Brisbane Lions vice-captain Pearce Hanley is at long odds to play his 100th AFL game on Sunday against Fremantle.
Coach Justin Leppitsch says the Lions will not take any risks with Hanley, who was subbed out in the third quarter of their loss to Adelaide last weekend with hamstring tightness.
Completing Thursday’s main training session might not even be enough for the Irishman, who will not be taken on the trip west to Domain Stadium unless the coaching staff is “110 per cent” confident he will not aggravate the injury.
“One thing about that long plane flight with back-related issues, you’ve got to be very careful,” Leppitsch said.
“Even if you get through this game often it’s the next week it flares up too.
“We’d want to be 110 per cent confident that Pearce is going to be right to take him this week.”
Hanley was making just his third appearance of the year against the Crows, having been sidelined due to career-saving hip surgery across the first half of the season.
Meanwhile, Leppitsch has backed previously out-of-favour ruckman Matthew Leuenberger to give Fremantle’s Aaron Sandilands a headache – and not the other way around – on Sunday.
The 27-year-old will handle the ruck duties with first-choice Stef Martin suspended for the next two weeks for striking Adelaide’s Luke Brown.
Out of contract at the end of the year, Leuenberger now has an opportunity to prove he still has value at AFL level after what has been a middling season so far.
“Matthew’s been playing predominantly forward, not in the ruck. You can’t forget that,” Leppitsch said. “It’d be like playing Dayne Beams out of a forward pocket – of course he’s not going to have the same output.
“The beauty is we gave him more ruck time last week so it’s worked out good timing.
“I thought he did really well against (Sam) Jacobs. We go in really confident, Matty goes in really confident.
“He’s got some weapons that I think Sandilands will be worried about as well.”
Leppitsch says the Lions are capable of upsetting the ladder-leading Dockers provided they can extend their best football across four quarters.
“People probably wouldn’t even know, we’ve won four of the last five quarters,” he said.
“We know what we can do and our best is actually okay.
“It’s a matter of how long for – that’s always the factor with us and has been.”