The entire Brisbane Lions midfield must step up to offset the absence of injured skipper Tom Rockliff, according to Dayne Zorko.
In his first AFL game as captain, Rockliff suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung in Saturday night’s disappointing defeat to Collingwood and faces a spell on the sidelines of up to six weeks.
Rockliff was Brisbane’s best player until that point amid an ordinary performance from the Lions and Zorko admitted the loss of his on-field guidance would be keenly felt by the team.
Zorko said it was up to the team’s remaining top-tier midfielders like star recruit Dayne Beams and vice-captain Daniel Rich to make up for it.
“Leadership’s going to be the biggest thing,” Zorko said.
“He’s obviously going to be an important loss for us.
“(We’ve) really got to take more ownership out on the ground now and not just leave it up to Rocky and Jed (Adcock) as in the past.
“There’s a little bit more weight on those guys’ shoulders to really bring the young kids along.”
Beams was reasonably impressive against his former club but it was the barnstorming return of Rich that would have most pleased coach Justin Leppitsch.
Rich’s 2014 season was cruelled by an ACL injury in round three but collected 29 possessions and kicked two goals in his first game back against the Magpies.
“He’s been in training for a long time, he was itching to get out there,” Zorko said.
“He’s obviously a star of the competition.
“His pre-season form was very good and now he’s carrying it onto the season so hopefully he can keep doing that for us.”
Brisbane will take on fellow round one losers North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Zorko said the Lions must be “wary” of a wounded Kangaroos outfit which will be keen to respond after they were obliterated to the tune of 77 points by the Adelaide Crows.
The key for Brisbane, who reduced a 53-point third-term deficit against Collingwood to lose by just 12 points, will be a consistent four-quarter effort – particularly against a momentum team like North.
“We played the first 10 minutes of the first quarter and the last quarter, and you just can’t do that – not in this competition,” Zorko said.
“We can’t wait until the last quarter every time or when the game’s pretty much lost to start making a comeback.
“We’ve got to bring it from the first bounce and hopefully this weekend we’ll be able to do that.”