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Pride of the Lions: The real Chris Fagan


The next morning Brisbane Chris Fagan walked into his office with a solution for the busy father-of-four.“Fages came into the office and said, ‘What happened to you’,” former Adelaide Crow Crowell recalled this week.Stream every match of every round of the 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >“I said my car broke down and the worst part is it’s getting fixed and it’s not back for a week. He said, ‘Ursula is away, I can use her car, so just take mine’.“He came to my place, picked me up and drove me over to his place and then away he went. “It was one of those things he didn’t have to do but he saw I was in a bit of strife. “I have got four kids and he’s got the Hyundai Santa Fe, which is a fair bit nicer than the car I have got.“He just wanted to help me out and it’s the kind of thing we pride ourselves on at this club. If someone is in need of help, you go out of your way to put your hand up.”Not too many AFL coaches would trade in their fancy cars for a day let alone a week, and yet Fagan is not like most AFL coaches.Six years and 107 games into the only senior coaching stint he ever wanted to have, he has developed one of the best one-on-one relationship models that Lions football boss Danny Daly has ever seen in football.And if 60-year-old Fagan was once chipped for prioritising other strengths over the Xs and Os seen as necessary fundamentals, the Lions’ set-up allows him to delegate some of the football specifics.He does this while still retaining a strong hold on the kind of tactical tweaks that include changing the 2022 midfield mix as well as constantly rehearsing the kind of last-minute plays so crucial in big finals.The Herald Sun Footy Podcast – Playlist“I can’t talk for what other coaches do, but there have been plenty of coaches around who in the first couple of years try to be what Fages is with his relationships but if the pressure is on you it can change pretty quickly,” says former assistant Daly, elevated into the head of football role when David Noble joined North Melbourne.“For one-on-one relationships he is probably the best I have ever seen with his empathy for people. “He gives advice and he will also give a whack, but when he does it people know it comes from a good place.”Former musician Crowell and Fagan have shared some special moments, including recording an epic Carpool Karaoke video during Covid that included strong early work on Crowded House’s ‘Better to Be Home Soon’, but what was let down when they forgot the words for Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys are Back in Town’.Fagan prefers a different approach when connecting with his players.He often checks in with them while walking on the open road — Daly was unable to confirm the rumour he punches out 100km a week.“He makes an effort to call all the boys,” says All Australian Daniel Rich.“He is a massive walker, you can hear him kind of puffing along on the phone and having a chat to you. I am No.10 so I know I am tenth off the bat, so I would hate to be No.44.“I just love how genuine he is and how much he cares for you as a person.“He understands we are humans and if he can sort through that the rest takes care of itself. He puts a lot of trust and faith into his assistants to work on that footy side of it.“And he oversees and does a lot of work with the coaches behind closed doors.“He has a very good footy brain and he’s very passionate about the team playing well but empowering the assistants (Mark Stone, Murray Davis, Ben Hudson, Jed Adcock) is so important and he backs them in to get the work done.”Keen to impress the coach in his early months, Daly stuck his hand up for one of those legendary walks but given the hot pace a group of eight dwindled to two by the 15km mark.Each week he and Fagan plot the destruction of an upcoming rival using Fagan’s back catalogue.“I think it was the third time I had been to his place on a Wednesday he put on the vinyl records,” Daly said.“There is some pretty good stuff but also some pretty average stuff so that became a thing whenever I went there.“He ended up getting all these vinyls sent to him so he went from a beer crate full (of records) to three or four of them — Skyhooks, Billy Joel, The Beatles.”Wife Ursula is a rock of support but also doesn’t sugar-coat her advice when it’s needed.“The one thing I love about Ursula is that she tells it how it is,” Daly said.“She doesn’t pat him on the back, she lets him know when he is going above what he should be as a coach and if he’s cranky she will bring him back to work. She is a beauty. “She has given up a fair bit. She was a teacher and they have two girls in Melbourne but she is a great support and keeps him on the straight and narrow.”So despite all the dodgy musical choices and forgotten song lyrics, or perhaps because of them, Fagan has created an environment in which the only thing missing is the ultimate success.“You see his passion on the bench and how much people mean to him,” Daly said.“He is one of those coaches who would never coach anywhere. This is it.“People like just turning up to the joint. They come in and leave as better people. Either you are on board or you are not, and almost everyone is on board.”

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