DAYNE Zorko says the many messages he received from rival captains after Cameron Rayner's season-ending knee injury reflect how highly the Brisbane midfielder is regarded.
But while Rayner was set to feature in the midfield as the Lions hunted a premiership, Zorko said their depth meant the loss of the 2017 No.1 draft pick could be covered this year.
The ACL tear Rayner suffered in Monday's pre-season clash with Gold Coast will require surgery, derailing a 2021 campaign that promised plenty for a 21-year-old who appeared in career-best shape.
"Cam's obviously extremely disappointed and upset as you'd expect but he's kept his spirits high," Zorko said.
"I received a lot of messages from other captains sending their well wishes; it's an injury no one wants to see and Cam's such a loved player, he's got such an exciting, bright future.
"He's a special talent, a former No.1 pick so I think it's great the whole AFL got around him and he'll use that as motivation."
Zorko is among the many options at Chris Fagan's disposal for more midfield time and it gives him optimism they won't lose ground after two seasons of back-to-back second-place finishes.
"We want to win for Cam; he's a real energiser who brings an infectious smile and infectious attitude and he'll get around the boys like he does always," Zorko said.
"He's an exceptional talent and brings a lot of what we were hoping to add to our midfield but we have a lot of depth and can certainly replace him."
Zorko and Suns co-captain Jarrod Witts traded tee shots at a Brisbane driving range before next week's opening round of the AFL.
The Suns pushed the Lions in Monday's clash but, in a reflection of what's happened across their seasons in general the last two years, faded late.
There is hype around the Suns though with Matt Rowell fit again after shoulder surgery and a host of new talent bolstering their depth.
"As you saw on Monday night we've got a lot of work to do," Witts said.
"We bought in for a half but we couldn't stop their momentum that they gained in that third quarter.
"We'd love to play finals but ... time will tell; we think we've done the work to go for longer during the season."