Home Australia ‘Trash’ efforts and alarming drop behind worrying Brisbane slump

‘Trash’ efforts and alarming drop behind worrying Brisbane slump

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Chris Fagan looks down

The Brisbane Lions are in serious trouble.

After coming within a whisker of winning last year’s grand final, the Lions have stumbled out this year and are in danger of missing out on the final altogether.

Brisbane were forced to vigorously deny explosive allegations of infighting earlier in the season, but the on-field product so far has remained disjointed, to say the least.

So what exactly went wrong for a team that was so explosive over the past five seasons?

Offensive fights like never before

Just take a quick look at Brisbane’s numbers this season to see their struggles in front of the ball stick out like a sore thumb.

Since first reaching the finals under Fagan in 2019, Brisbane have consistently been one of the highest scoring teams in the competition.

The Lions were second in points scored last season, behind only Adelaide, and have been in the top five in scoring in the AFL in each of the last five seasons.

So far this season, Brisbane have struggled to pick up points, ranking 13th in the competition in scoring, ahead of only St Kilda, West Coast, North Melbourne, Richmond and Hawthorn.

Brisbane’s current percentage of 94.2 is its lowest since 2018, Fagan’s second season at the helm when the team managed just five wins and posted a percentage of 89.1. What’s more surprising is the fact that this current percentage is underpinned by a 70-point thrashing of perennial strugglers in North Melbourne.

Fagan’s team has managed to surpass the 100-point mark just once in seven games this season, something they did in almost half of their games last season en route to the grand final.

The 100-point mark has been something of a golden number for Fagan’s Lions over the past 12 months. Of last season’s 10 home and road games in which they scored in triple figures, the Lions finished 9-1, with the only loss by a single point.

So far this season, Brisbane is averaging 73.85 points per game. By comparison, the Lions scored below this mark only five times last season, going 2-3 in those games.

All of Brisbane’s leading scorers from last year are below their performances from a season ago.

Joe Daniher led the Lions last year with 61 goals in 26 appearances, with Charlie Cameron, Eric Hipwood, Zac Bailey and Lincoln McCarthy completing the top five. The five players so far average fewer goals per game than last season.

Star ‘junk’ efforts under the microscope

According to former Sydney Swans coach Paul Roos, the root of Brisbane’s problems this season has been the effort level of their star players across the park.

Roos, a premiership winner with Sydney in 2005, singled out Daniher and Cameron as two players who have dropped in form so far this season.

“They are weak in defence, their two brilliant forwards are no longer believing,” he told ABC’s AFL Daily podcast.

“Individual acts keep them in the game, they have enough talent to be able to do that, but they are going down a slippery slope and Chris (Fagan) has to find a way to get buy-in again from players who seem disinterested in playing.” team up.

“If I look at Charlie Cameron and Joe Daniher, their defensive efforts are terrible. They’ve always been a little questionable, but I look at them and think if you put Brody Mihocek and Jamie Elliott on that team and just take out Joe Daniher and Charlie Cameron, that’s a different team. Despite what Chris says publicly, he would know that.

“With Joe Daniher, I’m sitting there, very frustrated. The reason they go so far up the front line and don’t get a result is because they don’t attack, they don’t chase, and these are the benchmarks of a great team.”

Roos was particularly critical of Daniher, who has often been a polarizing player throughout his 184-game career between Brisbane and Essendon, calling some of his efforts “almost embarrassing”.

“It’s about what Joe wants to do,” he said.

“He’s one of those frustrating players who has never reached his potential. The concern is: Is Joe what he is? Is he a five- or six-goal striker against really poor teams and then one or two against really good teams? If that is the In that case, then you have to put structures around them. You can’t have two or three in your forward line like that.

“You’ve got to put guys around him who are going to fight and fight. I feel sorry for Lincoln McCarthy, he’s the complete opposite. If you have two or three forwards who don’t want to do it, it’s really difficult.”

What does this mean for the coach?

How quickly things can change in six months.

Had Brisbane won the grand final last September, Chris Fagan would have been immortalized in club history alongside the legendary Leigh Matthews.

Now, because of this tough start, Fagan is perhaps the most pressured coach in the entire competition.

The 62-year-old is currently signed through next season, having signed a contract extension in March of last year, but he will have no certainty of seeing out that deal if the Lions don’t see a rebound soon.

“They are no longer interested in playing for each other, so now you have a coach who would be really concerned,” Roos said.

“He’s done an incredible job getting to the final and being in the top four in the last four years. I’ve been through that as a coach, he would be very worried, very, very worried.”

Veteran Brisbane coach Chris Fagan is under increasing pressure to keep his place as a result of his team’s horror start to the season.(Getty Images: Michael Willson/AFL Photos)

Roos referred to his own experience, where he found himself in a similar situation with his Sydney players in the year they won the premiership.

“I remember, ironically, it was 2005, around the fifth round against the Eagles, and we were in this position,” he recalled.

“We were just (playing) selfish football, we were all playing for ourselves, and I just gave them a spray after the game. It wasn’t even a spray, it was just the facts. But you have to give credit to the Swans (players), they took the decision to reconnect.

“It’s about the decision the Brisbane Lions players want to make. Do they still want to play for each other? Do they still want to try and play for a premiership? It’s hard work and a big part of it is being selfless. What I’m seeing, particularly from their star players, is garbage, absolute garbage.

“They can do it, but now it’s not about Chris Fagan, it’s about the players saying, ‘We want to get back to the mountain (top),’ and they are perfectly capable of doing that.”

Where can things start to change?

The positive for the Lions is that they have had to endure a brutal game through the first seven weeks of the season.

Of Brisbane’s seven opponents, only two are currently outside the AFL’s top eight, one of them being last year’s reigning premiers Collingwood, who are currently 10th in the standings.

After going through a challenge in the first month, the fixture list is about to change for Brisbane.

This week’s QClash against Gold Coast at home is a must-win, and will be followed by a trip to Adelaide to face the Crows. If the Lions can split those two competitions, they face a month of clashes against Richmond, Hawthorn, Western Bulldogs and St Kilda, all very winnable games.

Brisbane have also suffered a torrid run of injuries to start the season, with Tom Doedee and Keidean Coleman already ruled out for the rest of the year.

A Brisbane Lions player lies on the ground as his teammates gather around him.

Brisbane star defender Keidean Coleman suffered a season-ending knee injury in his team’s first round loss to Carlton.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Dylan Burns)

Will Ashcroft, who tore his ACL last year, is expected to return mid-season, while forward Zac Bailey is likely back in a month, as is Deven Robertson.

The other positive for Fagan is that Brisbane’s work in midfield remains prolific.

Despite their struggles, the Lions are still the AFL’s best punting team at 40.7 per game. Similarly, they rank third in the AFL in contested possessions behind only Carlton and Gold Coast.

Incredibly, for a team that has struggled to score so far this year, the Lions are second in the league at 50 per game, at 57.9 per game, behind only Port Adelaide. The problems start when they get the ball inside 50, with the Lions ranking only behind North Melbourne and Hawthorn in shots scored inside 50 per game.

Brisbane are last in terms of total scorers, with only 15 players scoring so far this year, proof that too much is being left to too few in front of goal. Last year they placed fifth in this category.

A group of dejected Brisbane Lions AFL players rise from the ground with their heads bowed.

Brisbane have lost each of their first three matches at the Gabba to start the 2024 season.(AAP: Darren England)

The Lions destroyed teams last year by dominating scoring through stops and turnovers, but so far this year both numbers have fallen at an alarming rate. They have gone from second in the AFL in save scores to 11th. Similarly, they have fallen from second in the league in scoring off turnovers to second-to-last place, ahead of only West Coast.

This weekend’s QClash will be the 26th between Brisbane and Gold Coast, and there may not have been a more consequential one since the two teams first met in 2011.

Last season, the Suns snapped a nine-game losing streak by beating their big brother for the first time since 2018. That game took place in the friendly confines of Carrara Stadium.

This time it’s Brisbane hoping some home cooking comes in handy against their rivals.

If they lose to the Suns at the Gabba for the first time in six years and are 0-4 at home to start the season, alarm bells will really ring.

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