TOM ROCKLIFF is playing sore, but Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan has given no thought of resting his vice-captain in the final month of the season.
Rockliff dislocated his shoulder against Hawthorn in round eight, and after missing two matches, has struggled to meet his lofty early-season heights upon return.
Fagan has mixed Rockliff's roles, including a match-winning tagging job on Carlton's Bryce Gibbs two weeks ago.
But the dual best and fairest winner looks limited.
"I think a lot of players have got a little bit of pain at this time of year, we've been playing for five months," Fagan said.
"Tom obviously hurt his shoulder in the game in Tassie against Hawthorn, made a recovery from that, but it's still lurking around.
"Tom would be the first to come and put his hand up if he thought he wasn't right to go.
"If he wasn't right to be playing, we wouldn't be playing him.
"No excuses there."
Rockliff averaged 30 disposals and a league-best 10 clearances in his first eight matches.
Since returning from injury, those numbers have slid to 20 disposals and four clearances.
Along with red-hot Dayne Zorko and skipper Dayne Beams, Rockliff's bigger body has still been valuable in helping to protect a young Lions midfield.
Zorko will return from suspension to play the Western Bulldogs on Saturday, as will rested teenagers Eric Hipwood, Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry, along with defender Dan McStay from a shoulder injury.
The Lions gave the reigning premier a mighty scare in round five, leading by 32 points at half-time before running out of steam in the final quarter.
Fagan said his team was "disappointed that day, but also very excited about the way we played".
Sitting in last place with four rounds remaining – a game plus percentage behind Carlton and North Melbourne – he said the goal for the final month was simple.
"We're just trying to do our best to win as many games as we can," he said.
"Where we finish on the ladder is where we finish on the ladder, but the important part is we finish on a strong note, regardless of the ladder positon.
"People say about the No.1 draft pick, but sometimes the No.2 draft pick is better than the No.1 draft pick, or the No.10 is better.
"We don't want to get caught up in that, it's not healthy to think that way.
"Our aim is to win as many games as we can this season and be able to say at the end that we've improved."