Brisbane AFL premiership with Zorko on top of Rich list

Murray Wenzel |

Daniel Rich isn’t afraid to admit his mind is wandering ahead to September.

Entering a 15th season in the AFL, the Brisbane Lions defender says the club have never had greater expectations.

Four years of contention have yielded two preliminary final appearances, a brave run last year brutally cut down by eventual champions Geelong.

But a productive off-season of recruitment has positioned Chris Fagan’s men for their best shot yet at a premiership.

“This is definitely the highest and that’s the truth,” the 32-year-old said when asked if their internal expectations had ever been greater.

“I know it’s a long way away, but you’d rather be spoken about in that manner than the opposite.

“Season 15 for me, which is quite scary; I’ve nearly played as long as some of the guys have been alive here.

“It sharpens the axe a bit in terms of where your head’s at … I’m not going to be absolutely destroyed if (a premiership) doesn’t happen in my time.

“But it’s definitely something I’d love to be a part of.”

Their journey begins on Saturday, away to Port Adelaide, with former skipper Dayne Zorko a confirmed omission due to a hamstring injury.

Zorko trained on Tuesday but finished the session hobbling, with ice behind his knee.

Callum Ah Chee (quad) and Darcy Gardiner (ankle) have also been ruled out.

Rich said Zorko remains central to Brisbane’s long-term goals after relinquishing the captaincy in the off-season.

“I’d love to be there one day holding up the (premiership) cup next to him with my arm around him,” Rich said.

“I know that’s thinking a long way ahead, but they’re the thoughts that can run through the back of your mind.

“He’s been a major instrument in the turnover of our footy club and one of those guys that you want to achieve it for.”

Brisbane will debut father-son draft pick Will Ashcroft in the midfield, while Western Bulldogs best and fairest Josh Dunkley will join him in his new colours.

Hawthorn forward-line recruit Jack Gunston was on light duties on Tuesday but is expected to make his club debut, while former Essendon defender Conor McKenna is a strong chance of lining up in the back six.

Young pair Darcy Wilmot and Keidean Coleman have also emerged as serious defensive talents.

“It’s all across the board,” 2021 All-Australian Rich said of the pressure to retain his position this year.

“There’s going to be some players who play VFL that are pretty handy footballers.

“It definitely keeps you on your toes and you want to train well and play well.”