Dunkley’s challenge after Rayner’s ‘special’ outing

Murray Wenzel |

Cameron Rayner’s performance in Brisbane’s win over Melbourne has the Lions expecting more.
Cameron Rayner’s performance in Brisbane’s win over Melbourne has the Lions expecting more.

Josh Dunkley has challenged Cameron Rayner to build on his midfield portfolio after his breakout display helped steady the Brisbane Lions’ AFL season.

The former No.1 draft pick has long been touted as an option through the middle for the premiership hopefuls.

Last Thursday he delivered, bursting out of the blocks with 12 possessions and six clearances in the first quarter to finish with 25 touches in an impressive MCG win against Melbourne.

Used at half-back to begin last year, Rayner has also spent large chunks of his 118-game career as a spare forward.

Coach Chris Fagan has committed more than ever to deploying him through the midfield this year, and Josh Dunkley says Rayner must now prove he can be relied upon.

Cameron Rayner.
Cameron Rayner tackles Caleb Windsor during the clash at the MCG. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

“He adds a lot; you can all see from watching in the crowd and us as players, it’s pretty special,” Dunkley said of his influence ahead of Saturday’s Gabba clash with Geelong.

“The consistency comes into it now.

“If he wants to get more midfield time we want to see those behaviours more often.

“It’s great he could start like that and show us what he’s capable of.

“It’s probably just time and exposure that will help, and a game like Thursday will go a long way.”

The unbeaten Cats (5-0) pose another stern test to a side that will enter with a 1-3 record and without a win in both Gabba matches this year.

“You look at those three quarters and know how well we played and that our system stacks up,” Dunkley said of what they gained from the Demons win.

“Our last three weeks the pressure’s been good, but on Thursday it was heightened.

“They’ve (Geelong) been going well; they’ve rediscovered their form of the premiership year and have so many that can step up in big moments.”

Defender Conor McKenna (hamstring) is available to face the Cats, but the Lions will be without goal-kicking midfielder Zac Bailey (ankle) for between four and six weeks.

And Gold Coast small forward Malcolm Rosas Jr won’t require surgery but will still miss up to eight weeks after injuring his hamstring in the win against Hawthorn.