Lions coach Chris Fagan has leapt to the defence of Brisbane star Harris Andrews after the key defender was told to “play like a man”.
Two-time All Australian Andrews has been the target of a stinging attack from Fox Footy pundit and North Melbourne premiership-winner David King.
“He’s playing bruise-free footy at the moment – he’s not playing with physicality,” King said of Andrews on AFL 360 on Wednesday night.
“Forwards are just leading around him too easily; there’s no engagement. There’s no body checking, no blocks – there’s nothing. It’s pure intercept or he gets beaten.
“Your big boys need to play big boy footy and I don’t think he is.
“Harris Andrews has to play like a man. You can’t have a guy 200cm play like that. That takes you nowhere.”
Fagan was shocked by King’s attack, particularly after Andrews’ performance in Brisbane’s win over Carlton last weekend.
“Was that on the back of his game against Harry McKay last week when he kept him to one goal?” a puzzled Fagan said on Thursday ahead of the Lions’ trip to Melbourne for Friday night’s clash against St Kilda at Marvel Stadium.
“I would have thought that was a bit of an unusual way to go on Harris. He certainly doesn’t play that way.
“We were really proud of his game last week and hopefully he’ll continue his good form on (St Kilda forward Max) King this week.”
It’s not the first time this season Andrews’ form has been questioned, with Fagan saying the 25-year-old Lion was a victim of his own high standards.
“Because he’s a two-time All Australian, he’s set a really high standard over recent years, and he’s probably had a few games this year where by his own admission he wouldn’t have been that happy,” the Lions coach said.
“People are focusing on that, but generally speaking, that game against Carlton last week, a lot of it swung on the ability of our defenders to not let McKay and (Charlie) Curnow get into the game, and they did that really well, so I’m really proud of them.”
Andrews’ teammate, Darcy Gardiner, who makes his 150th AFL appearance on Friday night, said the criticism of his fellow defender was “unfair”.
“He’s probably been in the spotlight a little bit, but I think he’s been terrific,” Gardiner said.
“He leads by example every week. He’s someone I highly admire and who I look up to.
“He’s gone to such a high level that teams have put more and more work into him, and that’s just what you want as a player. It means you’re doing the right thing out there and you’re playing good footy.”