Gawn, Demons await as Big O enters Lions' record books

The Brisbane Lions have been encouraged to put a target on Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn as his centre-bounce rival Oscar McInerney makes club history at the Gabba.

McInerney will play his 140th AFL game for the Lions on Friday, going past triple premiership ruckman Clark Keating as the most-capped of a 27-strong list of specialists headed by inaugural Bears captain Mark Mickan in 1987.

His battle with six-time All Australian Gawn will be key, former Brisbane captain Tom Rockliff adamant the hosts should do their best to cut the head off the snake.

The Demons were outscored 30-0 by last-placed North Melbourne in the final quarter last week, but held on to win by three points.

"They'll be fired up," Rockliff told AAP of the ninth-placed Dees, who have lost four of their last six games.

"They don't look the same team; their top end talent is starting to decline a bit and no (Christian) Petracca - it's a different make-up.

"Oscar, after his form last week, it's a great challenge in the middle.

"If I was Brisbane I'd put a bit of time and energy into Max to bump him off the ball as much as they can."

Lions coach Chris Fagan said that duel had been central to McInerney's development.

Oscar McInerney.
Brisbane ruck Oscar McInerney on the charge for the Lions. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

"Oscar's one of those guys who's got a great growth mindset," he said of the man affectionately known as Big O.

"I remember when he first turned up, from what he was like then to now (is very different).

"Last week he had a terrific game, but the sobering thought after that was, 'OK, time to play against Max Gawn, the best in the business'.

"And he'll be looking forward to that challenge."

The 29-year-old is one of the club's great draft steals, plucked from the VFL's reserve grade with pick No.37 in the 2016 rookie draft.

McInerney, almost 24 when he debuted, kicked a career-high three goals in a superb performance against Port Adelaide on Saturday.

He's finished between fourth and ninth in the club's best and fairest voting since taking over from an injured Stef Martin as the Lions' first-choice ruckman in 2020.

But only now does Fagan believe the modest, harsh marker is giving himself the credit he deserves.

"He's hard on himself, which is a good thing but can undo you sometimes as well," Fagan said.

"He's coming around from that and gave himself a good rating this week (after the Port win), which is signs of optimism from him.

"That's his nature as a person; he's got high standards and he's never happy."

Jake Lever will return for Melbourne but Christian Salem has succumbed to a knee injury.

Lions midfielder Will Ashcroft is back from a long-term knee injury, replacing Shadeau Brain in the side.

Darragh Joyce will start in defence for a hobbled Jack Payne (foot).