The wounded Brisbane Lions are optimistic midfielder Pearce Hanley will join rugged defender Daniel Merrett as key reinforcements for their Anzac Day clash with St Kilda.
Lions vice-captain Tom Rockliff revealed Hanley is on track for a surprise early return from his hamstring tear for the AFL’s venture to Wellington.
The slick Irishman suffered the injury in their 113-point round four capitulation to Port Adelaide and was expected to be out for four weeks, but will undergo a fitness test before Brisbane cross the Tasman.
They are already certain to have Merrett back from suspension, while goalsneak Josh Green is poised for his first start this season after overcoming his own hamstring problem.
It’s not quite the cavalry for the winless Lions, who were missing eight of their best 22 against Richmond on Thursday, but a significant boost.
Hanley was the Lions most dangerous midfielder last year when he finished second in the club’s best and fairest count, while Green was their third best goalkicker.
“I think we’ll have three or four changes this week,” Rockliff told AAP.
“Early signs suggest (Hanley) can get up.
“Fingers are crossed he can get through his fitness test.”
The only team without a win this season, there’s extra pressure on Brisbane to succeed in Wellington with games against Sydney, Essendon and North Melbourne to follow.
They could easily be 0-9 going into their round 10 bye.
Rockliff has been bullish throughout the year about the direction of the club under new coach Justin Leppitsch, however rebuilding is now the focus.
“We’re definitely in that rebuild phase but one thing you can’t compromise on ever is your effort,” he said. “At times during the year we have dropped off, in games, on that.
“A nice four-quarter effort against St Kilda would be fantastic.”
Rockliff rated Saints spearhead Nick Riewoldt in career-best form and said Merrett’s return to Brisbane’s defence was timely.
After coming back to lead the Tigers in the third quarter at the Gabba, the Lions were promptly blown away.
“We’re still young and learning the game but to let through five goals in five minutes is never acceptable,” Adcock said.
“But I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom.
“We’ve shown signs that we can go with the best teams in the comp for long periods of a game.”