Brisbane coach Chris Fagan has claimed underdog status against Collingwood as the Lions prepare for their first AFL grand final in 19 years.
The Magpies will start as slight favourites for Saturday’s decider with bookmakers after clinching the minor premiership and having played at the MCG 16 times this season.
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Fagan was happy to play up to that tag during Friday’s joint press conference with dual Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale and Collingwood rivals Craig McRae and Darcy Moore.
“There’s no doubt we come into this game as the underdogs, and that’s OK,” Fagan said.
“In some ways it’s easier than being favourites.”
AFL fans have been out in force to see Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions in the grand final parade. Credit: AAP
The Lions have lost their only two matches at the MCG this season, and their record at the ground during Fagan’s coaching tenure is diabolical.
Since Fagan became coach ahead of the 2017 season, the Lions’ only win in 12 attempts at the MCG was a famous triumph over Melbourne in last year’s semi-final.
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But Brisbane have won their last six matches against the Pies, including an impressive 24-point win at Marvel Stadium only six weeks ago.
Their last defeat to Collingwood came back in round five, 2019.
“We played each other five or six weeks ago at Marvel stadium,” Fagan said.
“I think it’s a different matter here (at the MCG). It’s their (Collingwood) home ground, they play there on a regular basis.
“Our record has been talked about a lot there (at the MCG).
“Despite that though, I feel like in recent times, we’ve really improved our performances at the ground.
“It’s a grand final, I don’t think you care where you play.”
The Lions trained in front of thousands of supporters at the MCG on Friday before the traditional grand final parade, with Fagan calling it a “great moment”.
“It was really uplifting for the boys,” Fagan said.
“There’s a lot of Brisbane Lions supporters down here and there’s a lot of Fitzroy supporters that still live in Victoria.”
At 62 years of age, Fagan will become the oldest grand final coach in VFL/AFL history.
The Lions’ first grand final berth since their halcyon days in the early 2000s comes 12 months after Fagan temporarily stepped down following serious historical allegations at Hawthorn.
The AFL announced in May no adverse findings against Alastair Clarkson, Fagan or Jason Burt over the Hawks racism investigation.
Lachie Neale, fresh off winning a second Brownlow medal, praised Fagan’s “leadership through adversity”.
“He hasn’t shown any cracks around the group,” the Lions co-captain said.
“It’s been a tough year for him as we know, but the way that he’s led the group from the front, he hasn’t let that infiltrate the group at all.
“We wouldn’t even know that it was going on if it wasn’t in the media.
“Just the relationship I have with him, I’m able to talk to him about footy and outside of footy he’s really guided myself and (fellow Lions co-captain) Harris (Andrews) through this year.”
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