It’s taken nine long years for Matthew Leuenberger to reach 100 games.
But to truly enjoy the milestone, the Brisbane Lions ruckman will need to once again show the dogged persistence that has typified his injury-wrecked career in Sunday’s clash with St Kilda at the Gabba.
Leuenberger is one of the few key position players left standing at the Lions, whose hopes of rising up the ladder this season have been almost entirely extinguished by a horrific run of injuries.
The latest big man to go down is spearhead Daniel McStay, who could miss up to two weeks with a finger complaint – leaving the Lions in dire need of someone to step up and provide a target inside their forward 50.
Leuenberger, who has been usurped by Stef Martin as the team’s number one ruckman, will be asked to do just that.
“The last few weeks he’s been very good. He’s been competing well,” coach Justin Leppitsch said.
“The challenge is with him and Stef, we’ve got two genuine ruckmen – and neither of them is a genuine forward.
“It’s been an issue all year but I think he’s competing under the long ball as a forward and pinch-hitting well in the ruck.”
Leppitsch credited Leuenberger, who was picked up by Brisbane with pick four in the 2006 draft, for his resilience in overcoming the many obstacles that have hampered his career.
“It’s been a long run for him to get to 100 games but it’s a great testament to his ability to stick with it,” he said.
“The perseverance is the thing, particularly when you’ve had a lot of injuries in your career, it can be a frustrating time.
“We’re just hoping his second hundred can fly by because unfortunately his first hundred haven’t.
“This year he’s been relatively injury free and hopefully he can have a big second part of his career.”
McStay and Mitch Golby (omitted) are Brisbane’s two outs for the St Kilda clash, with Ryan Harwood and Zac O’Brien recalled.
It is O’Brien’s first AFL match since his highly-publicised physical altercation with Leppitsch at half-time of an NEAFL match.
The Saints have regained skipper Nick Riewoldt, Jarryn Geary, Luke Delaney and Jack Lonie, who come in for Sam Fisher (hamstring), Shane Savage, Tim Membrey and Eli Templeton (all omitted).