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Who to watch out for in the JLT Community Series

Michael Gosman  February 26, 2018 2:17 PM

 - Brisbane Lions

The Brisbane Lions start their JLT Community Series this Saturday against the Sydney Swans at Burpengary, before taking on the Gold Coast Suns the following weekend at Southport.

After the cancellation of the Lions’ second intra-club last Friday due to the wet weather, Chris Fagan looks likely to name a near full strength team for both matches, especially as he values building a winning culture even if the match isn't for points.

Here are five things to keep an eye out for in the Lions' two pre-season games.

Back six

While he may not play both of the two pre-season matches, it will be interesting to see what influence Luke Hodge has on tightening up the Lions’ defence. 

It’s well documented that the Lions have let in too many points in recent times and the key to moving up the ladder in 2018 will be improving on this. Another full pre-season can only prove beneficial to the Lions’ young defensive group.

Hodge’s experience and mentoring over the offseason will hopefully make a big impact on Saturday against the Swans, even if he isn’t on the field.

If Hodge were to sit this weekend's match out, Swans spearhead Lance Franklin will be an excellent first-up challenge for Lions key defender Harris Andrews. 

Second-year emerging stars

Hugh McCluggage starred at the Lions’ intra-club a few weeks ago and, with a bulked up frame, is on track for a big 2018. 

His housemate, Jarrod Berry, overcame a delayed start to this year's pre-season and has been a midfield brute on the training track recently.

Both extended their playing contracts with the Lions last year and will form a strong midfield nucleus with established stars Dayne Beams and Dayne Zorko. 

Small forwards

Charlie Cameron, Mitch Robinson, Allen Christensen and Cam Rayner are new or returning faces who are all capable of boosting the Lions’ attacking ability this season. 

The quartet appears likely to form part of a new-look Lions’ forward line that can pressure opponents all day long and lock the ball inside the forward half. 

Robinson and Christensen were impressive at the recent AFLX tournament with their skills and attack on the ball, while Rayner has settled in well at the Club. 

Cameron is a known quantity and brings a touch of x-factor to the Lions.

Improvement from all

Chris Fagan's first year in charge saw many players, and not just young ones, improve. 

Josh Walker, Ryan Bastinac, Lewy Taylor and Sam Mayes are players that spring to mind.  

As Fagan's second year gets underway, Lions fans will be excited to who else will be stepping up in 2018. 

Based on pre-season and the intra-club, look out for Tom Cutler, Tom Bell, Rhys Mathieson, Oscar McInerney and Nick Robertson to put forward big performances in the JLT matches. 

Final spots

With just under a month to go until the season begins against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, there are still plenty of spots up for grabs in the Lions’ final 22.

There are 15 or so players who appear locked for spots, but the JLT matches could change that.

Rayner looks set to be the first new draftee to debut, but could AFLX star Zac Bailey or monster defender Jack Payne spring a surprise?

And will Mitch Robinson, Allen Christensen and Tom Bell earn back Senior spots after missing most of 2017 through injury?

The JLT matches will also be the perfect opportunity for established players to try out less familiar positions. Fagan has talked in the past about trying Eric Hipwood in defence and building versatility in all players. 

The Lions’ team for Saturday’s JLT match against the Swans will be named on Thursday at 2pm AEST.

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