Lions star Neale calm as AFL restart looms

He’s had weeks to think about it but Brisbane’s Lachie Neale says he’s far more relaxed this year before another AFL clash with Fremantle.

The Dockers arrive at their Gold Coast hub on Tuesday and will play the Lions at the Gabba on Saturday in the first of four Queensland games for the West Australian side before a possible return home.

Neale admitted he was distracted by the occasion of lining up against his former team last season but that hadn’t been a factor in 2020 despite the turbulent nature of the campaign.

“I feel pretty relaxed, obviously these are unique circumstances at the moment but I feel really good,” he said.

“Last time I was a lot more nervous, probably thought about the game too much before I played it, had different things going on in my head.

“This time I’m just really relaxed and looking forward to playing, like the rest of the competition.”

The Lions, who finished second in the regular season last year, are strong favourites to bounce back from their round one loss to Hawthorn in March.

The recovery of ruckman Stefan Martin during the competition’s pause will help their cause while fellow recruit Cameron Ellis-Yolmen has responded well after missing selection for the season opener.

“He has come back in ripping touch since the break,” Neale said of the recruit from Adelaide .

“He missed round one and would’ve been disappointed by that, but the way he’s come back is credit to him.”

Cameron Rayner’s knee was strapped at training on Tuesday after pulling up sore from Friday’s internal match, although Neale was confident he’d be fit to play.

Grant Birchall and Callum Ah Chee were late scratchings for potential club debuts against the Hawks, with Marcus Adams (foot) and Irishman James Madden (quarantine) understood to be the only two squad members not fit for selection.

“We might only have one or two unavailable, which is incredible,” Neale said.

“Our midfield and half-back depth is phenomenal, so there is going to be some guys who miss out, some who are rewarded.”

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