AFTER two losses in three weeks, Chris Fagan has a bit on his plate, but one pleasant headache for Brisbane’s coach is how he fits Joe Daniher back into his team.

Daniher has missed the past five matches after suffering a shoulder injury against Sydney and will return against St Kilda at the Gabba on Saturday night.

It leaves Fagan with a difficult decision ahead of a match the Lions will be desperate to win, following their 14-point loss to Fremantle on Sunday.

They are still in second place with a healthy 9-3 record, but face the fifth-place Saints this week and then premier Melbourne following the bye.

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Putting Daniher back into the 22 will be a test of Fagan’s philosophy against form.

Since Oscar McInerney announced himself as a force at AFL level in early 2018, Fagan has always preferred to go with two recognised ruckmen when available.

He also loves to play three genuine tall forwards.

This was never a problem when Stefan Martin took the lion’s share of ruck work from 2018-2020, allowing McInerney to line-up alongside Eric Hipwood and Dan McStay.

The ‘Big O’ can play as a genuine forward, and has been good for more than one contested mark a game over his 90-game career.

Brisbane's Oscar McInerney competes a throw-in with Docker Sean Darcy in the round 12 match at Optus Stadium on June 5, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

However, Daniher’s arrival ahead of the 2021 season changed that mix.

Last year McInerney was the primary ruck option, with Daniher pinching for five minutes most quarters to give some relief.

When Daniher, Hipwood and McStay played, and finished matches, together as a three-tall forward unit, Brisbane had a 10-1 record and was the highest scoring team in the competition.

The only loss during that period came against the Demons in the middle of the year.

Alas for Brisbane, that set-up never got to challenge opponents late in the year as Hipwood ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, and then McStay was knocked out in the first few minutes of the qualifying final loss to Melbourne.

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The Lions’ only move during Trade Period came in acquiring Darcy Fort from Geelong as back-up to McInerney, but his impact has probably exceeded many expectations.

And thus lies the problem.

Facing a Saints team that functions best with Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall as arguably the best one-two ruck punch in the League, the Lions would be best served with their own two primary options to counter.

That would have to come at the expense of either Hipwood – four games back from his knee reconstruction – or out-of-contract McStay, who is having a fine season.

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The logical decision for Fagan and his match committee might be to leave Fort out, but that would require Daniher to spend time in the ruck, which is problematic against either Ryder or Marshall and also takes him away from the forward line, where he’d kicked 19 goals through six-and-a-half games before injury.

So, is it Fort, Hipwood or McStay on the sidelines this weekend?

It’s a nice problem, but a tough one for a team hungry for four premiership points.