Lions must do more than stop Oliver in AFL

·3-min read

Brisbane midfielder Hugh McCluggage conceded shutting down Melbourne gun Clayton Oliver was high on his agenda, but that's not the only battle the visitors must win in the AFL elimination final on Friday night at the MCG.

The Demons have dominated the Lions this year across the park, with a 64-point win in Melbourne in round 15 and then a 58-point demolition two weeks ago at the Gabba.

McCluggage said the Demons had "worked harder", "pressured better" and were "cleaner" in the most recent round-23 showdown.

"All over the ground they got on top of us so we need to change it up," he said.

"Obviously we are not happy with the way we have performed this year against Melbourne. We think they have really beaten us up mentally and physically. This is another opportunity to put our best foot forward. We have got plenty to improve on."

Oliver has not just given the Lions grief in midfield this year. The 2021 premiership winner recently won the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year Award for the second time, sharing it on this latest occasion with Gold Coast's Touk Miller.

"(Oliver) has played really well the last couple of times we've played so he is obviously going to be part of our planning," McCluggage said.

"He is a really clean first-possession player for them so he will definitely be part of what we do this week. He is not the only one. They have got good players all over the ground that we need to watch out for."

The Lions were buoyed by their comeback two-point finals win over Richmond last week and have no fears of the MCG despite not having won at the venue since 2014.

"We are looking forward to the challenge Friday night," McCluggage said.

"We showed against Richmond in the first half (of the round 20 loss) that we can play really good footy there.

"If we are to make it to the grand final we are going to have to win there a couple of times. It is something we want to tick off but we are going to have to play our best footy to do that.

"Everyone will be saying that there is more pressure on them but for us we put a lot of expectation on ourselves. We've been in three or four finals series where we haven't done what we want to do."

With Oscar McInerney out with concussion McCluggage said he expected Darcy Fort to come in and fill the breach in the ruck.

"We saw last week with Darcy Wilmot coming in, and all through the year players step up and do really well, so we expect (Fort) to give his best," he said.

"He is a great team man for us."

Forward Cam Rayner returns from suspension and McCluggage said he expected a big game from the young gun after he was "shattered" to miss last year's finals series with an ACL injury.

"Knowing Cam he will be so excited to get back out there," he said.

"He was the happiest bloke after the game of anyone on Thursday night and he didn't even play.

"I expect him to bring some great pressure and energy from the start."