Lions, Suns must stay the course, says Paul Roos
PATIENCE. It was the key virtue needed by Melbourne under Paul Roos' reign.
And it's what the now retired premiership- winning coach is imploring fans of Queensland's two battling AFL clubs to remain ... a little longer.
It has of course been wearing thin in the Sunshine State.
After all, Queensland has been represented in one finals series - and two finals matches - in the past 12 seasons, courtesy of the Brisbane Lions.
Now a part of the Fox Footy team, Roos has faith, however, there is light at the end of what has been a decidedly dark tunnel for the Lions and Gold Coast.
Last season they finished 17th and 15th respectively, with a combined nine wins.
While the Suns remain steadfast with coach Rodney Eade, the Lions axed Justin Leppitsch for the untried yet vastly experienced Chris Fagan, Alastair Clarkson's long-time No.2 at Hawthorn.
"Being in that situation with Melbourne I know what 'Fages' is heading for," Roos, a 269-game player for the Lions when based in Fitzroy, told News Regional Media.
"Brisbane have just got to stay the course, stick with their plan, and not worry too much about how many games they win, and keep educating.
"Fagan has been around for a long period of time, as has (new football boss) David Noble, who is a terrific fella. They're on the right path. They've just got to be patient. Fans have got to be patient.
"I saw that at Melbourne - as long as your fans can see a plan and see the young guys evolving."
Brisbane has clearly the youngest list in the competition with an average of 22 years, 225 days.
Incredibly the next youngest is suddenly North Melbourne (23 years, 218 days) after its purging of its veterans such as Brent Harvey.
Gold Coast (23 years, 305 days) sits somewhere in the middle, with West Coast (24 years, 330 days) the oldest.
In terms of games, the Lions also have by far the least experience - an average of 42 per player. Carlton is next (53), with the Eagles (85) at the top end.
Ryan Bastinac and Daniel Rich are the most seasoned at Brisbane with just 143 games each.
But in Harris Andrews, 20, Josh Schache, 19, Eric Hipwood, 19, Ben Keays, 20, Rhys Mathieson, 21, and now Hugh McCluggage, 19, the Lions have talent to burn.
Gold Coast is more advanced, and may have broken that Queensland finals drought in 2014 if not for a spate of injuries - one, in particular, to then skipper Gary Ablett - which has continued.
If the club's wretched run is over - other than Sam Day already requiring hip surgery - then it may push for that elusive finals berth.
Roos said he was "really confident" in the Suns' progression.
"Their best team is really good," he said. "They just haven't been able to get it out on the path the last couple of seasons."
Roos is a big fan of the new co-captains who double as the team's bookends, spearhead Tom Lynch and fullback Steve May.
They've brought in versatile midfielders Pearce Hanley, Michael Barlow and Jarryd Lyons, should have David Swallow and Gary Ablett back from injury, and a future leader Touk Miller, who Roos "just loves".
That augers well for the short term. For the longer, the Suns have already re-signed all four players they took in the top 10 of last year's draft - Ben Ainsworth, Will Brodie, Jack Scrimshaw and Jack Bowes - until at least the end of 2020.
"We've already seen media people underestimate them a bit," Roos said.
"They are probably still a little bit skinny in terms of depth. They have got a lot of young players.
"But certainly if they can get their best 22 out on the park week in, week out, they are going to be right up in the mix for finals."
There have been false starts for both the Lions and Suns, and certainly for the former going back to when Michael Voss was at the helm, and then Leppitsch.
In between, Roos himself was approached to take over as Lions coach when Voss was removed in August 2013.
Roos had spent three years heading up the Sydney Swans academy after leading the club to the AFL premiership in 2005.
"I spoke to (then Lions chairman) Angus (Johnson) prior to Leppitsch getting the job," he recalled.
"But my parents are getting older now. I'm a Melbourne boy and if I was going to do anything it would be heading back to Melbourne, and that's the way it turned out."
While he still has an obvious soft spot for both the Lions and Swans, Roos' allegiance will lie with the Demons.
"You're closer to the team you've just been with," he said.
"I'll be barracking for them and watching them really closely hoping they creep up into that top eight."
Roos arrived for the 2014 season with the Demons second last with two wins and almost a decade of failure behind them.
He left with them knocking on the door of finals.
"I'm really confident with where the club's at," Roos said. "That's what it was all about three years ago - to put the club in a good position to attack with a better list and good coaches
"I'm loving what they're doing (now under Roos' successor Simon Goodwin).
"I ran into a Melbourne supporter this morning ... it's good to hear them say that it's 'the first time we've felt like things are heading in the right direction'.
"That was indicative of four wins (in 2014), seven wins (2015), and 10 wins (2016)."
The Lions and Suns will be hoping to follow in their footsteps.
Roos will co-host League Teams with Derm & Roosy each Thurs at 6.30pm on FOX FOOTY.