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Team selection dilemmas for Fagan

Rory Coleman-Heard, AFL.com.au  July 31, 2017 9:24 AM

Post-match: Chris Fagan Watch Chris Fagan's press conference after Round 19's match against West Coast.

The Brisbane Lions will make at least five changes for next week's clash against the Western Bulldogs at the Gabba, coach Chris Fagan has confirmed.

But Fagan has indicated debutants Sam Skinner and Jacob Allison are likely to hold their place in the team after both impressed in the Lions' 68-point loss to West Coast at Domain Stadium on Sunday. 

The Lions will welcome back star midfielder Dayne Zorko from a one-week suspension after he was banned for striking Carlton midfielder Sam Petrevski-Seton in Round 18. 

Exciting key forward Eric Hipwood is also in line for a recall, alongside promising first-year pair Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry, while key defender Dan McStay has recovered from a minor shoulder injury. 

Fagan said the Lions had carefully planned to rest Hipwood, McCluggage and Berry for Sunday’s fixture, with concerns the long flight to Perth might impact the trio’s ability to perform well in the remaining rounds of 2017.

"We looked at Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry and Eric Hipwood and thought, a fair while back, that at some point in time before the end of the year they’re going to need a rest so that they can finish off the season strongly," Fagan said. 

"When we looked at our draw, this was sort of the obvious one, the six-hour trip.

"I thought especially (Hipwood) was starting to look a little tired and maybe (McCluggage) so we always had it in our mind that this was going to be the weekend.

"We've got to think about the big picture.

"We've got those three fresh next week plus Dan McStay will be available and Dayne Zorko to come back into our team, and (we) learned a little bit more about some other guys today which is a real positive."

A graduate from the Brisbane Lions academy, first-gamer Allison was one beneficiary of the Lions’ rotation policy and looked to have all the physical attributes of a prototype midfielder. 

Standing at 193cm, the 19-year-old provided strong run from outside (11 handball receives), flew for his marks and was neat with his ball use, finishing with 20 disposals at 75 per cent efficiency. 

Skinner, 20, was quieter in gathering nine touches as a key forward, but positioned himself well and impacted the scoreboard with two goals – the first an impressive snap from the pocket and the second a volley from the goal-square.

The 197cm utility was set to debut on the same day last year – in round 19 against the Power – before hyperextending his knee at training which resulted in his second knee reconstruction in as many years. 

"Jacob Allison came over and played his first game and ended up with 20 touches and at different times his speed really stood out on the wing," Fagan said. 

"He's still got a lot to learn but I would walk away from today thinking 'there's a bloke who could become an AFL player in time'.

"The same (can be said) with Sam Skinner.

"It was probably a big occasion for him. (He was) going to make a debut a year ago (and) didn’t because of a knee reco.

"He got a chance today, kicked a couple of goals and competed well on a few occasions – some really strong tackles.170614-BL-ARC-8352-Multicultural_RD_eDM_-_Footer_Tile_600x100.jpg