Lions may have got AFL stage fright: Leppa

Brisbane coach Justin Leppitsch admits his team may not have handled the transition from pre-season to the AFL proper in their round-one loss to Collingwood last weekend.

The Lions were blown away by the Magpies for three quarters in last Saturday’s loss at the Gabba, trailing by as many as 53 points during the third quarter.

While the home team did finish strong, reducing the final margin to just 12 points, Leppitsch agreed when asked if the Lions had been caught off-guard by the step up to proper AFL action.

“Possibly. You could say that,” he admitted.

“Lift in pressure, lift in crowd, lift in all sorts of external things we have to deal with game to game, so yeah, it was a good learning experience.”

Leppitsch saw plenty in the final quarter to give him hope of a quick return to the winner’s circle this weekend against North Melbourne, themselves chasing a second round redemption after a heavy loss to Adelaide.

The Lions booted the last seven goals at the Gabba and Leppitsch is hopeful his team can carry that momentum into the Kangaroos clash.

“It was important we finished the game well and we did,” he said.

“There’s still some positives. If you talk from one year to the next – we lose that game by over 50 points last year. These are the little wins we need to keep having in our group.”

A rib injury to captain Tom Rockliff will create plenty of headaches for the selection committee, with Leppitsch admitting he had several options to mull over.

With Pearce Hanley still sidelined, Daniel Rich will lead the Lions this weekend while Zac O’Brien could be a chance to be the man to replace Rockliff.

After puncturing a lung and breaking ribs, Rockliff spent most of the Easter weekend in hospital but Leppitsch said his recovery was on track.

“The worst part of the pain is over for him,” he said.

“It’s now just a matter of him recovering and getting all the movements back. That’s the number one thing with ribs, you’ve got to make sure you can do the movements and they take a few weeks, it may take longer.

“We’d rather have him back sooner rather than later, he’s naturally tough, so if I’m tipping anything he’ll be back a week earlier than expected, but you can’t put a guy out there that’s not ready.”

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