2005.
Sunday afternoon’s clash against the Tigers will give Chris Fagan’s side one final hitout at the home of football before the finals get underway in September.
Already the Lions have played at the ‘G once this season and on that occasion they left with their tails between their legs following a humiliating 64-point loss to Melbourne, after which Fagan pulled no punches following his side’s performance.
The fact it was their first game at the home of football since round 1, 2020, when it lost to Hawthorn by 28 points with no-one in attendance was, put simply, inexcusable.
They still have to play the Dees for a second time in the season, at the Gabba in the final round, but before that their immediate focus will turn towards facing Richmond this Sunday afternoon.
Though they have beaten the Tigers in two of their past three meetings, both of those were on home soil, while the last meeting took place at Metricon Stadium in round 18 last year due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.
Overall, the Lions have only beaten Richmond three times since 2004, and only once in Melbourne in that period – in round seven, 2009.
The Tigers’ dominance over the Lions can be traced back to round nine, 2005, when Nathan Brown booted four goals as they caused a major upset by four points at the Gabba, the week before he suffered a sickening leg injury against Melbourne at Docklands.
After their past five meetings took place in Queensland, Sunday’s match marks the first time they face each other in Victoria since round 23, 2019, and as with all matches that the Lions play in the state they will wear a special guernsey honouring their Fitzroy heritage.
Fagan’s side go into the match on the back of consecutive victories over the GWS Giants and Gold Coast Suns, this following an upset 10-point loss to Essendon at the Gabba in which the side was ravaged by COVID-19 protocols.
The win over the Suns continued their domination in the QClash, this being their eighth straight victory over their M1 neighbours dating back to late in the 2018 season. Despite this, the best-on-ground honours actually went to Suns co-captain Touk Miller.
The Lions will fancy their chances against a Richmond side that have stumbled in recent weeks, first blowing a 40-point lead against the Gold Coast Suns to lose by two, followed by being upset by North Melbourne and then being held to a 7.10 (52) draw against Fremantle last Friday night.
Noah Cumberland had the chance to be the hero for the Tigers, but played on not knowing that the final siren was about to sound, thus denying him the chance to win the match for his side outright right at the death.
This followed Jake Aarts playing on and then missing a running shot at goal in the final minute of their clash against the Kangaroos, before which Jason Castagna also ran into an open goal only to hit the post against the Suns on the Gold Coast.
Coach Damien Hardwick has described the Tigers’ recent misfortunes as “Richmond beating Richmond”; this came five years after the term “Richmondy” was coined in the wake of last-gasp losses to Fremantle and the GWS Giants early in the 2017 season.
The draw against the Dockers did his side no favours as far as their finals hopes are concerned, with the Tigers now sitting in tenth place on the ladder and needing to win every single match from here on in if they are to force their way back into the eight.
What isn’t helping their cause is the continued absence of former Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin due to a hamstring injury, as well as the retirements of Kane Lambert and Matthew Parker, the latter deciding to return home to Western Australia with his family.
They do, however, have a soft draw after this weekend as they play no sides above them on the ladder in the run home, though they do have to face Port Adelaide at the Oval next Saturday night.
First, though, they need to take care of a Lions side that is aiming to secure a double chance for the fourth straight year, and a win for the Tigers will go a long way towards keeping their finals chances alive.
As for the Lions, well, this is their last chance to prove that they can perform at the MCG, where they are currently on a ten-match losing streak dating back to 2015.
A win for Fagan’s men would prove beneficial with September just around the corner, because if they finish third or fourth there is the good chance they will have to play a qualifying final at the ground come finals time.