Lions wary of Demons on rare MCG trip

·2-min read

Starved of opportunities as much as success at the MCG, ladder-leading Brisbane expect to be welcomed back by the "best version" of Melbourne.

The defending AFL premiers crashed to three straight losses after a 10-game unbeaten romp to begin the season, surrendering top spot to the Lions before their blockbuster meeting on Thursday.

It'll be the Lions' first game at the traditional grand final venue since the first round of 2020, when COVID-19 forced the season to a grinding halt.

And it's proved a tricky track for the premiership fancies, who haven't won in their last nine visits.

"It was a weird game; an empty MCG, it just didn't feel right," Lions coach Chris Fagan recalled.

"There's been all these alleged hoodoos we've been able to overcome, this is just another one.

"Hopefully we can do it, but it's a 50-50 bet at the moment, they're a good side."

Melbourne beat the Lions in the finals last season and looked untouchable across the first two months of the season.

But three straight losses before the bye and now the loss of captain Max Gawn to an ankle injury has changed the landscape of the league.

"Teams have peaks and troughs, no matter how good you are," Fagan said.

"They've been up for a long, long time so they would have welcomed the break and we're pretty much expecting the best version of Melbourne.

"That's what good teams do, they bounce back."

Brisbane have a 3-2 record over the last five weeks, grinding out important wins against GWS and St Kilda without key personnel.

This week that includes captain Dayne Zorko (hamstring) who will be replaced by debutant Jimmy Tunstill, taken 41st in last year's draft.

Darcy Gardiner, who was hospitalised after their win over the Saints with fluid in his lungs, will also miss the clash.

Fagan hesitated when asked how he gauged his own team's health in respect to peaks and troughs, declaring this season the most even he'd ever seen in the AFL.

"When you don't win easily people tend to look at you and say 'you're not going all that well'," he said.

"But who wins easily every week? It's a tough comp.

"I find it hard to assess. I thought we were really good against St Kilda ... fought pretty well over in Perth (in a loss to the Dockers).

"It's a hard question to answer, you've just got to keep trying to get wins at this time of the year and (hope that) whatever your best form is, it appears at the right time of the year."

Melbourne have recalled All-Australian defender Steven May after he served a club-imposed ban for brawling with teammate Jake Melksham.

Sam Weideman also returns, with Luke Jackson to lead the ruck in the absence of Gawn.

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