More than a decade after the fact, Brisbane midfielder Nigel Lappin has revealed just how close he came to missing out on the Lions’ historic third AFL flag in a row with a punctured lung.
Lappin was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame on Tuesday night, the third member of Brisbane’s famed ‘Fab Four’ – after Michael Voss and Jason Akermanis – to receive the honour.
Brownlow medallist Simon Black completed that gifted quartet, but is not yet eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame.
Lappin was widely praised for his role in helping Brisbane secure their third flag in succession in 2003, but he very nearly didn’t take the field against Collingwood.
“I only had one rib that was fully fractured … I had a couple of others that were fractured (too),” Lappin said.
“I couldn’t play the (preliminary final) out and the following week was tough … my wife had to help me out of bed for the first couple of days.
“On the Friday night I had a fitness test and (teammate) Aaron Shattock put me through the ringer a little bit. I got through it ok but I was struggling to breathe after it.
“I remember going to the physio that night to get a massage because I just couldn’t relax. I told the physio I had a funny feeling in my neck and I wasn’t sure what it was. We decided it was just a bit of swelling.
“But I was really lucky I didn’t go to the doctor because I’d actually punctured a lung at training. If I’d been to the doctor there’s no way I would have played the next day.”
Lappin eventually convinced the club’s medical staff he was right to play after a physio laid a surprise punch into his ribs at the MCG on game day.
“I was wearing a guard and it wasn’t too bad,” he said.
“I got through that ok but I remember Leigh (Matthews) coming to me and asked if I was playing or not. This was not too long before the game and I said, ‘Yeah, I can do it’.”
He went on to play a key role in the 50-point thumping of the Pies.
Lappin is currently an assistant coach at Geelong under senior coach and former teammate Chris Scott.
“The other really sad thing for me was one of my closest mates at the footy club, Chris Scott, he was suited up to play,” he said
“He’d battled (osteitis pubis) all year, so that was really mentally challenging as well knowing that my best mate was going to miss out on the grand final.”
Lappin was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Richmond great Maurice Rioli, Adelaide dual-premiership defender Ben Hart, St Kilda premiership full-back Verdun Howell, East Fremantle Sandover Medallist Ray Sorrell and Sturt seven-time SANFL flag winner Paul Bagshaw.
* 279 games for the Brisbane Lions 1994-2008, kicking 174 goals
* Three games for Victoria, kicking two goals
* Lions premierships 2001-03
* Brisbane best and fairest 2004
* Lions captain 2007-08
* All Australian 2001-04