Connor Ballenden’s hopes of replacing star forward Eric Hipwood in Fagan’s 22 are in jeopardy, with the 22-year-old suffering a suspected hamstring injury in Sunday’s 109-point loss to the Southport Sharks.

Ballenden came off in the third quarter with a tight hamstring, placing a question mark over his chances of getting the call-up into Senior Coach Chris Fagan’s side for Friday’s clash with the Tigers at the MCG. 

Speaking on the incident, VFL Head Coach Mitch Hahn said that it is unfortunate timing for the Academy product.

“When he came off there was no point trying to risk him to play on, even if he could, so he’s been iced up and will go get a scan to see the severity of that this week,” he said.

“Now that there’s a spot to be filled in the 22, some of the guys have got to put their hand up and it’s unfortunate for Connor. Hopefully it’s not too bad and is only a one-week injury at most.”

The Southport Sharks claimed yet another scalp on their way to their first VFL Finals campaign, decimating the Lions in a one-sided affair.

Despite the return of some senior players from injury, the Lions were no match for the Sharks who ran rampant from the first bounce.

A goal from Tom Berry in the first quarter looked to steady the ship momentarily, however it wasn’t long before the momentum swung back the way of the Sharks with the hosts heading into the first break 38 points in front.

Southport continued to dominate play in the first half, with uncontested possession and free flowing play making way for the Premiership contenders to charge towards another four points.

Stepping up in the third quarter, the Lions piled on the pressure around the ball to put up their only other goal of the match and hold the Sharks scoreless until the 11-minute mark. From there, it was all Southport’s way, with the Sharks wrestling back control of the match to take their second victory of the season over the Lions.

Reflecting on the game, Hahn believes the team will take away the positives from a stronger third quarter.

“Southport is such a strong team and we’re still quite a young, developing side. I thought we’d have a little bit more experience and was hoping we’d perform a little bit better than we did today” Hahn said.

“We didn’t move the ball or defend the way we wanted to in the first half, so I set the challenge to the guys at half time and the guys took a little bit of ownership and gave us a good response which was pleasing.”

“A couple of our leaders stepped up in the second half. Tom Berry really got in there, and Ryan Lester and Jaxon Prior both had much better second halves.”

“The way we played in the third quarter is the way we want to play, so we’ll take away those small positives out of today and continue to encourage the group to take the game on.”