The Brisbane Lions’ premiership hopes took a significant hit on Sunday afternoon, with Richmond putting the side’s top-four hopes in jeopardy following a stunning come-from-behind win at the MCG.
Brisbane at one stage in the first half held a 42-point lead, but was reigned in during a thrilling second-half that ultimately ended in the Lions’ 11th straight loss at the MCG, with the side still yet to win at the venue since 2014.
Despite the loss, Fagan said the MCG hoodoo remained an external talking point rather than a genuine phenomenon.
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“It’s our best performance at the MCG for a long period of time I would’ve thought,” he said post-game.
“It doesn’t matter to me but I thought anyone watching the game would’ve thought it was a fantastic game of football. We were in it all the way to the end.
“Richmond had a really strong team tonight outside of Dustin. They had a lot to play for, as did we, we were trying to cement ourselves in the top four, now we’re in a battle, they’re trying to get back in the eight … there was no lack of effort on our side or theirs, it was a good reply in that regard.”
Not helping the Lions’ cause was an injury to Zac Bailey in the opening half, which forced Darcy Fort – a ruckman – into the contest as his replacement.
It was a move that raised eyebrows, but one Fagan was coy on when asked post-game.
“In hindsight it was the wrong decision to have Darcy as the sub. It’s probably something I’d rather keep in-house to be honest,” he said.
“I appreciate you asking the question, but we have our reasons and they’re good reasons, but in reflection tonight it would’ve been better to have a running player for sure.”
Speaking on Fox Footy, Dermott Brereton said Fagan had every right to be more frustrated with his side.
“I wouldn’t like to be sitting on one of the wooden seats inside the rooms as coach Fagan decides to give them a recital of what he’s just seen in the last 60 minutes,” he said.
“Even though they got to within two goals at three quarter-time, I felt like they could still stabilize, Brisbane. Not until Rioli bombed one from 55m did I go ‘woah, this is really dangerous for them now’.”
Co-host Nick Dal Santo said the MCG factor was less of a concern than the sheer collapse the side suffered in the second half.
“Yes the ground conversation will get brought up and I think rightly so, but more damning and more disappointing from a coach’s perspective and the leaders of this football club is they weren’t able to shut the game down during the third quarter, let alone the last quarter,” he said.
“Lachie Neale got enough of the football, so my question becomes what went wrong and who didn’t stand up?
“Because you can’t ask a lot more from their key forwards, particularly in that first half, but it dropped off so quickly and their inability to minimize the momentum when the Tigers had it.”
Asked if there were elements of a “choke” in the Lions’ loss, Dal Santo said: “You’d have to say yes. But to what degree of a choke, I’m not quite sure.
“But when you’re up by 42 points, you are well and truly in control.”
Brereton added: “I thought they put in well enough to say it wasn’t a choke. Richmond just went back to their tried and true formula.”