After tossing a second club legend onto the scrap heap, the Brisbane Lions stand at the most critical juncture of the merged AFL club’s 19-year history.
Who replaces Justin Leppitsch – and what support his replacement is given as part of a new-look football department – are two decisions the Lions simply cannot afford to get wrong.
Leppitsch, a three-time premiership player, was sacked as coach on Monday after guiding Brisbane to just 14 wins in three full seasons in the job.
Chairman Bob Sharpless said diminishing results left the board with little alternative, but external forces are the reason why the Lions need to act with both urgency and certainty.
Crowds at Lions games are at a record low average of 17,074.
In the competitive south-east Queensland sporting market, dominated by rugby league, the Lions are struggling.
Financially, too, the club is in trouble, with mounting debts – which won’t be helped by a one-year contract payout to Leppitsch – and a continued dependence on the AFL for funding.
And with the competition’s youngest list and worst facilities, there is no silver bullet.
Chief Executive Greg Swann conceded the margin for error is non-existent.
“It’s very important,” Swann said of making the right decisions.
“I can’t say anymore than that – we’ve got to get it right.
“We (Swann and Sharpless) probably won’t be standing here in a few years time if we’re having another press conference the same, we’d be gone as well.
“Hopefully we can get it right, but time will tell.”
The Lions board has begun formalising the process to replace Leppitsch and will soon draw up a shortlist of names and commence interviews.
Swann said they would go after the best person available – regardless of experience or allegiance.
Leppitsch’s predecessor Michael Voss was also a Lions icon and Swann didn’t rule out going after another old favourite.
But whoever comes in won’t be the only new face with assistants Simon Black, Gary O’Donnell and Shane Woewodin already leaving and Swann on the hunt for an experienced football manager to work alongside the new coach.
He reportedly met with Neil Balme, whose future at Collingwood is in doubt, last week.
“There’s a few out there, so we’ll see how that goes,” Swann said.
Swann insisted the final call will be Brisbane’s alone and not influenced by the AFL.
In a statement released by his management, Leppitsch – who opted not to appear at Monday’s press conference – asked for privacy and said he will make public comment later in the week.
JUSTIN LEPPITSCH AT A GLANCE
Date of birth: October 1, 1975
Playing record: 227 games for Brisbane from 1993-2006
Coaching career: 66 games for Brisbane from 2014-16. 14 wins, 52 losses.
Biggest loss as coach: Round 20, 2016 vs Adelaide – beaten by 138 points at Adelaide Oval.
Biggest win: Round 21, 2014 vs Collingwood – won by 67 points at the MCG.
* Former assistant coach at Richmond
* Three-time premiership player
* Brisbane Lions best and fairest in 1999