Ruckman Darcy Fort will take the sweetest of memories with him as he deputizes for Oscar McInerney in the Lions’ crunch clash with the GWS Giants in Canberra on Thursday night.

Fort did exactly the same thing two years ago as the Lions visited the national capital for the first time – and produced the best game of his career.

It was a crazy time, with the Lions coming off a shock Gabba loss to Essendon in Round 17 2022 after they’d been forced to make a club record nine changes at selection.

They’d lost Dayne Zorko, Daniel Rich, Jarrod Berry and Jaxon Prior to injury and Harris Andrews, Keidean Coleman, Callum Ah Chee, Noah Answerth and Dan McStay to Covid protocols.

Even coach Chris Fagan had Covid and was in lockdown until the day before the game, meaning they had not trained as a team all week as meetings were held online and all at the club were back to wearing masks.

As they prepared for the Round 18 trip to Canberra the five Covid victims returned, including Answerth, who cut it so fine that he flew south on the morning of the match. But McInerney fell victim to the pandemic and missed the trip.


So Fort, who had played in tandem with McInerney for much of the year, carried the load solo against a Giants side that was playing under caretaker coach Mark McVeigh after Leon Cameron was terminated mid-season.

He had a career-best 19 possessions, including a career-best 17 contested possessions, and a career-best eight clearances as the Lions, led by a sizzling 29 possessions and four goals from a best afield Hugh McCluggage, won by 40 points.

Fort has played only 11 games since then but there will be no important inclusion this week as the 2024 Lions, without McInerney due to concussion, look to make it three interstate wins in a row after triumphs over North Melbourne at Norwood Oval in Round Gather and Melbourne at the MCG in Rounds 4-5.

Remarkably, there were 10 changes to the Brisbane side that made their second trip to Canberra in Round 6 last year, when Will Ashcroft, Jarrod Berry, Jack Gunston, Darragh Joyce, McInerney, Conor McKenna, Daniel Rich, Darcy Wilmot and Zorko all had their first taste of football at Manuka Oval, and Josh Dunkley his first in Brisbane colors.

It will be an altogether different side again this year, with atleast six players missing - the retired Rich, the injured Ashcroft, Bailey, Coleman and McInerney, and Gunston, who is back at Hawthorn.


McKenna, who returned from injury in the VFL last week, and Joyce, who hasn’t played at AFL level since the game in Canberra last year, are the other two players from last year’s side who could push the change count to eight.

Again this week the Lions will have fond memories of their last trip to Canberra, when they beat the Giants by 21 points on the back of a career-best seven goals from Charlie Cameron and a three-vote effort from Neale.

But they will face an altogether different Giants line-up, which has won 18 of 26 games since then, including a 5-0 start to 2024 before a 19-point loss to Carlton in Melbourne last week.

Despite the fact that the Lions have used 33 different players in two visits to Canberra at least four players are set to play their first game in the national capital on Thursday night – Jaspa Fletcher, Ryan Lester, Kai Lohmann and Jimmy Tunstill.

It will be the 18th different venue for Lester in his 187th game. This will see him join Rich in second spot on the club ‘most venues played at’ list. Only Zorko (19) has played at more in Brisbane colors.

Remarkably, this gives the Lions six players among the top 11 on the equivalent AFL list.

Neale has played at 20 different grounds to sit third all-time behind Gold Coast’s David Swallow (22) and four-club journeyman Jack Hombsch (21), while Zorko and Jarryd Lions are among eight players who have played at 19 different grounds. Lester will join Rich and Cameron at 18.