AFL Rd 12 - Western Bulldogs v Adelaide
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 16: Marcus Bontempelli of the Bulldogs celebrates kicking a goal during the round 12 AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the Adelaide Crows at Metricon Stadium on August 16, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

It was the same old story again in 2021 for Chris Fagan's Lions as they failed to make a Grand Final, let alone a preliminary final, for a third consecutive year despite finishing in the top four once again.

This year however it was at the eleventh hour that the Lions snuck into the double-chance spot after several disappointing performances throughout the home-and-away season.

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It was this inconsistency that was the story of the year for Brisbane, with losses against sides they should have had the measure of marring what should ultimately have been a season to take the next step.

Despite this, there aren't many, if not any, devastatingly glaring holes in Brisbane's best 22, however, if we're speaking in hypotheticals about bringing in anyone across the entire game to improve their list, then the Lions would likely have a few to poach.

SEE ALSO: If Adelaide could steal one player

Gaps in best 22

As mentioned previously, there aren't huge gaps in the Lions' best lineup, but what is needed over everything is depth.

Particularly in the ruck stocks, there is effectively no alternative to 27-year-old Oscar McInerney besides youngster Tom Fullarton and recruit Darcy Fort, meaning that team performances often suffered off the back of poor rucking.

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With Eric Hipwood out with a heartbreaking ACL injury, a key forward is also needed for the interim with the side leaning on spearhead Joe Daniher to kick a winning score.

Before the National Draft, a running half-back was on the list, however with the acquisition of speedy defender Darcy Wilmot, the problem has now been addressed and Brisbane faithful can look forward to the youngster hopefully making an impression on the side. However, another one to cover for Daniel Rich and co. wouldn't hurt at all.

Probably the least urgent out of all of these areas are replacements for skipper Dayne Zorko and Mitch Robinson, who are entering the twilight years of their career in 2022, with a hard-nosed leader who sets an example perhaps a requirement in the near future.

Candidates to steal

Option 1: Callum Coleman-Jones

The former Tiger made the switch cross-town to Arden Street in trade period 2021, with his ability to both ruck and play a role as a key forward the main reason why David Noble put a circle around his name.

The 22-year-old managed eight games in 2021 and booted 11 goals for Damien Hardwick's side, including four against the Crows in his second game of AFL in Round 11.

Standing at two metres and weighing in at just over 100 kilograms, Coleman-Jones would be the big body that the Lions need to take the burden off McInerney's shoulders around the ground.

Option 2: Clayton Oliver

Clayton Oliver was a star once again in 2021, winning the flag with Melbourne and cementing his status as a certified top-five player.

The boy from country Victoria was stupendous for the premiers, sticking up some huge averages and coming tantalisingly close to claiming a maiden Brownlow Medal.

Oliver would kill two birds with one stone with his leadership and ability to get inside the opposition's head invaluable to his side. At just 24 years of age, 'Clarry' would be at the very core of Chris Fagan's set-up for years to come.

Option 3: Aaron Naughton

The 'Astro-naught' has come along in leaps and bounds since being drafted in 2017, with this season being his best year as he finished with 47 goals in 25 appearances for Luke Beveridge's side.

Despite some inaccurate goalkicking throughout the year, his set of hands are some of the best in the land, exemplified by his first-placed ranking throughout the entire competition for contested marks.

If he were to be taken by the Lions in this parallel universe, then there is no doubt that he would get a starting place in Chris Fagan's forward line, with his prowess inside the forward-50 too good to pass up.

Option 4: Jayden Short

Richmond's defensive maestro had a significantly tougher season than the one beforehand, with his side facing much adversity despite so much success in recent years.

Although the playing group struggled as a whole, Short still had a solid year all things considered. The 25-year-old still finished inside the top 10 across the entire league for total metres gained as well as fifth for rebound 50s per game, displaying that he was still a focal point of his Richmond setup.

Short would provide ample cover for the recently retired Grant Birchall, with his long, raking kicks to help the Lions kickstart attacks.

Verdict

There is no doubt that a ruck-forward is the biggest area of concern for Chris Fagan at the minute.

Despite Oscar McInerney still being a solid option in the ruck, his inability to hit the scoreboard often means that there is a requirement for someone who can do exactly what he can't.

It seems as if Callum Coleman-Jones would be the man for the occasion, with his massive frame and sturdy set of hands allowing him to bully opposition defenders whenever he gets down in the forward 50.

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With 'CCJ' into the side, it might give Fullarton the impetus he needs to crack on and push himself to improve as well as allow for McInerney to rest and not affect the team's ability to win the contest out of the middle.

Next up in the series is Carlton, whose long-suffering supporters need tangible indicators of improvement to really take the club to the next level in 2022.

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