BRISBANE Lions coach Justin Leppitsch has called on his older players to give better support to his young charges who are experiencing a baptism of fire in the AFL.
The Sydney Swans dominated all four quarters on Saturday night at the Gabba, running out 79-point victors, despite being without key forwards Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett, and losing Mike Pyke to a hamstring injury in the second quarter.
Too often the Swans were allowed to run through the corridor with ease. Statistics speak for themselves as the Swans not only dominated the contested possession count (141 to 109), but also recorded more tackles (59-49).
While the Lions were without their leading veteran, Jonathan Brown - due to general soreness - and little fault can be found with Tom Rockliff, who battled gastro to finish the game with a team-leading 30 disposals and 11 tackles, not enough of the other leaders stepped up.
"To be perfectly honest, the (young players) are not our worst players,” Leppitsch said.
“Marco Paparone was pretty good tonight; Nick Robertson always has a go. Tom Cutler provides good drive.
“There’s plenty of players that have been around four or five years out there today that didn’t perform at the level they should have.
“I want Tom Cutler to play his 20 to 40 reserve games; I’d love Robbo (Nick Robertson) to do it as well. I’d love Aishy (James Aish) to even have the odd stint in there, if we can, just to get lots of ball in hand, but we can’t.
“We can’t do it, when we’ve got [Brent] Staker, [Ash] McGrath, [Daniel] Rich, [Matthew] Leuenberger and [Pearce] Hanley all sitting on the sidelines, what can you do? It’s a bit unfair on them, because you want to build their careers.”
Leppitsch admitted the Lions will have to be prepared to experience short-term pain as they look to develop a team that can be a force in the competition in the long-term.
"It's a patient game for an impatient man, but you can't get 100 games into players without them playing 99,” Leppitsch said.
“To do that, you've got a couple of ways, you can recruit them in, or you can build them - they’re the couple of options you've got.
“As a footy club, we're going to build it. And yeah, we'll top up around the sides and get experience in along the journey, no doubt, but the core of your list has to come from 17, 18-year-olds that drive your club.”