Brisbane coach Chris Fagan believes Harris Andrews has been unfairly criticised and is backing the star defender to rise to the challenge against Fremantle on Sunday.
The second-placed Lions have made a hot 9-2 start to the season, but some critics have questioned whether Andrews is out of form.
Andrews is averaging more possessions and more marks per game than his All-Australian campaign of 2019.
But he made some key mistakes early in last week’s 14-point win over GWS that led to goals.
Fagan believes the critics have been off the mark in taking aim at Andrews.
“I wish people who criticised him would look at the statistical data that’s available in multitudes and check his form out,” Fagan said.
“Because if you look at his 2019 All-Australian year, his numbers aren’t too far different to that. In some areas he’s even better.
“He’s been a very consistent performer for us over four years. His numbers haven’t varied much over that time.”
Fagan believes the two-time All-Australian has become a “victim of his own high standards”.
“If he gets beaten every now and then, it’s like the world’s caving in,” Fagan said.
“Well guess what, all defenders get beaten at some point in time.
“I think teams in the AFL now are playing much faster, and they’re really testing defences out more than they have for a long time.
“That makes the job of the defender tougher, especially if the ball gets in there easily.”
Fagan isn’t expecting Andrews to go into his shell in the wake of the criticism.
“You can’t play in the cage like he does every week and be that sort of person that goes in your shell. He just rises to the challenge,” Fagan said.
Brisbane face a huge challenge this week when they take on fellow top-four contenders Fremantle at Optus Stadium.
The Dockers threw the flag race wide open last week by beating defending premiers Melbourne, but they will be without Heath Chapman (hamstring), Michael Walters (hamstring), and Matt Taberner (back).