LACHIE Neale is set to return for Brisbane against Collingwood this weekend, but an equally important piece for the Lions is on the way back after a long absence.

Versatile defender Darcy Gardiner has been out since dislocating his shoulder against Gold Coast in round nine and subsequently undergoing surgery.

Although the 25-year-old is not a household name around the League, to the Lions he means everything.

Just prior to boarding a plane bound for Brisbane after 10 days on the road in Launceston and Perth, Ryan Lester said Gardiner had the trust of every teammate.

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Important Lion carried off with shoulder injury

Darcy Gardiner has been taken off the field with a shoulder injury during the third term

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"I think Dizz (Gardiner) is one of the most under-rated players, certainly at our club," Lester said.

"He helps out Harris (Andrews) massively in that he can play on the best tall forward or if it's more of a medium-small type, he can also play on that type of player.

"His game is based on being really competitive and a prick of a thing to play against.

"He plays on heart and being competitive, so no matter how rusty he is you know what sort of effort you're going to get from him."

Gardiner was a late scratching from last year's preliminary final loss to Geelong with a knee injury that hindered him right through pre-season.

He played his first game in round four against the Western Bulldogs with no match play under his belt, six months after last lining up in a qualifying final against Richmond.

"He's played 120-odd games, so he's been a long-time player in the backline for us, so for guys like me and Harris and Richy … those relationships are there, and the trust is there straight away," Lester said.

"We know exactly what he's going to do."

Neale had a bout of gastro that kept him out of Sunday's win over Fremantle, but is expected to be available to play the Magpies.

Lachie Neale watches the Lions' win over Fremantle in round 21, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Lester said the time away from home had been enjoyable.

"At the start of last week we made a conscious effort, players and staff, to make the most of the time away we had together and make it a positive environment," he said.

"As a playing group and leaders we were pretty disappointed in the way we played against Hawthorn, the first half against the Gold Coast and probably the two weeks prior to that as well.

"A little bit of "enough is enough" and let's get back to being the really good, hard team to play against we have been over the last three years now."