Fagan unfazed by AFL finals experience gap

Geelong enter Saturday night's AFL preliminary final with vastly more experience than Brisbane at this stage of the season but the Lions coach remains unfazed.

CHRIS FAGAN, senior coach of Brisbane speaks to his players during the AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the Brisbane Lions at MCG in Melbourne, Australia.
CHRIS FAGAN, senior coach of Brisbane speaks to his players during the AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the Brisbane Lions at MCG in Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Brisbane coach Chris Fagan has urged his inexperienced finalists to narrow their focus and play without fear in their AFL preliminary final against Geelong.

The Lions and Cats have both benefited from almost clean bills of health, with the hosts making just one unforced change at selection for Saturday night's meeting at the Gabba.

Cam Ellis-Yolmen returns in place of youngster Keidean Coleman after the qualifying final win over Richmond, while Geelong are unchanged from their semi-final thumping of Collingwood.

The Cats are brimming with finals experience, with 302 finals matches among their group compared to Brisbane's 104.

The gap is much more pronounced this far into a campaign, where Geelong have more than seven times the Lions' collective preliminary final appearances (71-10).

They also have 16 grand final appearances to six, with former Hawthorn defender Grant Birchall making up the majority of Brisbane's preliminary and grand final tallies.

Geelong captain Joel Selwood will become the first player in AFL history to feature in 10 preliminary finals, surpassing the record held jointly with Martin Pike and Shaun Burgoyne.

Brisbane have just four players in their team who have played at this stage of a season.

Lachie Neale, Charlie Cameron, Lincoln McCarthy and Birchall all did so at other clubs before moving to Queensland in the past three years.

Fagan was instrumental behind the scenes in Hawthorn's hat-trick of premierships (2013-2015) and has been part of eight preliminary finals throughout his career.

He said his players must keep their minds on the task at hand in order to secure Brisbane's first grand final appearance since 2004.

"The last thing you can think about is the grand final, you've just got to think about the game that you've got to play," Fagan said.

"The rest of it will take care of itself and if you start thinking about other things I reckon that you probably play with a bit more fear.

"We don't want fears ... so we'll just focus on the process.

"That's the same message that Grant Birchall or Lachie Neale will give ... but it's no different to the (qualifying) final we played the other day.

"We'll take the learnings from that and apply them to the game."

Geelong coach Chris Scott said his side's vastly superior experience might give them a slight edge but won't guarantee anything as they seek to end a run of four straight losses in preliminary finals since the 2011 premiership.

"The whole finals experience thing, you could come at that from a whole range of different angles and come up with different answers," Scott said.

Geelong will again field one of the oldest teams in AFL-VFL history at the Gabba.

Scott couldn't resist a subtle dig at some of the commentary surrounding the Cats after a defeat to Port Adelaide and win over Collingwood in this year's finals series.

"Last week I sensed we were very old and this week I sense we're experienced, so it depends on which way you slice it," he said.

"From our perspective, we've got some really experienced players who are close enough to the peak of their powers and we have at least half of our team who have well and truly got their best football in front of them."