The Brisbane Lions have welcomed back their big guns for the AFL trial against the Gold Coast Suns in Townsville.
The cavalry has arrived for Brisbane ahead of Sunday’s AFL pre-season clash with Gold Coast in Townsville.
But Lions critic Matthew Lloyd might struggle to provide an accurate pre-season assessment of Brisbane this weekend after the Suns lived up to their promise of resting their stars.
Essendon great Lloyd was scathing of an understrength Lions after their opening 131-point trial loss to powerhouse Hawthorn last week, saying they looked set to be in a “world of pain” in 2014.
Brisbane fielded 17 players with less than 20 games of AFL experience against the Hawks along with nine getting their first taste of senior footy.
However, the Lions have brought back the big guns for the Townsville trial, making 11 changes including captain Jed Adcock, deputy Tom Rockliff, dual club champion Joel Patfull, Daniel Rich and Pearce Hanley.
Jack Redden, Daniel Merrett, Matthew Leuenberger, Brent Moloney, Claye Beams – back from a knee reconstruction – and ex-Richmond utility Luke McGuane have also been picked.
However, it might still be hard to gauge the Lions’ 2014 prospects when they line against a Suns outfit resting inspirational captain and 2013 Brownlow Medallist Gary Ablett, Michael Rischitelli, Jaeger O’Meara, Trent McKenzie and David Swallow.
Still, Lions head of coaching and development Peter Schwab said their next two trials – including a March 8 clash with Sydney on the Sunshine Coast – were key stepping stones toward the 2014 AFL season.
“The next two games are critically important for us,” he said.
“We want to get the best possible team on the paddock and to get the gameplan flowing from there.”
Asked if his side were demoralised by the opening loss to Hawthorn, Schwab said: “Not at all.
“It was an extraordinary learning experience. That is what they have to aspire to.
“They can only improve. They are not going to get worse, I can tell you that.”
For the Suns, Harley Bennell makes his first pre-season appearance after nursing a tight calf in recent weeks.
Karmichael Hunt has also been named in an extended squad.
Charlie Dixon, Tom Lynch and Sam Day will again spearhead their attack.
Schwab had no problem with the Suns copying the Lions’ tactic and resting their stars.
“Each club will take a different approach (in the pre-season),” he said.
“The Gold Coast are on the improve. They have an outstanding midfield. They have been able to secure some great talent over the last few years.”
Brisbane boast 1201 games of senior AFL experience.
Former skipper Jonathan Brown (foot), Ash McGrath (calf) and Brent Staker (calf) were not considered by the Lions.