Daniel Merrett celebrates a goal in 2012 with Simon Black
It's an ace up the club's sleeve if I can push forward and kick a few goals
BRISBANE LIONS full-back Daniel Merrett is happy to be a card-carrying member of the full backs club, but says there may yet be the opportunity to sneak forward to get among the goals.
Merrett's form as part of a settled backline was considered a key reason behind Brisbane's NAB Cup Grand Final win earlier this month and was thought to have ended his days as a forward for good.
"I love playing in the backline, particularly with Joel Patfull and Matty Maguire … we've been playing down there for a while," he said at the Albert Ground on Friday afternoon ahead of final preparations for the Lions' season opener against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
"But it's an ace up the club's sleeve if I can push forward and kick a few goals."
Merrett added weight to the emerging opinion among the AFL's key defenders that the new six-second kick-out rule will add further chaos to their already difficult jobs.
"Definitely, and it will find a few teams out this year. Get the ball back quickly and then get it out of there. It's about quickening the game up and there will be no rest for the wicked," he said.
Like many teams, the Lions have ditched their designated kicker.
"Ours was Josh Drummond (now retired and a development coach with North Melbourne) so it's whoever wants to put their hand up," Merrett said.
"It's getting it out of there as soon as possible, find an open target and get it as far away from the back 50 as possible."
And he agrees in part with Collingwood's Heath Shaw, who suggested on Thursday that defenders seem to cop the brunt of the AFL's rule changes.
"Particularly with the sub coming in," Merrett said. "I'm no chance to get a rest now and I have to get my head around that I'll be playing a full game time, and it's why I'll have to work harder in the pre-season."
The Lions chose not to rest many players through the NAB Cup and the settled backline is coming together well. "It's important that the backline and the midfield had played three games together," he said.
"I know a lot of sides rest guys through the pre-season but we had our guys out there and getting relationships going and I think that showed through the NAB Cup Grand Final.
"We've been together for a few years and hopefully a few years more. That's what footy's all about, knowing the guys you play with, knowing what they're going to do and being predictable towards each other."
The Lions were given five days off after their NAB Cup win, partly as a reward for their win which Merrett cited as proof that coach Michael Voss has a plan and that it is coming together.
But they were also spelled briefly because of their extensive travel through the pre-season, with all their matches being played away from the Gabba.
They travel again to start the season; the Bulldogs game their third straight at Etihad Stadium, which Merrett sees as an advantage.
"You see the size and shape of it and how quick the deck is. You can take the ball from one end of the ground to the other very quickly," he said.
Ashley Browne is an AFL Media senior writer. @afl_hashbrowne