Chris Fagan looks on during the round seven match between Greater Western Sydney and Brisbane at Manuka Oval on April 25, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

THERE might only be one previous QClash that's felt as significant for Chris Fagan, and that was because it was the Brisbane mentor's first as an AFL head coach.

Fagan stopped and thought for a moment on Saturday before recalling that two-point defeat of Gold Coast that began the 2017 season.

Both teams were battling to avoid the wooden spoon back then, but in recent years it's been a rivalry dominated by the Lions.

The Suns' win in round 20 last year ended a nine-game losing streak, but had no bearing on either side's finals fate.

On Sunday at the Gabba it will be Gold Coast (4-3) – still chasing a maiden finals campaign – in a position to twist the knife into a Lions side (2-5) with plenty to prove.

"Gold Coast's improvement ... and with where we're at, it's a big game tomorrow night," Fagan said on Saturday.


"Every game's important but when you're 2-5 it's becoming a little bit more critical. 

"My first game as coach was a QClash and that felt incredibly important ... luckily we won.

"The stakes are high now ... it's a big moment in time."

The Lions were criticised for poor workrate and urgency in a worrying second-half performance against Greater Western Sydney in round seven, while they are 0-3 at the Gabba, where they were unbeaten last season.

Chris Fagan and Harris Andrews look dejected after Brisbane's loss to Greater Western Sydney at Manuka Oval in round seven, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Still one of the competition's best clearance and contested possession teams, the Lions have no issues getting the ball inside their forward 50 – but are one of the worst teams at scoring when they do.

"The good thing is the numbers are quite healthy; if the numbers were terrible you'd be really worried," Fagan said.

"It's all about workrate and energy for the entire game. It all starts with energy and effort."

He noted the structural changes former Richmond coach Damien Hardwick had brought to Gold Coast but said midfield prowess and running power remained its big strength.

"I expect it'll be a very fierce, hostile contest," he said. 

"We certainly didn't make it that way last year when we played them."


Hardwick has played into the narrative, declaring the Suns' ambition to become "kings of the north" while saying the Lions were the team he wanted his Suns to become.

"We want to be the kings of the north as well. It's a contest," Fagan said. 

"He's just trying to soften me up ... right at this present time it sort of means nothing."

Strong runner Harry Sharp has been recalled by the Lions and looms as the likely substitute after James Tunstill's return to the VFL side.

Ruckman Oscar McInerney (concussion) will return, while versatile Bruce Reville will debut in place of the injured Cal Ah Chee.

Hardwick has given livewire 19-year-old Bailey Humphrey a week off, with Ethan Read and Ben Long coming into the side and Sam Day left out of the team that beat West Coast last weekend.