WHEN Chris Fagan walked into his first senior coaching job at Brisbane four years ago, he told every player he wanted them to use their "weapon".

He was more concerned with what players could do rather than what they couldn't do.

"Play to your strengths," was the simple message.

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So, the fact he has coached from the interchange bench for the past two years should come as little surprise.

You see, Fagan's "weapon" is his relationship with his players. Ask any of them and the answer is always the same.

"Game day is about the players," Brisbane strategy coach Danny Daly told AFL.com.au.

Strategy coach Danny Daly and senior coach Chris Fagan oversee Lions training in Brisbane. Picture: AFL Photos

"I can't remember who came up with the suggestion, but it came off the back of Fages' ability to communicate with players. 

"He was able to give feedback on the spot rather than having to wait until quarter and half-time.

"We had a chat about it and we thought it was the best thing for Fages and the best thing for us, so we gave it a go."

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After trialing it over the pre-season and then the JLT Cup games, Brisbane's coaching staff agreed it was worth persisting with during the 2019 home and away matches.

Fagan hasn't been back to the coaches' box since.


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Others have tried coaching from the bench for a quarter here or there, maybe a few games, but no one has done so for such an extended period.

"You get a good feel for the game from ground level and I like that I can communicate immediately and directly with the players," Fagan said.

"We’ve got our guys up watching from the elevated position in the box and they are all experts. 

"I can talk with Danny at any time, so I’ve got all the access to the information they are accumulating up there if I need it."

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Fagan wears a headset that has him in constant communication with Daly – his right-hand man - who sits in the box with the rest of the coaches.

Any suggestions or questions from Fagan go directly to Daly, who either answers them or consults with the line coaches before delivering a response.

"Fages can see the game pretty well down there," Daly said.

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"He's got a fantastic footy brain. We see the game quite alike.

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"He might say to me, 'Lachie has spoken to me about stoppages and we need to look at Dangerfield going to him to create 2 v 1s'. We need to look at that. It's just that constant communication."

Line coaches have phone access to players in their line – so Harris Andrews can speak to defensive coach Murray Davis or Lachie Neale to midfield mentors Dale Tapping and Ben Hudson.

Aside from his relationships with the players, one of Fagan's other great traits is the trust he has in the coaches.

When he came to the Lions, not one existing assistant was shown the door. Tapping was added, as was Jed Adcock who came back to the club he captained after spending his final playing season at the Western Bulldogs, and the group has grown together.

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"The players sense that he's got great trust in the coaches. He's got trust, so the players have trust and it all flows down from there," Daly said.

"From a coaching box perspective, one thing I've always found over the years is the senior coach can let off a bit of steam and it can put young assistant coaches on edge and have them worry about what they can and can't say.

"With Fages on the bench and the trust he puts in line coaches to discuss and come up with answers, it's the biggest growth I've seen from a coaching box perspective."

Chris Fagan and Dayne Zorko embrace after the Lions beat the Tigers in week one of the finals. Picture: AFL Photos

Fagan said fundamentally the set-up worked because he had "total trust in those guys, they are great coaches and that's why it works for us".

But it wouldn't work for everyone.

"There'd be AFL coaches that would get nothing out of going to the bench," Daly said.

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"They see the game better from the box. they might want their line coaches around them … it's just horses for courses.

"We've found it works for us and works for Fages and works for the playing group, and that's No.1."