Veteran Brisbane AFL defender Daniel Merrett says players, not coach Justin Leppitsch, have to wear the blame for their disastrous loss to Collingwood.
With the Lions desperate to bounce back on Sunday against Melbourne at the MCG, Leppitsch’s position has come under fresh scrutiny after the hollow 78-point defeat to the Magpies.
Merrett said it was wrong for the coach – with just 12 wins in his 52 matches at the helm – to be thrown into the firing line, despite the loss being the worst during Leppitsch’s tenure.
“For Leppa to stand up and cop the brunt of it is so unfair and, as players, it’s up to us to change that this weekend against Melbourne,” Merrett told reporters on Wednesday.
He pointed to Brisbane’s performance two weeks ago, when they nearly sprung the upset of the season over Sydney, as proof that it wasn’t Leppitsch’s fault.
“I can’t see how two weeks ago we can play so well against Sydney and then in two weeks the effort being so bad, and that being a coaching problem,” he said.
“That comes back directly on the players, particularly the senior players, and we take full responsibility.
“There was a distinct lack of effort there. We’ve let ourselves down and our supporters down.”
Leppitsch is contracted to the end of next year and has the strong support of Lions football director and club icon Leigh Matthews.
But with supporters fuming and general interest in the AFL in Queensland in freefall as both Brisbane and Gold Coast continue to struggle, the Lions can no longer afford to lose like that again.
Merrett said the players knew it.
“We have caught up as a playing group and addressed a few things, but it’s more finding out what’s going on and where everyone’s heads are at,” he said.
“How can it be a physical thing?
“It’s definitely a mental application and being willing to go to war, and we haven’t been up for a fight, and that’s so disappointing how a professional athlete can front up and not expect that.
“You doubt yourself. How can you put up with a performance like that?”