The Lions leave the field after the round one match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium, March 17, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

THIS position is not new to Brisbane.

In 2021 it was 0-2, then 1-3, and still managed to finish in the top four.

Last season it was 1-2 after a. dour loss to the Western Bulldogs and about to face unbeaten Collingwood on the back of heavy criticism to key forwards Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood.

They went on to lose the Grand Final by less than a goal.

And now, the Lions find themselves off to a third sluggish start in four seasons, 0-2 and facing another early season gut-check.

Chris Fagan has proved time and again he and his team are good enough to respond, but Brisbane's coach has some difficult personnel decisions he must navigate.

Chris Fagan during the round one match between Fremantle and Brisbane at Optus Stadium on March 17, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

The backline is suddenly scrambling for continuity, the midfield mix hasn't quite gelled yet, and the most reliable scoring outfit of the past five years is spluttering just a fraction.

Fagan has seen everything in his seven-plus seasons at the helm, and this presents another opportunity to show his coaching prowess and diversity, but it won't be easy.

No longer does he have Keidean Coleman to launch attacks from the defensive 50. Conor McKenna didn't last one match before re-injuring his hamstring.

They are the club's two most daring half-backs.


There's a host of unproven players begging for a chance. Jaxon Prior, Harry Sharp, James Tunstill and Shadeau Brain would all love a call-up.

But does Fagan trust one of them, or turn to 35-year-old former skipper Dayne Zorko to ignite his team's ball movement from defence?

Jack Payne was dropped after a poor Opening Round showing against Charlie Curnow, and his key defensive replacement Darcy Gardiner now has a knee injury.

Adelaide recruit Tom Doedee is a chance to make his club debut against Collingwood on Easter Thursday, but that's still a lot of upheaval around co-captain Harris Andrews, Ryan Lester, Brandon Starcevich and impressive youngster Darcy Wilmot.

Tom Doedee at the Brisbane Lions' Official Team Photo Day at Brighton Homes Arena, February 1, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

There are some terrific interceptors there, but how will the Lions orchestrate their ball movement from the defensive end to challenge the opposition?

Although the back seven would be causing some mild headaches, it's issues further afield that need sorting out.

Missing Lachie Neale against Fremantle appeared a bigger problem than it should have been. He's a dual Brownlow medallist, so of course his absence is a large one, but on paper, Brisbane had the troops to match the Dockers in the middle.

The reality was totally different.

Neale is expected to return against the Magpies, which will address some of the problems, but how does the rest of the team shake out?


They've been beaten in contested possessions by both Carlton and Fremantle, and at different stages in those matches, lost the centre clearances in batches that provided either field position or direct scores to their opponents. This has rarely been a problem in recent years.

Can Neale and Jarryd Lyons play in the same midfield?

Is Cam Rayner doing enough with his centre bounce attendances or should he return to a 70/30 or 80/20 forward/midfield split?

How does reliable ruckman Oscar McInerney find his peak form?

Where does Jarrod Berry fit in? The best game of his career came in the 2022 semi-final against Melbourne when Berry totally outplayed Clayton Oliver to guide Brisbane to a rare and famous win at the MCG.

Clayton Oliver is tackled by Jarrod Berry during the Semi Final between Melbourne and Brisbane at the MCG, September 9, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Since then, he has been a valued winger, thrown into defence early this season to cover for injury.

These are only slight tweaks, and year after year Brisbane has shown a resilience to bounce back from speedbumps. There's no reason to think it won't happen again in 2024.

After the blistering seven-goal first quarter against Carlton, scoring has been a problem. Twelve goals from 62 inside 50s against the Blues and 10 from 56 against the Dockers. They've had 13 and eight more entries in each match respectively.


Although modern football dictates diversity in roles – a trait Fagan has worked on tirelessly in recent years - it might be time to bed down a more permanent home for some players.

Will this help the ball movement that has looked hesitant at times? Who knows.

Doedee will come in, Will Ashcroft will return mid-season, and some, if not all, of the above-mentioned players will likely recapture their best form.

In the meantime, Fagan has a great challenge to get the best out of his men, starting with next week's mouth-watering Grand Final rematch against the Magpies.