The fact he’s a rare bird in the modern era – a first-time AFL head coach at 55 – isn’t lost on Chris Fagan.
The new Brisbane Lions coach joked he considered stumbling into his Gabba media conference on Tuesday with a walking stick.
Knowing the question of age was coming, he also did his research and rehearsed his answer.
“Hopefully, I’m a trailblazer for other 55-year-olds taking on a big job,” the former Hawthorn football manager said on Tuesday.
“I’m a bit like a mature-age recruit. You think you’re not going to get there and then, when you get the opportunity, those boys give it their best shot. I’m going to give it my best shot.”
While he’s the oldest “rookie” coach for many years, Fagan did point out the late Phil Walsh was 54 when he took over and had success at Adelaide.
Brendan McCarthy was only a couple of years younger at the Western Bulldogs.
However, Fagan instantly became the second oldest coach in the league when he signed a three-year deal with the struggling Lions.
Only Gold Coast’s Rodney Eade is older at 58 but the Tasmanian, who started as an assistant coach at Melbourne at 36 and had spent the past nine years at Hawthorn, never let go of his primary ambition.
“I’ve had a great apprenticeship and I’ve done a lot of different roles in football clubs and I think that’s going to stand me in good stead,” he said.
Fagan has a massive job to transform the competition battlers after just three wins this year, with only percentage preventing themtaking the wooden spoon from Essendon.
Triple premiership player Justin Leppitsch was sacked after guiding the club to just 14 wins in his three seasons in charge.
At 55, without head coaching experience, Fagan is an unlikely appointment but his time at the Hawks makes it far less strange.
A right-hand man to Alistair Clarkson as football manager from when Hawthorn started their premiership run from 2013-15, he’s the sixth Clarkson disciple to become a current AFL coach.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in the coaches’ box at the Hawthorn footy club for the last nine years … so I’ve learned a lot,” Fagan said.
“The Hawthorn footy club is a bit like a football university.”
Fagan didn’t put a time frame or number on results but did cite that Brisbane leaked 130 points per game this season and stressed four-quarter efforts were a non-negotiable.
“I love a team that plays a selfless brand of football where they work together as a team really well and that’s what I’ve been accustomed to,” he said.
“Hawthorn were the benchmark team in that area where players sacrificed for each other and they care for each other. And when you care for each other, you are in business.”
Fagan will combine with new Brisbane football boss David Noble who had held a similar role at Adelaide and they will immediately go to work on building the Lions’ culture.
Fagan was non-committal about captain Tom Rockliff’s standing while Noble said the club wouldn’t comment about Pearce Hanley’s future following speculation he could be traded.
Noble said he was excited by the club’s talent and denied it needed to rebuild but they would be smarter about how they managed their list, to include a No.2 draft choice and a potential priority pick.
“We have to become relevant in the competition again,” he said.