AFL: Lions to host Demons in Gabba blockbuster

Lions legend Jonathan Brown has compared Brisbane’s “true matchwinner” Cam Rayner to Melbourne superstar Christian Petracca ahead of Friday night’s blockbuster between the top-four hopefuls.

The winner of the Gabba clash will secure a top-four AFL finals berth, while the loser – depending on other results this weekend – will in all likelihood finish in the bottom half of the top eight and be forced into a do-or-die affair in the first week of the playoffs.

Both the Lions and the Demons were forced to fight for their weekend wins.

Melbourne beat Carlton by five points after gaining the matchwinning lead with 11 seconds of the contest remaining.

Brisbane trailed at three-quarter time against St Kilda before fighting back to win by 15 points, thanks largely to Rayner’s three final-quarter goals.

“It was important just to get the win; the way they fought it out at the end was great,” triple premiership-winning Lion and former club captain Brown said.

“The bonus out of it is the confidence that Rayner would garner from that as a true matchwinner.

“In the context of the game and the season, absolutely that was his best ever performance.”

Brown said Rayner, who missed all of last season after having a knee reconstruction, now had the genuine belief he could “really break a game apart”.

“We’re going to see one of the true matchwinners in the competition in Christian Petracca at the Gabba on Friday night and hopefully Cam can continue to break games open like Petracca’s been able to do a lot,” Brown said.

“Cam has been compared to Petracca over time, and I think he can get to Petracca’s level.”

However, Brown said it wasn’t just Rayner who would have to fire if the Lions are to beat the reigning premiers this week.

“At the moment there’s a belief that they (the Demons) run better than Brisbane,” he said.

“Whether that comes from an athletic talent point of view, or a want, or an effort point of view, who knows?

“But the end result is Melbourne has been able to dominate Brisbane around the contest the last few occasions they have played.

“The challenge is there for Brisbane, and what better place to do that than the week before the finals to get a top-four spot.”

Brown said the Lions had the necessary artillery to win a premiership for the first time since 2003.

“They just need to be more consistent during games. Their best footy’s been really good, and they obviously need that over four quarters against a team like Melbourne,” he said.

“Melbourne’s not scoring that well, and the thing about it is that when you play Brisbane, you need to score.

“Brisbane’s highest scoring team in the competition (with 2090 points scored in 21 matches) … and at the moment, goals are hard to come by for the Demons.

“Brisbane is absolutely not out of the premiership race. They’re as dangerous as any team in the competition if they can get their game up and going.”

Originally published as Brisbane Lions great Jonathan Brown says Cam Rayner can be as good as Christian Petracca

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