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Ruckmen break down as blockbuster takes new angle
Brisbane Lions Football Club
Fri 1 June, 2001


The Brisbane Lions suffered a major blow at training tonight when big ruckman Beau McDonald tweaked a hamstring, but in a remarkable coincidence Essendon rival John Barnes also broke down and won’t play tomorrow night.
Both clubs were forced to bring inexperienced one-gamers into their line-ups – Jamie Charman by the Lions and David Hille by the Bombers. Giant Trent Knobel, who has played three senior games for the Lions this season, was unavailable after dislocating an elbow in the reserves last week.
The good news for the Lions was that key midfielders Michael Voss and Craig McRae passed solid fitness tests before training and will play in the Gabba blockbuster.
Queenslander Charman debuted in the Round 5 match against Fremantle on April 25 and had just three possessions – the same as Hille in his only game for the Bombers.
However, Charman will still be a back-up to matchwinner Clark Keating, while Hille will have to carry the ruckload pretty well solo because Steven Alessio is sidelined through injury.
Eighteen-year-old Charman is marginally shorter than Hille, who turns 20 on match day, and Charman can also play forward as a mobile marking target.
“Jamie wasn’t on the emergencies, but Beau seemed to do something to himself when he was out here before, a bit of hamstring tightness,” Matthews said at his regular Friday media conference before training tonight. “I knew about it 30 minutes ago – you know what I know.”
The loss of Barnes means the Lions retain their critical advantage in the ruck department, and much will depend on Keating’s ability to take control of the bounces. McDonald has done the bulk of the ruckwork in last two weeks with Keating returning from groin soreness.
Big Bomber defender Dustin Fletcher was named to play after missing last week, but the Lions match committee won’t complain if he doesn’t make it onto the ground.
“He’s regarded as good as any of the tall defenders in the game,” Matthews said. “They’re always a little bit vulnerable if he’s not there.”
Matthews discarded any suggestions the Lions would be tempted to rush their own brilliant defender Justin Leppitsch back into the team as a last-minute surprise.
Leppitsch tore a hamstring six weeks ago and then re-injured it at a final training session before he was due to return a month ago.
“We have to decide whether to give him some match practice this weekend, but certainly not in the seniors,” Matthews said. “The only match practice is the reserves, and we’ll have to decide tonight whether it’s a quarter two.
“That would be a good build up if he’s going to play the following weekend, which is what we hope will happen.
“I’d love him to be in there (against Essendon) but you’ve just got to be logical – if you think he can theoretically play this weekend, it has to be next weekend. It always has to be like that. You always have to give it an extra week.”
Matthews was much more confident about Voss and McRae who, it goes almost without saying, add so much to the team.
“We’re fully expecting they’re okay,” Matthews said.
He said the Lions’ medical staff always thought McRae would be fit and changed his preparation to give him every chance. Instead of building up every day as he did last week, the medicos let his groin complaint settle down Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and tested it yesterday and today.
Voss was always confident he would play despite being on crutches after rolling an ankle in the third term of last week’s loss to Adelaide.
“He’s alright – they thought all week he’d be okay,” Matthews said, before Voss trained strongly. “He’s always said he’d be okay and whatever he’s done to this point seems to indicate he will be okay.”
Essendon superstars James Hird and Matthew Lloyd become more important in the context of the game considering the Bombers’ injury situation, and Matthews admitted Lloyd provided by far the biggest challenge to his unbeaten full-back Mal Michael to date.
“He’ll play on Lloyd and rightly so,” Matthews said. “There’s not too many gun full forwards around to be honest. You probably struggle to find a second one.
“That will be a really good test for Mal – he’s done the job on everybody to this point, but certainly the quality of the opposition will be at its best this week.”
Matthews understands that Essendon will get the ball forward at least 45 times irrespective of how well his team plays. “We’ve just got to make sure he (Lloyd) doesn’t get easy uncontested balls and keep the pressure on the ball carrier,” he said.
As for Hird, Matthews was initially reluctant to divulge whether he would tag the dynamic midfielder-forward, or have one of his players try and run off him.
“He’s a great player – I think you have to try and limit his effectiveness, I don’t think you’re going to try and play a shootout,” Matthews revealed.
Matthews last night on TV described his team’s job as similar to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Predator movie, where he had to slay an alien which at first appeared superhuman, but ultimately had a weakness.
“What I was basically saying is they’re (Essendon) flesh and blood, and flesh and blood is vulnerable,” he said.
Matthews also pointed out that the Lions had actually taken more shots at goal this year than the top side.
“It’s interesting we’ve had 276 scoring shots this year, they’ve had 272. But they’ve kicked 151-117 or something – their conversion has been much better than ours.
Matthews was asked about whether he had developed a special strategy to knock over the Bombers.
“A coaching strategy is never great until after the game, I can tell you that,” he said. “They’re never great before the game, they’re only just theoretical.
“In footy, if a side wins it’s usually coached well, and if the side loses everyone thinks you’ve coached badly, but it’s probably not as simple as that either way.”