Connor Ballenden will make his AFL debut against the Bombers at Metricon Stadium on Friday night.
The inclusion of the Lions’ academy product is one of five changes to the side that defeated Melbourne by four points in round 8.
Ballenden, who has been a part of the Club since joining the academy at age 12, has been a consistent NEAFL performer who was a key part of premiership sides in 2017 and 2019.
He was drafted as a key forward but has been honing his craft as a ruckman which is where he will play as cover for injured Archie Smith.
Senior coach Chris Fagan said the Club’s excellent record with injury prevention in recent years made it hard for players to break into the senior side.
He praised Ballenden’s perseverance and for adding another string to his bow to increase his chances of selection.
“He has done some hard yards over the last three years and I’m sure when he gets his opportunity that he will step up to the plate,’’ he said.
“In particular over the last six months he has been doing a lot of ruck practice as well as forward craft.
“He can come in and fulfil the role that Archie (Smith) did last week as far as we are concerned.
“A few weeks ago he kicked four goals against West Coast in a reserves practice game and he’s been rucking really well.’’
The other exciting news for the Club is the return of Sam Skinner for his second AFL game.
Skinner, who has overcome three knee reconstructions, will take the place of key forward Dan McStay who was handed a two-week suspension by the match review officer for a bump on Neville Jetta on Sunday.
Cam Ellis-Yolmen, Alex Witherden and Noah Answerth are the other inclusions.
Veterans Daniel Rich and Ryan Lester have minor hamstring injuries while young forward Thomas Berry has been omitted.