AFL: Lions desperate to beat Suns in QClash

Lions coach Chris Fagan admits his struggling side’s season is reaching a “critical” stage and that Sunday night’s Gabba battle with the Gold Coast Suns is a “big moment” in Brisbane’s 2024 campaign.

Last season’s beaten grand finalists have won just two of their seven matches this season, with a top-four berth almost out of reach.

The Lions last-start 54-point loss to the GWS Giants was their worst performance of the season, particularly in the second half when they were outscored 61 to 15.

“All those work-related things dropped off, and that would have been the first time we’ve probably seen that since the Fremantle game (a 23-point loss on March 17), but nevertheless, it was there,” Fagan said.

“We’ve spent a fair bit of time looking at that and talking about that in our review.”

While the Lions have been struggling, the Suns – under new coach Damien Hardwick – have won four from seven and are a genuine chance to inflict further pain on Brisbane in the latest edition of the QClash.

“We see them as a big scalp too because they’re on top of us on the ladder at the moment,” Fagan said.

“I expect it to be a very fierce, hostile contest. We need to make sure it’s that sort of game this week.

“With where we’re at, it’s a big game. The stakes are higher now.

“They’re sitting just outside the (top) eight, we’re trying to claw our way back into the season, so it’s a big moment in time.”

And perhaps one of the biggest moments in recent years for the Lions, who have been premiership contenders for the past five seasons under Fagan.

“Every game’s important, no matter where you are on the ladder,” the Brisbane coach said.

“I guess when you’re two and five, it’s becoming a little bit more critical.

“There’s a sense of worry every time you lose, and even when you’re winning, you’re still worried as a coach, because you never know what’s around the corner.”

Fagan has made three changes to his 23-man squad following the loss to the Giants, with fit-again ruckman Oscar McInerney, midfielder Harry Sharp and debutant Bruce Reville called in at the expense of Darcy Fort, James Tunstill and the injured Callum Ah Chee (hamstring).

“Both boys (Sharp and Reville) have been in great form in the reserves and have deserved their opportunity. They’re young players on the rise,” Fagan said.

“Bruce Reville’s a great story. He’s 23 years of age, he’s been hanging around our footy club just about the whole time I’ve been here whether it be in the academy or playing in our reserves … so we’re very excited about that.

“Harry has just been consistently good and he brings a lot of run to the team, so we’re happy to have him in the team, and along with Oscar, of course, returning to the ruck.”

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