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6:02pm  Mar 23, 2018

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5:34pm  Mar 23, 2018

Hodge excited for first game

Laine Clarke, AAP  March 9, 2018 9:49 AM

Luke Hodge on his first game as a Lion Luke Hodge is expected to play his first game as a Lion this weekend, so we had a chat to him about how he's faired in pre-season and what we can expect from the game.

If all goes to plan, Luke Hodge will create something much more important than a revival at the rebuilding Brisbane Lions.

He will create a legacy.

The once mighty Lions haven't played finals since 2009, and an inexperienced Brisbane don't look like racking up enough wins to end that drought after collecting the 2017 wooden spoon in coach Chris Fagan's first year at the helm.

While they would be nice, victories are far from the first thing on ex-Hawks football manager Fagan's mind ahead of 2018 after luring Hodge out of retirement and reuniting at the Lions in the off-season.

Hodge won four premierships – three as captain – in his stellar 305-game career at Hawthorn.

Hodge, who turns 34 in June, won't spend anywhere near as much time at the Lions, and while it remains to be seen exactly how many games he will actually play, Fagan is convinced the veteran defender will make just as much impact on his young Brisbane squad as he did at his beloved Hawks.

"I want him to leave a legacy," Fagan said.

"He is here for a couple of years. He wants to make as big an impact on those guys as he can, so when he does leave what he has grown doesn't disappear – it lives on."

The veteran four-time premiership player has been named in the Lions' squad to take on the Gold Coast Suns on Sunday.

“I’m extremely excited and can’t wait,” Hodge said.

The biggest adjustment for Hodge this pre-season has been getting used to the new men around him.

“I guess the hardest part was knowing my teammates and understanding what their strengths and weaknesses are,” he said.

Hodge will look to rally a young defensive line boasting deputy vice-captain Harris Andrews and 2017 Rising Star nomination Alex Witherden.

The Lions defence conceded 2526 points last season, over 200 points more than the next-worst outfit, Gold Coast.

While Andrews has been identified as a 10-year leader of the Lions back six, Witherden is also set to blossom after playing nine games at just 18 last year, averaging 23 touches.

New draftee Jack Payne is someone who has also caught Hodge's eye, especially after he took on Sydney Swans star Lance Franklin on the weekend. 

“His strengths are his speed and how powerful he is a young bloke. He’s still learning the game as all young, key position players are,” Hodge said.

“I think he’ll take just as much confidence out of playing against Buddy and having his first hit out.”

There will be just as much pressure in 2018 on the Lions' midfield, namely captain Dayne Beams and his deputy Dayne Zorko after ex-skipper Tom Rockliff's off-season defection to Port.

Big things are also expected from No.1 draft pick, midfielder Cameron Rayner.

Since their round 11 bye Brisbane were rated first in the AFL, scoring at 51.7 per cent and kicking a goal at 28.7 per cent once they got the ball inside 50m, according to Champion Data.

They just didn't get the ball in there enough, Fagan says.

"It's clear to us after our review that we were good at scoring when we gave ourselves an opportunity – we just didn't do that enough," he said.

"Statistically we were also very poor at contested ball.

"But with ball in hand we can play some exciting football. We just need to give ourselves a chance to score and get the pressure off our defence."

Brisbane have high hopes that ex-Crow Charlie Cameron can form a formidable combination up front with Eric Hipwood after his off-season trade.

"Charlie is an energetic, enthusiastic bloke – he has fit in so well with the group," Fagan said.

"He has unbelievable speed and played in a grand final (2017), so he will add his voice on the field.

"He has surprised me. For 23 he has a fair capacity for leadership."

Brisbane will hope to avoid a bottom-two finish for the first time in four seasons after notching just five wins last year, but Fagan won't rate their 2018 improvement on victories.

"We haven't set the bar on how many wins. We have got other things to measure it by," he said.

"Last year there was an improvement in all sorts of stats plus game understanding, structures, attitude in games.

"Although we finished on the bottom, I thought we were heading in the right direction."