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Lions face Curnow dilemma as key defender in serious doubt for preliminary final clash with Carlton

Jack Payne remains in doubt for the Brisbane Lions’ preliminary final against Carlton after the key defender was again restricted to light duties due to an ankle injury.

Key points:

Jack Payne injured his ankle in Brisbane’s qualifying final victory against Port Adelaide
The key defender wore a moon boot and has been restricted to light training duties since
Payne kept Charlie Curnow to 10 touches and a goal in Brisbane’s win over the Blues in round eight

Payne wore a moon boot after their qualifying final win over Port Adelaide and hasn’t trained since; the imposing back kept to light running in joggers at Tuesday’s open training session in Springfield.

The 23-year-old has become one of the Lions’ most important players this year, filling the void left by retired Marcus Adams in a vital partnership with Harris Andrews in Brisbane’s last line.

He matched up well on back-to-back Coleman Medallist Charlie Curnow in the sides’ only other clash in round eight this year, limiting the full forward to just one goal.

Darcy Gardiner, pushed out of the AFL squad by a resurgent Ryan Lester this season, shapes as the likely replacement if Payne can’t prove his fitness.

“He’s obviously got a little bit of a sore foot and ankle,” Andrews said before Tuesday’s session.

“He’s played a really vital part for us this year, so fingers crossed he’s right to go.

“His development’s been unreal for us as a group and you know, I feel like this year we’ve had to show that we’ve got great depth.

“Guys like Darragh Joyce and Darcy Gardiner. Those guys can come in and play their role.”

Gardiner has played just two AFL games this season — both losses to Adelaide and Hawthorn — injury allowing Lester the chance to steal his place in the back six.

He gives away about 10kg and 4 centimetres to Payne, but the 27-year-old boasts 156 games of experience as a regular in the Lions’ defence since 2014.

Irish talent Joyce managed five games while both Lester and Gardiner were injured earlier this season and had four campaigns with St Kilda before heading north this year.

“I still approach the game the same way as I would if Payney was out there, regardless,” Andrews said of how the selection impacts his own assignment.

“These guys have all played a lot of AFL football and understand how to play the game, so nothing has changed in that regard.

“We’ve gone away from having those really tight match-ups to playing in a system, and there’s a really clear understanding … of what needs to be done in each role.

“We’ve got full trust that anyone that comes into the team can play that role.”

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Author: Russell White