IT WAS fitting on Sunday that Cam Rayner played the best game of his return from a ruptured ACL at the ground he suffered the injury at a little over 12 months ago.
Rayner gathered 20 disposals against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium – the third most of his 69-game career –added a goal and took five marks to go with three clearances in a terrific outing.
He put the concern of playing at the venue behind him in a pre-season hit-out against the Suns, and this time well-and-truly buried it with his best performance of 2022 to date.
Most importantly though, the power was back for Brisbane's dynamic 22-year-old, exploding clear of one tackler and evading another in his brilliant first-quarter goal.
Rayner also leapt strongly to take two overhead marks and was an important link in many Lions scoring chains.
The half-forward-turn-midfielder has had a strong start to the season after missing all of 2021 and told AFL.com.au there was plenty of room to get better.
"I feel like I've been building and building and building, and finally I'm starting to get a bit more confident out there and trust my body," Rayner said.
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"I feel like I'm getting back to my best.
"I didn't want to come out firing straight away, I wanted to build and build until the back end of the year."
Rayner had a quick chat with opponents Connor Budarick and Jarrod Witts on Sunday – both on the comeback from the same injury – to see if their experiences had been the same as his.
He said they all had a similar theme – the more games you play, the more consistent you'll be and the better you'll get.
Rayner still has a little rust, evidenced by missing two very gettable shots at goal, but with his improved endurance and gifts with ball-in-hand, is becoming a more valuable contributor by the week.
Rayner said it wasn't simply the two hours on match day that had helped him return though, but extra education to help understand his expanded midfield role.
"It's during the week to be honest," he said.
"I've put a lot more work into my footy this year than I have ever before during the week, with tapes, and trying to learn as much as I can with Lachie (Neale) and 'JL' (Jarryd Lyons).
"You can build the trust with the guys in the midfield and actually do your thing without worrying or hesitating about anything else.
"I think that's helped me the most.
"My running has got better, and I feel like I'm covering the ground a lot more, which is helpful."