The return of Pearce Hanley can not come soon enough for an injury-hit Brisbane Lions but it may yet create a “dilemma” for coach Justin Leppitsch.
Hanley is primed to play his first game of 2015 after career-saving off-season hip surgery in a welcome shot in the arm for the battling Lions.
Leppitsch was due some good news after reeling from a spate of injuries from Sunday’s 22-point AFL loss to St Kilda.
Ten of the Lions’ top 22 are now sidelined after a staggering six players were added to their injury list, including captain Tom Rockliff who played with three broken ribs and young gun James Aish who remained on the field with a jaw fracture.
Yet Hanley’s return is still set to provide some anxious moments for Leppitsch.
Lions football manager Dean Warren said Leppitsch would sweat on whether to roll the dice and thrust him into Sunday’s clash with Greater Western Sydney or nurse him back through the reserves.
“It’s a dilemma for the coaching staff,” he told AFL.com.
“You always take the view of what’s in the player’s best interests long-term.
“It’s like his first game in the pre-season. He’s fit and ready to go, but he just hasn’t had that match fitness.”
Aish will not require surgery on his broken jaw but has not been given a timeframe for his recovery.
Rockliff is expected to be sidelined for a month after playing all but the first 10 minutes of the Saints clash nursing the same three ribs he broke in round one.
Jed Adcock (calf), Claye Beams (knee) and Darcy Gardiner (calf) are expected to miss Sunday’s clash with Greater Western Sydney but Ryan Harwood (concussion) may play.
Hanley may be a short term solution but prized Lions recruit Dayne Beams was looking at the bigger picture on Tuesday.
He said luring a big key position in the off season would be crucial for the Lions who have been linked with Richmond defender Alex Rance and Gold Coast forward Charlie Dixon.
“We’ve got no experienced forwards,” the ex-Collingwood premiership player said.
“Down the other end if we get Rog (Daniel) Merrett (hamstring) back at some stage, (Justin) Clarke won’t have to play on the big power forwards and he can take the second forward.
“It’s tough when you’ve got a list that doesn’t have a lot of depth at the moment as well – and that’s just being honest.
“But that’s up to our recruiting staff.”