BRISBANE dynamo Cam Rayner has called for patience as fellow ACL returnee Eric Hipwood battles to find his best form for the Lions.
Rayner missed the entire 2021 campaign after suffering the devastating knee injury during that pre-season, while Hipwood joined him on the sidelines after an identical setback against St Kilda last July.
While the former No.1 draft pick has had a strong 2022 after getting an entire pre-season under his belt, things have been a little tougher for Hipwood, who rejoined the Lions' senior team in round nine.
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The rangy forward has kicked nine goals in 10 games as he regains continuity alongside fellow talls Joe Daniher and Dan McStay.
Rayner said those questioning Hipwood's form should have a harder think.
"It's probably a lot easier to say that sitting from the couch when you haven't gone through it yourself," Rayner said.
"Eric's come back early … I feel like he's been copping a bit of heat when it's a lot harder for a bloke that size to come back from that injury.
"He's starting to find some form, which is good.
"We expect Eric to bring a contest and bring the energy he always does, and he's done that every game this year. That's all we can ask from him.
"As a forward line group when he's clicking we're a better team. The more we can help him to play better footy, the better it's going to be for us."
Hipwood, Daniher and McStay formed a difficult trio to match up on last year, winning 10 of 11 games when they played together.
Despite the lack of continuity this season, the Lions are still the highest-scoring team in the AFL and Rayner says there's more to come.
"I still don't think we've played our best footy this year," he said.
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"To say we've won some games without playing our best footy is probably a good thing.
"When we get all our gears clicking and really start playing some good footy, I think we can do some special things as a group, and our forward line is a big part of that.
"The more footy we play together and the more continuity we get, the better."