Lachie Neale to return for Lions

The Brisbane Lions have received a huge boost ahead of their clash with AFL leaders Melbourne, with Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale poised to return from a long-term ankle injury.

Neale flew to Sydney on Thursday with the Lions squad, and provided there were no complications at training following the team’s arrival in NSW, Brisbane’s talisman seemed set to be selected for Friday night’s match at Giants Stadium.

Neale has missed the Lions’ past five matches after having ankle surgery following Brisbane’s 18-point win over Carlton on April 24.

Despite the Lions not having lost in his absence, Neale is a certainty to return as soon as he’s ready.

“He trained well enough on Tuesday to make us think that he’s a chance for (Friday) night,” Lions coach Chris Fagan said.

“Once our medical guys tick them off and say ‘they’re right to go’, then that’s all we need to hear.

“He’s a very good player, but having said that, the blokes that have been playing in his spot have been tremendous over the last five weeks, and we’re very confident whether Lachie plays or whether he doesn’t that we can continue on with our form.

“Whoever misses out to Lachie Neale, he’s missed out because the Brownlow medallist is maybe available to play this week.”

Lachie Neale is set to return for the Lions. Picture: Michael KleinSource:News Corp Australia

Deven Robertson or Rhys Mathieson is likely to make way for a fit Neale.

Like Neale, experienced defender Ryan Lester had to emerge unscathed from Thursday’s training session to return from a hamstring injury he suffered in Brisbane’s 73-point thrashing of the Gold Coast Suns on May 15.

Lester’s return would add some much-needed height to Brisbane’s backline, which will be challenged by the Demons’ towering forwards.

“We were a little bit nervous the last few weeks without the talls, but we’ve defended well as a team,” Fagan said.

“They (Melbourne) do have some good, in-form tall forwards in (Tom) McDonald, (Luke) Jackson and (Sam) Weideman, and whether they pick Ben Brown or not, I’m not sure.

“They’ve got plenty of artillery to put up there, so it’s good to have Ryan hopefully available again.”

The Lions are aiming for an eighth successive win and attempting to become just the second team to beat the Demons this season.

“It’s good to have that challenge right now for our group – I think we’re ready for it,” Fagan said.

“We’d just like to find out where we sit against Melbourne, who have been the benchmark team, just gather a little bit of information … but finals, if we get there, are in September, and that’s three months away, so teams can be playing a lot differently by that point in time.”

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