B: Joel Patfull, Daniel Merrett, Elliot Yeo
HB: Mitch Golby, Matt Maguire, Jed Adcock
C: Pearce Hanley, Jack Redden, Daniel Rich
HF: Rohan Bewick, Jonathan Brown, Dayne Zorko
F: Josh Green, Stefan Martin, Ash McGrath
Foll: Matthew Leuenberger, Simon Black, Brent Moloney
I/C: Tom Rockliff, Patrick Karnezis, Andrew Raines
Sub: Claye Beams
The Lions have had a good run with injuries through the pre-season with the exception of three important pieces: Simon Black (knee), Brent Staker (knee) and Matthew Leuenberger (Achilles). Leuenberger will be close for round one, while Black is still a few weeks away, and Staker a little further. All three are in the best 22 when fit.
The big questions
- Can the Lions carry their NAB Cup form into the premiership season? The pre-season success will be quickly forgotten if the Lions start slowly. The first five weeks should tell a tale: Western Bulldogs, Adelaide, Gold Coast, North Melbourne and Melbourne. A fast start and top-eight aspirations will burn brightly.
- Can the midfield improve its clearance work? Last year the Lions were near the bottom of the competition at stoppages. With Brent Moloney on board, and Redden, Rich a year older, this area simply must improve.
- Will a second tall forward provide support for Jonathan Brown? If Stefan Martin, Aaron Cornelius or Brent Staker (when he returns) can take some heat off Brown, not only will the co-captain benefit but so will the fleet of goal-scoring small forwards in Green, Zorko and Bewick.
Tom Rockliff. The 2011 club champion tailed off towards the end of last year and was given a rocket by coach Michael Voss in the off-season. Rockliff went away, dropped some weight, got super fit and is back to his best as an important link player and forward option.
Fantasy cash cow
Patrick Karnezis. This guy has been the big find of the pre-season. He was introduced to senior football as a small marking forward in 2011 but learnt his midfield craft in the reserves last year. Karnezis is poised, an excellent decision maker and has found a home in the middle of the ground. Excellent AFL Fantasy value.
Since coming to the club via free agency in October, Brent Moloney has not put a foot wrong. The former Melbourne midfielder has taken his outstanding training form on to the field, with his 11 clearances in the NAB Cup Grand Final win over Carlton a prime example of why he was lured to the club. Should be a perfect foil for the Lions' youthful midfield.
It's crunch time for…
Jared Polec came to the Lions as the number five pick of the 2010 National Draft and full of high hopes. Some injuries and inconsistent form have restricted him to just 15 games in his first two seasons. He is a classy left footer but is quickly being overtaken by a number of midfield/wing players the same age.
Round 10 v Collingwood. This is the Lions' only Friday night match and comes directly before their bye. They were hammered by the Magpies at the Gabba in 2012, so this match should prove a great indicator of whether the Lions have improved or not. We should also know at that point whether the Lions are top-eight contenders or pretenders.
The Brisbane Lions will have a good year if …
Matthew Leuenberger plays all year. Although Billy Longer has made tremendous strides, you can't expect a 19-year-old to shoulder the ruck burden. Leuenberger is coming back from an Achilles injury that wrecked 2012, and at his best is among the competition's elite. His tap-work will give Moloney, Black and Redden a good chance to feed the outside runners plenty of ball.
AFL.com.au predicted ladder finish: 11th