Fagan plots more AFL torment for Hawks

Murray Wenzel
Coach Chris Fagan is plotting a fifth-straight win over Hawthorn in the Lions' AFL season-opener

Chris Fagan won't say how he plans to curb Tom Mitchell's influence in his AFL return, as Brisbane attempt to maintain their remarkable record against Hawthorn under the Lions' coach.

Brownlow medallist Mitchell, missing the entire 2019 campaign with a broken leg, has blitzed the pre-season to prove his fitness for Sunday's season-opener.

Fagan was saying little on whether the ball magnet would receive a tag in his first game back for the Hawks, as the Lions plotted a fifth-straight win against a club Fagan worked at for nine years.

"Probably just have to wait and see until Sunday; it's not about Clarko (coach Alastair Clarkson) - you don't tell any coach the plans," Fagan said.

"You try and let them guess right up until the very start of the game and opposition teams are no different to us.

"All those games (wins against Hawthorn) have been pretty tight sort of games that could have gone either way and, fortunately, they went our way."

Clarkson said Mitchell was "ready to go and perform" in what would be an empty MCG with coronavirus measures in full swing.

"His last six to eight weeks in particular, he's just continued to step it up," he said.

"Obviously, that's a bit of a testing period because it involves getting back to full match simulation and full on contact.

"Pretty much since Christmas, he's done everything that's required."

Clarkson said the Lions had played well at the right times to beat them in previous clashes and expected a high standard from a side who rose from 15th in 2018 to finish second last year with 16 wins in the home-and-away season.

"We've got to be prepared for Brisbane's best and we know that's pretty formidable," he said.

"They're a very good side, well coached; they've got an unbelievable list in terms of players to select from. I don't think they've got an injury on their list and that's been pretty much the case, to their credit, for the last two years."

Clarkson hopes Jack Gunston will get through Saturday's training after having off-season ankle surgery. He said Ben McEvoy would pinch hit in the ruck after being named in the back pocket.

"We trialled that towards the end of last year and part of it was to give more responsibility to Jon Ceglar in the ruck as well," the coach said.

"It's a double-edged sword there and we'll see how it unfolds throughout the year.

"We still expect McEvoy to play some time in the ruck through the course of the year but, by and large, we want to try to give Ceglar some more responsibility in that space."

Former Hawk Grant Birchall will make his club debut for Brisbane, while Gold Coast recruit Callum Ah Chee has been ruled out with illness.