At 28, with 101 AFL games and two Brisbane Lions B&F awards under his belt, Dayne Zorko doesn’t have anything to prove in meaningless pre-season matches.
But with the start of the 2017 AFL season just around the corner Zorko has given every indication that he’s not content with his lot, and is set to further advance his career in 2017.
Zorko was in supreme form at Etihad Stadium last Thursday night as he led the Lions to an eight-point win over the Western Bulldogs in Round 3 of the JLT Community Series, collecting 34 possessions (10 contested), eight marks, five clearances and 12 tackles.
The newly-appointed vice-captain led a 10-man Queensland contingent in a performance against the defending premiers that provided plenty of hope for long-suffering Lions fans.
And while it is dangerous to read too much into practice match form, especially against a Dogs outfit that included only nine members of their 2016 premiership side, it was a definite plus for new coach Chris Fagan and his new regime.
There was good system about the way the young Lions went about their business, and the mere fact that they hung on to win in the final quarter when the Dogs had all the ball was a good thing.
That so many Queenslanders were in the side, too, was another positive as the club, buoyed by the unbeaten performance of their women’s team in the AFLW competition, looks to restore faith in the men’s team.
Dayne Beams, celebrating his first game as captain, also reminded fans of what a quality player he is with 24 possessions.
He took a little time to work into his first outing in more than 10 months, but his class in the midfield was unquestionable.
So, too, was Harris Andrews. Included in the leadership group last week, the 20-year-old defender looked every bit a star of the future when he collected 24 possessions and nine marks to go with a game-high 12 spoils and six intercept possessions.
Eric Hipwood, too, looked exciting with seven possessions, one goal and two goal-assists up forward, and with Andrews looks set to provide a key position cornerstone on which the club can build a bright future.
Tom Bell (15 possessions and 2 goals) got through his first game of the year without incident, while Ben Keays (17 possessions and 1 goal) was also busy.
Completing the Queensland contingent in the Lions side were Claye Beams (6 possessions), Archie Smith (5 possessions and 16 hit-outs), Jacob Allison (5 possessions) and Matthew Hammelmann (3 possessions).
A further five Queenslanders on the Lions list – Jono Freeman, Liam Dawson, Reuben William, Blake Grewar and Matt Eagles – did not play.
Also in Round 3 of the JLT Series, Collingwood’s Josh Thomas slipped seamlessly back into the AFL with two possessions and four tackles from limited game time in a two-point loss to Fremantle in Perth.
Jesse White had 10 possessions and a goal for the Pies, while Lachie Weller (15 possessions) and Lee Spurr (11 possessions) looked sharp for the Dockers.
Kurt Tippett had 12 possessions, 12 hit-outs and a goal in Sydney’s seven-point win over the GWS Giants at Blacktown, and Zac Smith had six possessions and 14 hit-outs in Geelong’s six-point loss to Adelaide in Adelaide.
David Armitage (8 possessions) was used sparingly in St.Kilda’s 92-point thumping of Carlton in Melbourne, and Charlie Dixon had six possessions and a goal in Port Adelaide’s 28-point loss to Richmond in Mt.Gambier.
The draw for Round 4 of the JLT Series is:-
Thursday 9 March
Gold Coast Suns v Western Bulldogs at Metricon Stadim, 4.50pm
West Coast v Melbourne at Domain Stadium, 5.40pm
Friday 10 March
GWS Giants v North Melbourne at Manuka Oval, 5.50pm
Fremantle v Carlton at Domain Stadium, 5.40pm;
Saturday 11 March
Richmond v Collingwood at Moe, 1.10pm
Adelaide Crows v Brisbane Lions at Noarlunga Oval, 3.40pm
Sunday 12 March
Port Adelaide v Hawthorn at Noarlunga Oval, 12.40pm
Geelong Cats v Essendon at Bendigo, 4.10pm
St Kilda v Sydney Swans at Albury, 7.10pm
By Peter Blucher