Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan has praised the resilience of battered Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale, who will play through the pain of a shoulder injury in Saturday’s QClash at the Gabba.
Neale has missed six of Brisbane’s 17 matches this season because of ankle and calf injuries.
He also partially dislocated a shoulder in the Lions’ win over Geelong last month and seemed to reaggravate the problem at training this week.
However, the former Fremantle star has been named in the Lions line-up for this weekend’s battle with the Gold Coast Suns, with Fagan confident Neale will play a key role in Brisbane’s bid to avoid a third successive defeat.
“He has had a lot of injuries, that’s for sure, so it’s been probably the most challenging year for him in that regard, but he’s found a way to fight through it,” Fagan said of Neale.
“As you saw on Tuesday at training, he got a bit of a knock on the shoulder. That’s happened three or four times since he actually had the injury, so it’s a bit of a stinger.
“There’s a reaction in the first couple of minutes, then it settles down, so he’s going to play on with it.
“That’s the sort of guy that he is – full of courage and character.”
Lachie Neale has battled with injury this season. Picture: Michael KleinSource:News Corp Australia
Apart from Neale’s availability, the Lions will also be boosted by the return of key midfielder Jarrod Berry and the versatile Callum Ah Chee.
Berry, who like Neale has been hampered by injuries this season, has been selected following a successful comeback from a calf problem via a reserves’ practice match last week.
Ah Chee returns after missing last Friday’s loss to Richmond to be present for the birth of his first child.
“(Berry) hasn’t played much this year. In the past he’s been a really important part of our team,” Fagan said.
“He was able to get through the practice match last week and trained well this week, so we’re looking forward to seeing what sort of contribution he can make.
“He’s good midfielder for us, he’s got a great tank, he’s a good inside player, so he’ll play in all of those positions during the game.”
Despite the Lions having suffered back-to-back losses to have dropped outside the top four, Fagan is “proud” of his team’s achievements this season.
“We were one win and three losses (after four games) … we were in a little bit of trouble,” he said.
“What the group’s been able to do over the last 10, 12, 13 weeks is quite extraordinary really, and hopefully you’ve noticed how even the competition is.
“For to us to go through a period after being one and three to win 10 and lose three, I think that’s pretty solid form, and even in our losses we’ve been in our games up to our necks.”
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