Xavier Clarke’s return was a highlight for the Brisbane Lions Reserves, who ran into more substantial injury problems last weekend.

Thursday 15 July 2010

An outstanding first-up performance by recruit Xavier Clarke was the highlight for the Brisbane Lions Reserves last Saturday, where three solid quarters were undone by a poor last term.

Seriously hampered by injuries to three key players early in the Round 13 QAFL clash against Broadbeach, the Lions nonetheless played some excellent football in galloping out to a 28-point lead at three-quarter-time at Giffin Park.

However, the Cats were sparked in the final term by two long goals to veteran Korey Fulton and when he snapped truly at the 30-minute mark, he put the visitors in front for the first time.

Both sides threw themselves into the fray for three more long minutes before Broadbeach triumphed 8.14 (62) to 8.11 (59).

It undid all the good work of Clarke, who shone in his first game in more than a year.

“He was outstanding for a guy who had missed so much football since doing he knee,” said Lions coach Craig McRae.

“He looked like he was a class above everybody out there and was a good example for a lot of our guys as to what they need to do to get to that level.”

McRae endured the full gamut of emotions from the coaches box.

He watched as firstly the prolific Troy Selwood was injured five minutes into the game with a muscle strain and then Andrew Raines followed shortly after.

When Cheynee Stiller injured his shoulder early in the second term, the Lions’ rotations were limited cruelly, especially with four other players being allocated limited playing time.

Despite all that, the Lions led 7.7 to 3.4 at halftime and were all over the Cats.

“I couldn’t have been more happy at halftime,” McRae said. “At that stage it was the closest we had played to the game plan that we wanted all season – their strength at the contest, they were hard at the footy, their spirit, enthusiasm and ball movement.

“It was the best we had seen all year.”

It all unraveled in the final term.

“I was extremely angry in the last quarter and the players saw a side of me they had never seen before,” McRae admitted.

“I would have been the same even if we had (held on and) won.

“Most of us started to do things for ourselves rather than playing for the team as we had done earlier.”

Clarke aside, there was other positives, with Irishman Niall McKeever continuing his education with another promising performance in defence, James Hawksley showing plenty of poise, and Sam Sheldon, Bryce Retzlaff and Sean Yoshiura doing plenty of good things for most of the game.

Broc McCauley continued his measured return from groin soreness, being limited to playing at full-forward and contributing two goals.

The loss almost certainly ended the Lions’ finals hopes, although they can maintain some hope if they overcome Redland at Victoria Point on Sunday.

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