Brisbane Lions boss Chris Fagan has downplayed rumors he could hand over the reins to free agent coaching great Alastair Clarkson at season’s end.
There was some talk last month about a possible handover from Fagan to Clarkson for 2023 as the latter weighs up a returns to the coaches box, having recently met with GWS and North Melbourne about their openings.
The pair have previously worked together closely when Fagan was Hawthorn’s footy boss during its golden era including winning four premierships from 2008-2015 while Clarkson was coach.
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Asked on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 if he’d made “private plans to hand the job over to an old colleague,” Fagan responded with a laugh:“It’s not my job to hand over in the first place … is not the firm answer to that question.”
Fagan said he was unconditionally committed to coaching Brisbane next year.
“I’ve got a contract for next year and hopefully the team can continue to do well and the club is keen to keep me for a while longer,” he said.
“I love coaching the Lions and that’s what I’ll be doing next year unless someone knows something I don’t know.”
It comes after some pundits have put a line through Brisbane’s premiership chances after its second-half fade out loss to Richmond on Sunday that saw the Lions fall down to fifth position on the ladder.
But Fagan insisted the club wasn’t listening to the outside noise as it stays focused on its final three home and away matches against Carlton, St Kilda and Melbourne.
“I understand people want to comment on the game and they’ve got to have strong opinions, because that’s why people want to watch and listen to media,” the Lions boss said.
“But we can’t get caught up in that. This time last year we had to win our last three games to finish in the top four and even that wasn’t guaranteed… you just take each win as it comes.
“It’s a really tough and tight competition. If we can get back to our really best form, which we showed a strong glimpse of (against Richmond) in the first half, then there’s no reason why we can’t be really competitive come September.
“We’re not a perfect team, we’ve got strengths and weaknesses like every other team. But when we play at our best we’re pretty hard to beat.”
A key criticism towards Brisbane’s fading flag prospects has been its leaky defence.
Since Round 10 the Lions rank 16th in the competition in the most points conceded, 18th in most points conceded from their defensive half and have been the 15th easiest team to score against once the ball is inside 50.
Fagan said sharpening their defense has been the “main focus” at training over the last six weeks, but also highlighted the club’s inconsistent personnel down back due to injury.
“It’s a work in progress for us, we have had a fair turnover of players particularly in our backline since the Melbourne game (in Round 15),” he said.
“I think we’ve had 14 different players down there play for various reasons, not that defense is just about the backline, but we haven’t had a lot of continuity with our boys.
“Hopefully we can build that back up over the next few weeks and have the same seven or eight players playing there each week.”