Callum Ah Chee continued to serve as Chris Fagan’s troubleshooter in 2021 while Darcy Gardiner was forced to battle through one injury after another, with some patches of solid form in between.

It was a frustrating year for Gardiner whose pre-season was interrupted by the knee injury which forced him to be a late withdrawal from the 2020 preliminary final against Geelong.

When he was eventually declared fit, he was raced straight into the side for the Round 4 clash with the Western Bulldogs, without having played a game since the 2020 qualifying final win over Richmond. 


And he had an immediate impact, gathering 22 possessions in a tough day down at Ballarat.

He backed up with a strong display the following week against Essendon but against the Lions’ next opponent Carlton he was concussed early in the game and forced to miss a week.

He was back in the side and back in form for games against Fremantle and Gold Coast before another injury struck.

That Q Clash should have been remembered for the huge mark Gardiner pulled down but instead it was the sight of the gritty defender still trying to influence the contest by laying boot to a loose ball while being helped from the field by trainers that lingers for many Lions fans.


He was forced to have a shoulder reconstruction which kept him out of the side for the next three months.  

He returned to take on Collingwood in Rd 22 but once again soon found himself battling an injury.

It was the final home and away game of the season against West Coast where an awkward landing saw him suffer a PCL injury.   

He battled through the qualifying final against Melbourne without having an impact but managed to bounce back to play a solid game in the semi-final loss to the Western Bulldogs.

However, once the season ended, he was back in a brace and rehabbing the knee with the intention of being ready to start day one of pre-season.

In his second year at the Lions Ah Chee once again demonstrated his versatility playing at half back, on a wing and in the forward line.

He played a career high 21 games with his best performance a 15 possession, six tackle outing against Collingwood in Rd 22.

He hit the scoreboard in six games with his best return coming in the Q Clash where he booted two goals against his former club Gold Coast.

While his ability to play multiple positions has come in handy for the Lions, the 24-year-old has yet to settle in and make one spot his own which might allow him to rediscover the ball winning form of his most consistent season in the AFL in 2018 where he averaged 15 disposals over 14 games for the Suns.