Brisbane coach Chris Fagan came armed with statistics and plenty of fatherly love to laud his side’s two milestone men ahead of Saturday’s AFL clash with West Coast.
Asked to describe the influence of Hawthorn recruit Grant Birchall and local product Harris Andrews ahead of their 250th and 100th games respectively, the veteran coach didn’t hold back.
“Grant Birchall is probably one of the underrated all-time great players for Hawthorn footy club,” the former Hawks football chief said.
“Four-time premiership player and if you look up those statistics in those four grand finals, as a halfback flanker, he averaged 24 possessions.
“On the big stage he stepped up; his average in grand finals is better than his career average (22.09).
“That tells you how good he is; look at the guys he played alongside … he didn’t get the kudos he deserved.”
Of course Fagan’s numbers stacked up, but he wasn’t done there, adding only 1.5 per cent of those to play in the AFL or VFL had reached 250 games.
“That’s elite … and he’s had a big influence here,” he said.
As for Andrews – at 23 already one of the AFL’s best defenders – Fagan’s praise came from the heart.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him and his career has been a baptism of fire,” he said.
“A young defender in a team that was struggling, he had (Tom) Hawkins, Tex (Taylor) Walker and (Ben) Brown from North Melbourne all kick bags against him.
“But in my time here no player has embraced the idea of continuous improvement … in the space of five years from being smashed by those blokes he became an All-Australian.
“He’s just a shining example … if you were to have a son, you’d like someone like Harris.”
Andrews could captain the side on Saturday if regular skipper Dayne Zorko can’t shake an ankle complaint.
Birchall will be playing just his second game for his new club but has a long history with Fagan given his grandfather was the current mentor’s first coach in Tasmania.
Master interceptor Andrews, who spoiled a ball so fiercely at training this week that it broke a Gabba chair, will be the first Lions Academy member to notch a century of AFL games.
“I think the dream one day is to have a club full of people from Brisbane to achieve ultimate success … that’s the pipe dream,” Fagan said.