CHRIS Fagan has mounted a spirited defence of Tom Rockliff, saying the controversial midfielder had been a pre-season standout and could still captain the Brisbane Lions in 2017.
One of Fagan's first orders of business once taking over as Lions coach in October was to announce that the skipper's role was up for grabs.
After three years at the helm – one he shared with Jed Adcock and two on his own – Rockliff was in the news more for off-field reasons last year than his on-field play.
With one year still to run on his contract, the 26-year-old reportedly shopped around to test his value on the market and was also disciplined by the club for a social media misdemeanour.
But while announcing the club's new apparel partner Majestic Athletic on Tuesday, Fagan went into bat for Rockliff.
"He's been outstanding around the group, he's trained hard, he's got a great attitude, he's been a leader around the club and he's been very supportive of me in my first few months," Fagan said.
"I just want to put that on the table at this stage."
Fagan said Rockliff was "still a chance to be captain" once the process was finalised in March.
The frontrunners to lead the Lions are midfielders Dayne Beams and Dayne Zorko.
Fagan said he had a "heavy" discussion with Rockliff once taking over as coach.
"I pointed out a few things I'd heard about him," Fagan said.
"I didn't point out at the time that it wasn't my opinion of him, it was just what I'd heard.
"It was up to him to show me and the rest of the coaching group and his teammates what he was about this year.
"He's been very, very good."
Rockliff is noticeably leaner this pre-season and has improved his running.
The players will select the leadership group, who along with Fagan, CEO Greg Swann and football manager David Noble will then select the skipper to be ratified by the club's board.