BRISBANE'S injury toll has paved the way for young key forward Connor Ballenden to debut against Essendon on Friday night.

And he could spend time opposing Bomber Sam Draper, who will also make his debut

ROUNDS 9-12 Check out the full fixture

Ballenden is a Lions Academy graduate and is in his third season on the list.

Standing 200cm and tipping the scales at 101kg, the 21-year-old has played as a key forward, key defender and ruckman at reserves level.

Ballenden will replace Archie Smith (ankle) and provide support for Oscar McInerney in the ruck.

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Match Previews R9: Essendon v Brisbane

Sportsbet's Nathan Brown and Matthew Richardson preview the game between the Bombers and Lions at Metricon Stadium

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"He's done some hard yards," Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said.

"I'm sure when he gets his opportunity he's going to step up to the plate.

THE LADDER Where is your team sitting?

"He kicked four goals against West Coast in a reserves practice game, has been competing well, making second and third efforts."

With key forward Dan McStay suspended – expected to be replaced by one-gamer Sam Skinner – and Smith, Daniel Rich (hamstring) and Ryan Lester (hamstring) all missing from Sunday's win over Melbourne, it will be a new-look Lions.

After carrying a steady line-up for most of the past three seasons, Fagan said it was exciting to see some new faces.

THE FULL INJURY LIST Who is racing the clock?

"I'm really confident the group of players underneath a) will be hungry and b) will be talented enough to acquit themselves really well and come in and fulfil their roles for the team," he said.

"We've been fortunate with injury this year …. a few have struck all at once but we're still relatively healthy and no doubt, it's always the case, but teams win matches and squads win premierships.

"You need depth in your squad and we hope we can prove what we have this weekend."

Draper, 21, finally breaks through for his first senior game after arriving at the club in the 2016 NAB AFL Rookie Draft. 

The 203cm, 107kg ruckman was on the cusp of senior selection before rupturing his ACL in the VFL in May last year.