COVERING the absence of Lachie Neale for the next eight weeks is a challenge Brisbane should relish.

It's also a challenge that should give Rhys Mathieson a chance to revitalise his career.

For most of Chris Fagan's four-plus years at the helm, the Lions have been blessed with good fortune on the injury front, but 2021 is throwing up some obstacles.

First it was Cam Rayner's ACL, and then setbacks to structural lynchpins Darcy Gardiner and Dan McStay played a small role in Brisbane's slow start to the season.

Behind dual All-Australian Harris Andrews, there could be no greater hole than losing the Brownlow medallist, who underwent surgery on Monday for a syndesmosis injury.

Neale has not missed a game since coming to Brisbane at the end of 2018, running out 49 straight times.

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Lions pair go down in first quarter

Darcy Gardiner has been subbed out early with concussion while Lachie Neale suffered a potential ankle injury, both in the opening term

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He's played sore this year, battling a calf injury through pre-season and then a back problem that restricted his ability to train in the early rounds.

Regardless, Neale has averaged 25 disposals, 12 contested, and six clearances a game through six rounds. Not bad for a guy down on his best.

How does Brisbane fill that hole? Not just in the 22, but more specifically his inside midfield role.

They face Port Adelaide, Fremantle, Gold Coast and Richmond in the next month.

On the surface there's a number of options for Fagan and his match committee, as the Lions have prioritised developing multi-positional players over the years.

The obvious choice is Mathieson, but we'll get back to him.

Jarrod Berry (adductor) should be available again soon, with his 192cm frame and powerful endurance running built to play both inside the contest and outside it.

Cam Ellis-Yolmen was recruited by the club 18 months ago to play the role of midfield enforcer, but his nine games in Lions colours have been inconsistent.

Cam Ellis-Yolmen in action against Geelong in the 2020 preliminary final. Picture: AFL Photos

The 28-year-old powerhouse is an option, as Fagan showed when he went to him in last year's preliminary final, but not likely until he puts more VFL form on the board.

Third-year midfielder Ely Smith suffered an ankle injury at the wrong time and is out of contention for the immediate future at least, while Deven Robertson has impressed in his few chances and could slide into a more prominent role.

But it all points to Mathieson.

Now in his sixth season, the 24-year-old has played 48 games, including just one this year, where he was the unused medical sub in the opening round against Sydney.

Aside from his fine pre-season and terrific VFL (practice and premiership games) form, the biggest thing in Mathieson's favour is Brisbane's reversion to its 2020 blueprint.

Rhys Mathieson in action during his only senior game of 2020 - against North Melbourne in round 12. Picture: AFL Photos

Fagan was keen to inject speed into his midfield this year, and although Rayner's absence put a big dent in those plans, he persisted in the first month.

In meant more minutes for Zac Bailey, Lincoln McCarthy and even Charlie Cameron on occasions, around the ball.

However, following the round four loss to the Western Bulldogs – which left the Lions with a 1-3 win-loss record – it was decided to go back to what the Lions knew.

That meant keeping Neale, Jarryd Lyons and Dayne Zorko at most centre bounces, Berry and Hugh McCluggage on the wings, and McCarthy and Cameron in the forward line where they could do what they do best – rove and pressure defensively.

Which is right up Mathieson's alley.

The popular midfielder is out of contract at the end of the year and deserves a chance to press his case in Neale's absence.

He is a fierce ball-hunter and has worked diligently on his defensive running in the past two or three years.

Mathieson is also capable of kicking goals (24 in his career).

Neale's absence is undoubtedly a blow for Brisbane, but it is good enough to move on for part of the season without him and unearth some depth it might need later in the year.