The famous story of Brisbane Lions midfielder Nigel Lappin’s pre-game fitness test before the 2003 AFL grand final has become the stuff of legends.

Lappin was a star in the Lions’ historic triple premiership team between 2001-2003, and one of the toughest players in the club’s history.

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That was no more evident than in his now-legendary effort in 2003.

The hard man was battered and bruised from a tough preliminary final against Sydney the previous week.

So battered and bruised, in fact, that he had two broken ribs.

Desperate to play in his third consecutive premiership against Collingwood, Lappin was put through a grueling fitness test by coach Leigh Matthews.

Lappin was made to continually mark high balls while being spear tackled by a teammate from the side.

On Channel 7’s The Front Bar on Thursday night, Matthews went into the brutal detail of what really happened.

Nigel Lappin was put through a brutal fitness test. Credit: Channel 7

“Nigel Lappin had, what, broken ribs?” Sam Pang asked Matthews.

“Well, he did after the fitness test”, Matthews joked.

“He actually had broken ribs from the previous week, and we discovered after the game that he had a slightly punctured lung.

“I think the fitness test might have got him the slightly punctured lung.

“‘Slightly’, though, is the word. It can’t be massively punctured, obviously.

“So, that was a pretty physical test, because he wasn’t going to break down in the first five minutes.”

It wasn’t the first time one of the four-time premiership coach’s players battled through debilitating injuries in big finals, either.

When Matthews took Collingwood to 1990 premiership glory, well before he got to the Lions, he carried the injured Darren Milane through the entire series.

Milane had a broken thumb and could hardly put his arm through a jacket, let alone handle a footy.

Darren Milane could hardly handle the ball with his broken thumb. Credit: Channel 7

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“Darren Milane proved that as long as you’ve got half use of your hand, you can be okay,” Matthews said.

But he said both Lappin and Milane found a way to play well on the game’s biggest stage, despite their injuries.

“Nigel played well, and Darren Milane played most of the finals series with the broken thumb, and he could only half use his hand,” Matthew said.

“But as (former Hawthorn coach) John Kennedy used to say to us when we were young players, ‘any injury above the neck doesn’t count’.

“I thought any injury below your elbow doesn’t count either”.

Christian Petracca will have to play through injury on Friday night. Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Christian Petracca will have to overcome similar adversity to that of Lappin and Milane, with the Dees star carrying a hairline fracture in his right leg.

Speaking from experience, Matthews explained what Dees coach Simon Goodwin would need from Petracca to justify selecting him.

“That he can perform and he’s not going to break down,” Matthews said.

“The most important thing is that five minutes into the game, he’s doesn’t say ‘I just can’t do it’. You’ve got to be confident that he can play the game out.

“Then, the next phase is that at least he can play (at) 90% (fitness). Even if he’s not absolutely perfect, physically, mentally, he’s got to be close to it.

“You can’t play finals if you’re physically not up to it. But the worst thing is breaking down early – then you’re a man short”.

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