AFL: Brisbane star Lachie Neale still waging war against ankle

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Brisbane star Lachie Neale celebrated his 250th game in style but will again have to battle ankle soreness ahead of a Gabba blockbuster against Geelong.

Lions coach Chris Fagan marvelled at Neale’s ability to twice recover between matches after suffering an ankle injury against Collingwood in round 3, saying the dual Brownlow medallist was one of the toughest players he had ever seen.

A nine-day break will work in the 30-year-old’s favour ahead of a clash with the unbeaten Cats, after he fought through pain to have 24 disposals and eight clearances in the 22-point win over Melbourne.

It came after Neale was subbed out of the Lions’ win over North Melbourne during Gather Round due to the ankle complaint, but stubbornly pushed to have his milestone game at the MCG.

“We only had six days to get him right, so our medical team did a great job, and Lachie did a great job himself,” Fagan said after the game.

“He’s one of the toughest players I think I’ve ever come across in footy. He was so determined to play tonight, did everything right to get his ankle right during the week.

“He’s done that a couple of weeks in a row now, so I’m glad for him that we’ve actually got … eight or nine days to get himself right, which is great.”

Fagan said the sore Neale probably would have been subbed off for an unused Jimmy Tunstill had there not been a milestone to consider.

“(The midfield) seemed to be working pretty well, and we didn’t have any sore blokes,” he said.

“Probably Lachie was the one that you could’ve taken off, but I didn’t want to do that in his 250th.

“We do have the opportunity for Jimmy to play on Sunday, I think our reserves, so he can play a full game and be available for the AFL team next week.”

Fagan said star performer Cam Rayner had been itching for a big game after he struggled to have an impact in the big win over the Roos.

Rayner led a dominant midfield performance which Fagan said was one of the best he had seen in his time as coach.

“Yeah Rayner, it was exciting to see, wasn’t it? I think he had 12 (touches) in the first quarter, he really set the scene for us,” he said.

“I think he was a bit disappointed with his game last week, he was probably one of our few players that was a little bit quiet against North, so I think he was keen to step up tonight.

“I feel like that’s one of the best games we’ve played in a long time … I’ve never seen us tackle so well – it dropped away a little bit in the last quarter, but our tackling in the first three quarters was just awesome.”

Fagan said he had never heard alarm bells when Brisbane slumped to a 0-3 start, but the improved quality of delivery into the Lions’ forward line had clearly helped change their fortunes.

“We did a bit of work on that (forward cohesion) … the first three games of the year we dominated inside 50s but we weren’t winning games,” he said.

“Mainly that was because we weren’t connecting well, our forwards weren’t working with and for each other. Hopefully we can keep building on that.”

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