Lions veteran understands stay-away fans

Veteran Brisbane Lions defender Daniel Merrett says he can understand why supporters of the embattled AFL club are staying away in droves.

Just 10,195 people watched Brisbane’s 79-point thumping against Greater Western Sydney on Sunday, the club’s worst-ever crowd at the Gabba.

While there were mitigating factors – such as rain and the low levels of support for the Giants in Brisbane – Merrett said players were getting the message.

“I suppose you’re not going to watch your team get beaten every week, are you?” Merrett told reporters on Wednesday.

“All we can do is stick together as a group, train hard and build for the future.

“If you get caught up in that you can let it affect you.

“The only way to raise those crowd numbers is by playing good footy.”

Merrett missed the Giants match due to illness, but is expected to return to the Lions side for Sunday’s likely wooden spoon playoff against Essendon at Etihad Stadium.

The Lions say they won’t sack coach Justin Leppitsch if they lose, but a 13th straight defeat, to the suspension-ravaged Bombers would seriously ramp up the pressure on him.

Merrett said Brisbane won’t be handling the match any differently despite the stakes at hand.

“It’s a way to build the game up this weekend,” he said.

“(But) it’s no good putting extra emphasis on it.

“We’ll prepare the way we always prepare, we’ll train well this week, stick together and be united.”

Merrett said he felt the scrutiny on Leppitsch, who is contracted to the end of 2017, was unfair.

“A lot of the performance comes down to the players, and as senior players, we take responsibility for that,” he said.

“The best way the senior players can support our coach is by putting on a good performance this weekend.

“There is a lot of external noise, and that’s all it is.

“Internally, we’re still tight, we’re united.”

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