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On a mission

Dinny Navaratnam, AFL.com.au  July 2, 2017 5:50 PM

Post-match: Chris Fagan Senior Coach Chris Fagan spoke to media following our win over Essendon in Round 15.

The Brisbane Lions may have been without their captain Dayne Beams but they came to Melbourne "on a mission" to beat the more-fancied Essendon at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, coach Chris Fagan says.

Despite being rooted to the bottom of the ladder and one short on the bench, with defender Darcy Gardiner suffering a dislocated left elbow in the first quarter, and 27 points down early in the final term, the Lions roared back to kick six of the last seven goals and post a courageous eight-point victory.

Beams watched on from the box and Fagan said after the game it was an important win as the side builds from a low base.

"It was the spirit of the players. They came here on a mission today to try and win the game," Fagan said.

"Today the effort over four quarters, the resilience to stick at the game when you're 27 points down … and to keep believing and persisting, it's a great day for our footy club.

"We've got a lot more work to do to become a side that can be respected in the competition, but it's on the back of wins like that that people start to recognise that a young group's really improving and embracing all the things that the coaching group's been trying to teach them.

"It's good positive reinforcement for that and we just go back to the grindstone next week and continue to try and improve."

The Lions came into the game with a 2-11 record and a percentage of 68.9. They remain a win behind North Melbourne, which is second last, but go back to Queensland with plenty more confidence.

"One of the toughest things to do with a young group is to get them to believe. To the credit of our group, they've stuck at it. They've embraced the way that we've coached them," Fagan said.

"In our history, in the last six months, today is a very important day."

Backman Alex Witherden was one of the shining lights. In just his second game, the No.23 pick from last year's NAB AFL Draft racked up 29 disposals and impressed with his classy ball use.

He spent most of 2016 on the sidelines after suffering a badly broken leg in May that required surgery.

"His first two games have been outstanding really, when you think about it. He's 18 years of age," Fagan said.

A tumultuous lead-up to the game saw him arrive in Melbourne earlier in the week for his grandmother's funeral before flying back to Brisbane for a training session on Thursday.

"It shows he's got a lot of mental strength," Fagan said.

He could follow on from Hugh McCluggage's last week and be the club's second straight NAB AFL Rising Star nomination.

Another young star was Eric Hipwood, who booted four goals straight in yet another impressive display.

The coach floated the prospect of playing Hipwood in defence.

"We'd like to see him develop into a player that can play in another position as well. Maybe at some time it would be good to see how he goes down back and how Harris Andrews goes up forward," Fagan said.

"We're still learning about our team.

"Eric deserves to play so well because he trains so hard. I probably rate him as nearly our best trainer, in terms of intensity. It shows out in the game.

"Credit to him for that because he wasn't like that before Christmas. He's sort of built to that over the course of the year."

The Lions will look to post their third victory from five games when they face Geelong at the Gabba next Saturday night.

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