Dayne Zorko has lauded the increased depth at Brisbane Lions. Picture: Peter Wallis
Dayne Zorko has lauded the increased depth at Brisbane Lions. Picture: Peter Wallis

Zorko lauds Lions’ increased depth

BRISBANE'S off-season spotlight focused firmly on high-profile recruits Lachie Neale and Jarryd Lyons but Dayne Zorko says there's more to the Brisbane Lions than their gun rovers.

Speaking ahead of Saturday night's season-opening showdown against reigning premiers West Coast, Zorko ranked the club's list as the best he's seen and praised their new-found depth.

"We haven't had this since I've been at the club. I've been here for eight years now and there's … probably upwards of 30 players who could put their hand up to play round one this year," he said.

"That competition drives success and that's something we're chasing (this year)."

The inclusion of Neale and Lyons will likely free up space for Zorko to operate through the middle, or vice versa, but the Lions skipper said more credit should go to those operating outside of the midfield.

"(I think) the guys who keep getting forgotten about are Lincoln McCarthy, Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry."

"These are guys who've made fantastic inroads in their pre-seasons this year and developed probably more in this year than in previous years, so that's really exciting for me to see the development of these guys coming through."

Lachie Neale has impressed during the pre-season.
Lachie Neale has impressed during the pre-season.

Zorko also highlighted the value of Ryan Bastinac in freeing up the corridor.

"It's great having additions like Jarryd and Lachie who have a lot of experience but I feel like all my teammates will make me better this year."

The increased depth has provided coach Chris Fagan with the unenviable task of splitting ruckmen Stef Martin and Archie Smith at the selection table after all but guaranteeing Oscar McInerney a round one starting berth.

The move adds even more intrigue to the pre-season battle between 158-gamer Martin and boom rookie Smith which was sparked by the latter's bold bid to clinch the number 1 rucking role last week.

Smith's declaration prompted Martin to fiercely defend his tag as Brisbane's top clearance specialist on Monday, saying his body of work for the Lions will hold sway at selection this week.

 

Archie Smith is pushing Stefan Martin for number one ruck duties at Brisbane Lions.
Archie Smith is pushing Stefan Martin for number one ruck duties at Brisbane Lions.

 

In-house rivalry can only be good for a club looking to claw back up the AFL ladder but with the versatile McInerney impressing upfront during the JLT Series, Fagan will likely deploy all 205cm of him in the forward line against West Coast on Saturday.

That leaves Martin and Smith - and Fagan knows his choice will leave a player hurting.

"Yeah, it'll be a tough call," he said.

"Archie's been good over the pre-season, Stef played really well against Melbourne (when) he returned from injury, Oscar who plays forward but is also a very good ruckman is also in that equation, so it'll be one of the things we debate for sure.

 

Stefan Martin could find himself on the outer at Brisbane.
Stefan Martin could find himself on the outer at Brisbane.

"Oscar's certainly proved that he can play forward so we'll probably play two of them.

 

"It's probably down to a choice between Stef and Archie."

Fagan certainly wasn't giving anything away, deflecting requests for who looked likely to start as "private information" but an offhand remark may have revealed his hand.

"We tend to stick with guys that have got a few runs on the board and a bit of experience," he said.

"But, I don't think we can play all three of them."

News Corp Australia

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