Lions feeling Hipwood absence already

The Brisbane Lions will need to cover the loss of the injured Eric Hipwood to contend for the flag.
The Brisbane Lions will need to cover the loss of the injured Eric Hipwood to contend for the flag.

The potential for Eric Hipwood's season-ending knee injury to derail Brisbane's AFL premiership hopes has been immediately felt by the Lions.

Hipwood suffered a ruptured ACL in the first quarter of Brisbane's round 17 clash against St Kilda at Metricon Stadium.

Without the 204cm forward the Lions slumped to a shock 32-point defeat to the Saints.

Things didn't get much better in the first full match without Hipwood as Richmond claimed a 20-point win on the Gold Coast last Friday.

Midfielder Hugh McCluggage said only in Hipwood's absence were a lot of people realising his true value to the Lions' set-up.

"He was definitely hugely important for us," said McCluggage, who'll make his 100th AFL appearance against the Suns.

"He just crashes packs and I don't think Hippy probably got the credit for how tough and durable he's been for his first five years

"He's played that key forward role one-out at times as a young fella and he's really come on in leaps and bounds.

"This year he was playing some great footy so it was disappointing for him individually and for the team."

The back-to-back defeats have left the Lions outside the top four before Saturday's derby against Gold Coast at the Gabba.

While McCluggage is backing the likes of Tom Fullarton to seize the opportunity in Hipwood's absence, he's also putting it on himself and the rest of the Lions' midfield to step up.

Without the target of Hipwood, McCluggage said it's crucial the delivery to Brisbane's forwards is spot on.

"It probably does fall back on the midfielders a fair bit because we're the ones delivering it a lot of the time," he said.

"It hasn't been terrible, we've had some good patches of play, but we can just clean it up and when we were playing our best footy during the middle part of the year I think that's what really set us apart.

"We'll definitely work on that as a group."

Australian Associated Press