Out-of-contract forward Dan McStay says the support he has received from the Brisbane Lions as he deals with constant speculation he is joining Collingwood in 2023 has helped him maintain his focus, as he prepares to play in the preliminary final.
McStay said coach Chris Fagan sat him down midway through the year and told him that all he asked for was his best efforts for the remainder of the year, and they would worry about contract discussions once the season was over.
The 27-year-old, who is a free agent, has not told the Lions where he will be playing next season, but club officials aren’t expecting him to stay with a move to the Magpies all but certain.
However, they have been rapt with his attitude and contribution in the back half of the year, and the versatile forward has a 74 per cent winning record in the past four seasons as the Lions have climbed the ladder.
He kicked two vital last quarter goals in the comeback win over Melbourne in the semi-final and was instrumental in the elimination final win over Richmond when he stepped into the ruck after Oscar McInerney was concussed, signalling a return to form after a lean patch in the middle of the season.
The Lions overwhelmed Melbourne in the finish with McStay admitting that Sydney had set the blueprint for beating the Demons.
Dan McStay celebrates a goal against the Demons in the Lions’ semi-final victory.Credit:Getty Images
“We knew that if we were with them at half-time we knew that we could break them. We knew that we had the run in our legs and that if we could keep the pressure game up we knew they would start to fumble, and we could claw them back,” McStay said.
The year has not been easy to navigate, he said, but he is in a good frame of mind with a huge game ahead against Geelong next Friday night.
“It’s just one of those things you have got to deal with. The club has been awesome, the boys have been awesome, and I have got the full support of everyone,” McStay said.
“It has been a challenging year and I just try to switch off from all the media and try not to look at it and just focus on my own game and try to play my role for the team and do what I have to do.”
The scrutiny on Dan McStay has been high this seasonCredit:AFL Photos
He said Fagan’s uncomplicated message and approach was instrumental in maintaining a positive outlook.
“He’s been fantastic; he has obviously been a GM [general manager] of footy, so he understands the ins and outs of football. I can’t thank him enough for everything he has done for me, and we keep going,” McStay said.
McStay was recruited from Victoria with pick 25 in the 2013 national draft and has played 160 games and seven finals with the Lions. His only preliminary final was also against Geelong in 2020.
He was concussed early in last year’s qualifying final, and although he was missed at the time, the way his absence was dealt with provided the Lions with lessons they have put into play in this series.
McStay said the experience helped when key forward Joe Daniher withdrew from the semi-final to be at the birth of his first child, with Fagan saying post-match that he didn’t bother to call a meeting when he heard the news as there was no need to make too big a deal out of it with Tom Fullarton stepping in.
“‘One man out, next man in’ is something we really focused on over the pre-season,” McStay said. “We’re really grateful to have that sort of depth that guys can come in and play their role.”
If he is, as everyone expects, finishing up at the Lions at season’s end, he wants to go out on a high. Two more wins will do the trick.
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