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 wont 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 wasnt 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 Keatings 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 wont complain if he doesnt make it onto the ground.
Hes regarded as good as any of the tall defenders in the game, Matthews said. Theyre always a little bit vulnerable if hes 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 well have to decide tonight whether its a quarter two.
That would be a good build up if hes going to play the following weekend, which is what we hope will happen.
Id love him to be in there (against Essendon) but youve 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.
Were fully expecting theyre 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 weeks loss to Adelaide.
Hes alright they thought all week hed be okay, Matthews said, before Voss trained strongly. Hes always said hed be okay and whatever hes 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.
Hell play on Lloyd and rightly so, Matthews said. Theres 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 hes 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. Weve just got to make sure he (Lloyd) doesnt 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.
Hes a great player I think you have to try and limit his effectiveness, I dont think youre going to try and play a shootout, Matthews revealed.
Matthews last night on TV described his teams 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 theyre (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.
Its interesting weve had 276 scoring shots this year, theyve had 272. But theyve 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. Theyre never great before the game, theyre only just theoretical.
In footy, if a side wins its usually coached well, and if the side loses everyone thinks youve coached badly, but its probably not as simple as that either way.