Brisbane mentor Chris Fagan’s ability to “relax” and show greater “trust” in his coaching staff has been crucial to the Lions reaching their first AFL grand final since 2004.
Falling a week short of the decider last year and in 2020, the Lions have finally taken the next step to reach the last Saturday in September.
Fagan’s role in Brisbane’s journey from wooden spooners in 2017 to grand finalists has been instrumental, including the need to tinker with his own management of the team to ensure the progression continued rather than stalled.
“He’s probably been a little bit more relaxed this year, and let the coaches step in and do their jobs, and have a lot more trust in what they’re giving over to us, (in terms of)) information,” Lions veteran Dayne Zorko said.
“That’s really helped his coaching style.”
Not that it needed much helping, particularly when it comes to being a “father figure” to his players.
“He really cares for the person as the No.1 and then the football player second,” Zorko said.
“When that happens, good things tend to occur.”
Zorko also lauded Fagan’s ability to deal with the accusations made against him in the Hawthorn historical racism scandal.
“He’s had a very difficult 13 months. He’s put a lot aside and left a lot of things at the front door to come in and put on a brave face for us and coach us the way he has,” the former Lions captain said of his coach.
“He’s been a phenomenal leader of this football club and continues to do so, and that’s another thing that spurs us on to want to do well this weekend (in the grand final against Collingwood).”
Lions co-captain and dual Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale echoed Zorko’s sentiments.
“It would mean everything to me, the group and the footy club to get ‘Fages’ a premiership,” Neale said.
“We feel like he deserves it as much as anyone. He’s been through a lot as well in the past 12 months, but when you think of his coaching journey and where he’s come from as a teacher to coaching in an AFL grand final, it’s an amazing story.
“He’ll be a friend of mine for life and I love him dearly.”
Fagan stressed the grand final “wasn’t about” him.
“I don’t see it that way but it is fantastic to be part of a journey to start working with a group of players that were a long way off being a winning team to now where this is our fifth year of being really competitive,” the Lions coach said,
“We’ve been close to getting to the big dance a few times but not close enough, so to get there is just a tremendous reward for everybody at the footy club, not just me, but the players, the staff and everybody who has done the hard yards because there have been a lot of hard yards done.”