Newly appointed Brisbane Lions coach Justin Leppitsch has some big decisions to make. Photo: Robert Prezioso/Getty ImagesNew Lions coach Justin Leppitsch will spend his first days on the job trying to settle his list for 2014, making a series of key decisions he believes will have a profound influence on Brisbane’s aspirations over the next three years.
Leppitsch was jovial and relaxed as he greeted the media at the Gabba for the first time as head coach, after he was given the role in place of former team-mate and close friend Michael Voss.
He has wasted little time in meeting and greeting Brisbane’s playing, football and administrative staff and has already had discussions with veterans Simon Black and Jonathan Brown, as well as a host of young players weighing up their future.
Leppitsch would no doubt love Black and Brown to stay for at least another season to provide some veteran leadership for a side that still relies on them for key contributions.
But he won’t press the pair to make a call before they are ready, with Black still getting medical advice and Brown deciding if he has the hunger for another testing campaign.
“We’ve had initial discussions. That will play out over the next few weeks. Blacky is still waiting on news from the surgeon so he’ll weigh up all of those bits and pieces of information. I’d expect to give him time for that,” Leppitsch said.
“Browny is probably closer to a decision on what will happen. His is less than a body issue but more ‘is it time, is it not time’. I’ll respectfully give those guys space.”
Whether that duo return will give Leppitsch firmer guidance on what areas he needs to address on the Lions list, with another midfielder, a key defender and a key forward top of the list.
He’ll also get to the bottom of the group of youngsters still deciding on their future paths. He’s hoping to convince them to stay but if not, Leppitsch wants fair compensation at the trade table.
Pat Karnezis (Victoria) and Jared Polec (South Australia) appear lost but Elliot Yeo, Billy Longer and Sam Docherty could yet be convinced to stay in Brisbane.
“I’ve met with them, told them where we are at and how to make them all fit in. I was a 17-year-old drafted to Brisbane as well so I share a lot of their fears,” Leppitsch said.
“And I nearly left after two years as well so they’re in a very similar situation that I was.
“For me, it’s trying to get them to think with their head, not their heart, and that’s difficult for a 19-year-old boy. I’ll just challenge them with their decisions.”
How those cards fall will provide Leppitsch with a much-clearer picture of the outlook for the next few seasons, in which he will be expected to send the Lions into the finals sooner rather than later.
“Look, we all want to be up there as quick as we can. Our age demographic is pretty good. It’s probably just below average in the AFL. We’ve got some players at the back end who are probably going to retire in the next three or four seasons, so we have to replace them,” Leppitsch said.
“There’s a few little key things that need to happen in the next three months that will set us up for coming years. What happens to these young players, what we get for them, that will have a big bearing on the depth of our list and how we compete, whether we touch on making the finals or we just fall short.
“They’re the bits we don’t know 100 per cent.”
Leppitsch is also hoping to get the financial room to take 30 players to a fitness camp in Arizona, more than double the number that would regularly travel.
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