AFL legend Leigh Matthews has slammed the racism allegations against Brisbane coach Chris Fagan as “just crap” and says the players rallying behind their leader may have strengthened the Lions in their premiership campaign.
Matthews, who won three flags as Lions coach, said Fagan’s ability to compartmentalise” the strain of being subject of the investigation into allegations of racism during his time at Hawthorn had made it possible for him to lead Brisbane into the grand final.
The former Lions coach will present the premiership cup should Brisbane win on Saturday and said banding behind Fagan may have helped the players and coaches bond more tightly.
“The reality is you‘ve got to put your life into compartments and therefore that pressure, with that situation that’s been overhanging since about this time 12 months ago … if you’ve got to be under that umbrella, I think you understand how stressful and anxious that makes you, but he’s been able to put that aside,” Matthews said of Fagan.
“I don’t think it’s made one iota of an effect on his role as senior coach. Someone was saying the other day it’s also because the Chris Fagan we know, these allegations are just crap.
“That’s not the Chris Fagan anyone knows who has had anything to do with him, including his players … so I think it might have even been a bonding thing in a way, that the feeling, the good vibes to a man under pressure, part of your group has maybe been a slight motivating factor for the Lions players.”
Fagan, who was cleared of breaching AFL rules by the league when its investigation concluded at the end of May, will coach against Matthews’ former player Craig McRae, who he said was part of a new breed of coaches who were more like a “friendly uncle” than the commanding, alpha-male former players of the past.
“The fire and brimstone coaches of our playing days … when you think of it, you only had a few hours of contact with the coach in those days, a couple of night’s training,” Matthews said.
“So in terms of the coach being the authoritarian figure with full-time footy and players being at the club all the time … the role is completely different.
“Chris Fagan is probably a decade older than McRae but they’re very, very similar – school teachers, what you’d call a friendly uncle, the type of personality that people gravitate to.”
Matthews said he did not think the 28C forecast for Saturday would be an “enormous issue” in the game despite the Lions being more accustomed to training and playing in hot conditions.
Former Collingwood captain and Brownlow medallist Peter Moore will present the premiership cup to his son, Magpies captain Darcy, if the home side wins the flag.
Moore said he had imagined the moment of handing the cup over to his son but said he was expecting a “tight game”.
“You focus too much on the result, you’re probably going to be disappointed,” he said.
He said McRae’s early selection call on Billy Frampton, who he declared would replace injured forward Dan McStay on Wednesday, was “refreshing” and would help put the former Crow at ease heading into his first final.
“I think the anticipation doesn’t help anybody, and clearly (McRae) has made up his mind on what he was going to do,” Moore said.
“Billy is very mobile, a good defender and a good mark … they’ve obviously analysed it and decided to go tall rather than small, and I think Craig’s just transparent, no secrets, so he just told everybody which is refreshing.”