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Why the Lions pounced despite Rayner's shuffle

Rayner: I'm happy to live with Hodgey Lions number one pick looking forward to meeting Hawks champ

WHEN the subject of Cameron Rayner's underwhelming 2km time trial was posed to Brisbane Lions football boss on Friday night, he shrugged his shoulders. He might even have sniggered.

The Lions had little hesitation in selecting the Western Jets tyro with No.1 selection at the NAB AFL National Draft on Friday night and his relatively slow, 7m 57s shuffle run around Etihad Stadium last week ended up counting for nought.

"We draft on strengths. That's the main thing and I don't understand what all the fuss is about," Noble said. "He can go forward, play in the midfield and his stoppage clearance work is outstanding. And he's a great character who we know will work really hard."

Friday night saw the makeover of the Lions midfield continue. It started with the likes of Hugh McLuggage and Jarrod Berry last year and now Rayner, Zac Bailey and Brandon Starcevich are added to a mix that is developing fast. 

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"It's where the game is going,” said Noble, saying that Friday night marked the beginning of the second year of a strategic and considered makeover of the list bolstered by kids at one end, former Adelaide goalsneak Charlie Cameron as a middle-aged (in footy terms) recruit and of course Luke Hodge as a veteran on-field coach.

It was an important draft for them.

The Lions like the way Bailey, who hails from the Northern Territory but impressed at Norwood as well this year elevated his game. And Starcevich is clean in the contest and the nephew of former Collingwood and Brisbane player Craig Starcevich.

Toby Wooller, the Oakleigh Chargers forward, is the grandson of Fred Wooller who captained Geelong's 1963 premiership team.

And the work put in Connor Ballenden through the Brisbane Lions Academy has also borne through. Fremantle put in a bid, but the Lions were not going to let him go and picked him up with the 43rd pick.

"You work with them, you prepare them, he knows our system and he's ready to improve," Noble said.


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