Lambert helps nurture restless Lions

The return of favourite son Craig Lambert has helped stop another Brisbane player exodus, Lions vice-captain Dayne Zorko says.

Zorko confirmed he had signed a four-year deal on Friday – and said other big names would soon follow.

Zorko, 27, was last year reportedly one of many set to ditch the underperforming Lions in search of a premiership dream.

But Zorko said Lambert’s return as the new player welfare boss late last year had changed everything.

Lambert and his wife Melissa arrived last September as part of a staff restructure overseen by his former teammate, Lions coach Justin Leppitsch.

The Lions have always had a special place in their heart for Lambert who played 96 of his 219 AFL games and was a club champion for Brisbane before enjoying their early 2000s golden era as an assistant to Leigh Matthews.

Now it appears Lambert has endeared himself again as their welfare guru after a five-year stint at Greater Western Sydney.

“Ever since the Lamberts came back we really skinned everything right back and everyone had a hard look at themselves,” Zorko said.

“That’s more for the inner sanctum, but they are great people, there’s a lot of care in the way they have approached situations – we have embraced that.”

As a result, 10 players have re-signed in the past six months with Daniel Rich and Josh Green soon to follow.

A dozen of Brisbane’s first-choice 22 are now signed until 2018 and beyond.

“We are an extremely tight group so I know some players are definitely considering that option so hopefully we will have some great news soon,” Zorko said.

Leppitsch is also reportedly close to a new deal.

The Lions have been working hard to improve retention since losing five homesick players in 2013, effectively wiping out their 2010 and 2011 draft picks.

And last year Jack Redden was traded to West Coast and Matthew Leuenberger (Essendon) and James Aish (Collingwood) also departed.

But Zorko believed the Lions now had some much needed stability.

Apart from those that had re-signed, Zorko said the likes of draftees Josh Schache, Ben Keays and Rhys Mathieson also ensured a bright future.

“I am confident with where the team is heading with some great young players coming through and I feel I am someone who can help develop them,” Zorko said.

“I want to be a part of their success because they are definitely going to taste it.”

Zorko returns to the Lions side along with Rich, captain Tom Rockliff, Stef Martin, Pearce Hanley and Daniel Merrett for Sunday’s AFL NAB Challenge clash against St Kilda in Mackay.

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