Former No. 1 draft pick Cameron Rayner has suffered a suspected ACL tear, but Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan says it could drive the club to great heights this season.
Brisbane senior coach Chris Fagan said the suspected season-ending knee injury to young gun Cam Rayner could inspire the Lions to greater heights in 2021.
Rayner went crashing to the Metricon Stadium turf in the second quarter of Brisbane’s 28-point win over Gold Coast in the AAMI Community Series pre-season clash and the early diagnosis from Lions medical staff is that he will require a knee reconstruction.
The 2017 No.1 draft pick will have scans on Tuesday to assess the extent of the damage but Brisbane is fearing the worst after Rayner’s foot went the opposite direction to his leg and he writhed in pain on the ground.
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He was immediately assessed and was visibly upset before returning to the bench with his knee heavily iced.
The Lions trailed by 29 points late in the second term against a fierce Suns but Brisbane kicked the next 11 goals to cruise home with the Rayner injury putting a major dampener on the win given his eye-catching pre-season had him ready to launch to a new level in 2021.
Fagan said the club as a whole was “sad” about Rayner’s fate but his teammates could dedicate their campaign to the much-loved midfielder/forward who rises to the big occasions.
“They’ll be super disappointed for him, there’s no doubt about that but in another way, they’ll probably be inspired to rise to another level,’’ Fagan said.
“He is a good man, a very popular teammate. He’s the first guy when someone is a bit down…he’s the first one to them to pick them up and dust them off and encourage them so we’ll be doing plenty of that over the next few weeks.
“I know he’ll be trying to find a way to influence the group.
“It’s not great…I saw it happen, I thought that’s an ACL. That’s what our physios think, obviously we have to get scans and all that done but that’s the way it’s looking at this time which is a real pity.
“I reckon he was about to take off, Cam Rayner, as a player. He’s had such a good pre-season. So, it’s disappointing for him that this has happened.
“It will build his character though. I know he’ll still continue to lead around our footy club. He’ll try and find a way to make the most of this opportunity.’’
Fagan said the way Brisbane bounced back from a dismal first half was encouraging with the Swans awaiting the Lions in Round 1.
“It’s probably something that we haven’t really done as a team a great deal, the last four years. We talked about the opportunity to do that at halftime…we still wanted to try and win the second half because we were really poor in the first half and they were really good,’’ he said.
“They attacked the footy, they hunted in packs, their speed was up so it was good to have that conversation. I thought some of our leaders really stood up in that third quarter like (Dayne) Zorko, Lachie Neale, they all stepped it up and the game turned on its ear pretty quickly.
“By and large it was a really good hit out for your final practice game because we had to fight hard to win tonight. I’d rather have that preparation than have an easy win because we’ve got to play Sydney in two weeks time and they give you a real test every time you play them.’’
Fagan said first-year player Harry Sharp caught the eye along with forward/ruckman Tom Fullarton who kicked two goals. He was also happy with the work of star recruit Joe Daniher who booted three goals and pinch-hit in the ruck.
Gold Coast senior coach Stuart Dew said his side was blown off the park after halftime and declared that second-year sensation Matt Rowell was a certain starter for Round 1.
“He’s good to go (for round one).We were able to manage his minutes … he felt really good,’’ Dew said.
“By his own accord he thought he was a bit rusty, but he’s a hard marker on himself, last week. He’s always been on track for this position and it’s good to have him back.
“We dropped away, no doubt. First half, we controlled the ball and in the end we probably wasted opportunities.
In the third quarter there was a barrage. We let them in…it was polar opposites.”
The Lions kicked 11 unanswered goals from late in the second term to midway through the final term to blow the Suns off their home ground and claim an 18.9 (117) to 13.11 (89) win to warm-up for their Round 1 clash with Sydney.
The Gold Coast kicked six straight goals either side of quarter-time to lead by as much as 29 points after dominating Brisbane early.
The Suns had 75 more disposals at halftime and had 43 inside entries to Brisbane’s 14 with Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale kept to just seven touches by the main break.
But two goals to captain Dayne Zorko and majors to Joe Daniher, Charlie Cameron, Tom Fullarton, Harry Sharp and Mitch Robinson dramatically swung the momentum back in favour of Brisbane with the Suns managing just two behinds for the term.
Neale (25 disposals, eight clearances, 13 contested possessions), Jarrod Berry and Jarryd Lyons turned the match around in the midfield in the third term for Brisbane while Alex Sexton finished with six goals for the Suns.
BRISBANE LIONS 3.0 5.0 12.8 18.9 (117)
GOLD COAST SUNS 3.3 8.5 8.7 13.11 (89)
Brisbane: Cameron 4, Daniher 3, Bailey 2, Zorko 2, Fullarton 2, Hipwood, Sharp, Robinson, McCarthy, Berry
Gold Coast: Sexton 6, Day 3, King 2, Weller, Brodie
Brisbane: Neale, Lyons, Berry, Cameron, Bailey, Zorko
Gold Coast: Collins, Sexton, Weller, Markov, Powell, Day
IN A NUTSHELL
The suspected knee reconstruction for Cam Rayner robs Brisbane of a dynamic player that can impact a game both in the middle and up forward. After a big pre-season, he was ready to take his game to another level. This is a significant blow because Rayner stands tall in the big moments. As impressive as Brisbane was during its third quarter blitz, the way the Suns demolished the Lions in the first half was a timely reminder for Brisbane that the deeds of 2019 and 2020 count for nothing in 2021. They are the hunted, not the hunters.
Nobody will kick sand in the face of the Suns in 2021 if they can put four quarters together. They were smashed by Brisbane last week but returned the favour for two terms before best-and-fairest winner Sam Collins left the match. Sam Day and Alex Sexton were a dynamic duo up front and midfield star Matt Rowell emerged unscathed. A burst out of the centre in the first term set-up a goal for Day while he was tackled heavily a number of times which tested out his rebuilt shoulder. Will Powell was also very classy with his ball use most of the night.
Rhys Mathieson and Ely Smith reserves match earlier in the day to get a full game under their belts. They were part of the senior squad in the practice match against the Suns last week and remain a chance to force their way into the first-choice 22 for Round 1, especially with Rayner out of the midfield mix. Tom Fullarton had some very nice touches and two goals in his eye-catching audition for Brisbane’s third tall forward option.
The Suns enjoyed a good win in the VFL and the quartet of Nick Holman, Brayden Fiorini, Sean Lemmens and Sam Flanders all putting their hands up for Round 1. The way the Suns backline crumbled in the second half with Sam Collins rested, will put the defenders under the microscope. Darcy MacPherson and Will Brodie probably sewed up their spots in the best 22 for Round 1.
ONES TO WATCH
It was ‘Joe Daniher Watch’ early after the new Lions recruit tore the Suns apart in the practice match last week with four goals. It was a much harder night for Daniher with the Gold Coast’s best defender Sam Collins matched-up with the 2017 All-Australian. Daniher dropped a mark early and a shot at goal sailed out of bounds before he kicked his first goal of the match after a strong mark late in the second term. Collins was rested in the second half and Daniher made the most of it when he out-muscled Caleb Graham for his second major. A third goal was part of Brisbane’s rampage in the third term.
Speedster Oleg Markov had 10 touches by quarter-time and 15 by halftime to continue his good pre-season since switching from Richmond. Even a “Falcon” from Markov helped the Suns kicked a goal when he headbutted the Sherrin in the first term. Will Powell looks ready to take a step up.
Cam Rayner’s knee injury will give Brisbane powerbrokers a sleepless night. Meanwhile, Daniel McStay and Darcy Gardiner both missed the derby with knee injuries. Dogged defender Gardiner has already been ruled out of Round 1 by Chris Fagan but is in the frame for a return in Round 2. McStay hurt his knee at training during the week. There were initial fears that McStay’s injury could be quite serious, but the best-case scenario is that the athletic swingman is out for three weeks which would see him miss the season opener and be knocking on the door for a possible return in Round 2.
Excitement machine Izak Rankine hurt his ankle at training last week and was rested more as a precaution. He is expected to be fit for Round 1 given he was running around at Metricon Stadium on Monday afternoon. New recruit Rory Atkins did not play against Brisbane as the ex-Crow works his way back from a foot injury. He resumed training last week and is unlikely to be considered for Round 2 given his lack of match practice. Sam Collins was rested in the second half.