The Lions haven’t lost at the Gabba this season and are well ahead of Essendon on the ladder, but Brisbane coach Chris Fagan says the travelling Bombers are favourites to beat the Lions this weekend.
Brisbane coach Chris Fagan says his side will start as underdogs against Essendon on Sunday despite the Lions being 28 points ahead of the Bombers on the AFL ladder and the match being played at the Gabba.
The decimated Lions lost a ninth player on Saturday when Noah Answerth tested positive for Covid-19.
The 22-year-old defender joins fellow virus victims Harris Andrews, Callum Ah Chee, Keidean Coleman and Dan McStay, as well as skipper Dayne Zorko (hamstring), Daniel Rich (hamstring), Jarrod Berry (hamstring) and Jaxon Prior (quad) on the sidelines.
Despite the lengthy casualty list, the TAB on Saturday afternoon had the Lions as $1.35 favourites to beat $3.25 outsiders Essendon on a ground where Brisbane hasn’t lost this season.
However, Fagan – who returned to work on Friday after his own bout of Covid-19 – didn’t agree with the odds, pointing to his team missing a host of players and Essendon’s recent wins over the Sydney Swans and St Kilda.
“They played a fantastic game (last weekend against the Swans),” Fagan said.
“Essendon took their opportunities and then got momentum in the last quarter, so they’ve beaten a good team in the Swans and they beat a good team in St Kilda not so long ago, so they’re in great form.
“We’re going to have to play really well (on Sunday). I’d even go as far as to say that they’d be probably favourites at this stage.”
Answerth’s withdrawal has resulted in Irishman James Madden being elevated to Brisbane’s match-day 22, with emergency Rhys Mathieson set to be the Lions’ medi-sub.
Madden joins Ryan Lester, Mitch Robinson, Nakia Cockatoo, Darcy Fort, Tom Fullarton, Harry Sharp and debutant Carter Michael as those who have been called into Brisbane’s line-up.
“That’s a good thing about this week – we get a chance to test the depth of our list,” Fagan said.
“Teams win matches, but squads win premierships. Right now our squad’s getting tested, and we’re going to find out a bit more about ourselves.
“It’s probably a bit radical having to deal with nine changes but nevertheless we get that test, and it’s not a bad thing learning a bit more about your players and building a bit more resilience in the group.
“We’re looking at it positively, and the guys that come in are all going to play in roles that are familiar to them. It’s not like we’ve had to chop and change the team around and come up with some radical moves.”
In the absence of club captain Zorko and his deputy Andrews, star midfielder Lachie Neale will lead the Lions this weekend.
“He’s excited by that and looking forward to it,” Fagan said.
“He deserves the opportunity. It’s the first time he’s ever been captain of an AFL team so it’ll be a good experience for him.”
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