AFL: Brisbane Lions star Cam Rayner to make long-awaited comeback in trial against Adelaide Crows
Brisbane Lions captain Dayne Zorko remains wrapped in cotton wool, but fit-again Cam Rayner will be unleashed on the Adelaide Crows at Metricon Stadium on Friday.
Having had a “minor procedure” on his ankle last week, Zorko won’t play in the trial against the Crows or in another pre-season clash next week against the Western Bulldogs.
Instead, the Lions are saving their 33-year-old skipper for their round one clash against Port Adelaide at the Gabba on March 19.
“He was back running (on Wednesday),” Lions coach Chris Fagan said.
“The main thing is the operation itself was very minor, but there’s just the wound healing, so we’ve got to watch out for infections. That’s why we’ve been careful not to run him too quickly.”
“He’s got this core of work he’s done over a 10-year period. I’ve found over the years with the older guys … they don’t necessarily need as much prep over the pre-season because they’ve got that base, and that will hold him in good stead.”
Zorko’s absence is likely to allow the returning Rayner to spend more time in the midfield against the Crows.
Having missed the entire 2021 season after rupturing the ACL in his right knee in a trial against the Gold Coast Suns last March, Rayner has surprised Fagan with how well he has played in intra-club trials in recent weeks.
“Sometimes after 12 months out and not playing, you can be a bit scratchy, but it appears to me that he just couldn’t wait for the opportunity to play again,” the Lions coach said.
“He’s learnt a lot in his time off, so he’ll play more time in the midfield this year.
“He’s been able to spend a little more time looking at vision, talking to other players, talking to coaches (and) learning himself by watching.
“If you’re not playing, it increases the hunger sometimes.
“He was looking for other ways to develop, even if he wasn’t playing. He hasn’t wasted that 12 months. He’s tried to make the most of it.”
The Lions-Crows trial will be followed on Friday by a practice match between Gold Coast Suns and Port Adelaide.
The double-header will allow Fagan to get a close look at Port, and similarly give Port coach Ken Hinkley a chance to study the Lions closely.
It could lead to the Lions and Port not showing their entire bag of tricks.
“The pre-season’s really about setting yourself for round one,” Fagan said.
“I will try some things (on Friday), and I’m not sure whether they’ll work or not. It might affect our performance negatively, but if you don’t try these things in the next two weeks, when do you actually do it?
“Once four points is up for grabs, you’re not taking too many risks.”
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