Cale Hooker of the Bombers.
Cale Hooker of the Bombers. JULIAN SMITH

Lions urged to remain grounded ahead of Bombers clash

BRISBANE Lions coach Chris Fagan has implored his players not to get ahead of themselves after their thrilling win over the Gold Coast last week.

The Lions, achieving their first win in the opening round of a season since 2010, welcome Essendon to the Gabba on Saturday night.

The Bombers are coming off their own emotion-charged victory, with players such as Dyson Heppell, Jobe Watson, Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley returning from their 12-month doping bans to help upset Hawthorn.

Fagan, who spent a decade at the Hawks as coach Alastair Clarkson's right-hand man, knows only too well what it takes to be able to beat the Bombers.

"Essendon are a formidable opponent," he said. "They played extremely well last week.

"Not too many teams have been able to do that against Hawthorn the last four or five years and Essendon were able to.

"They're on a journey, so we need to quickly forget about the great things that happened last week and be ready for what's coming tomorrow night."

Essendon coach John Worsfold echoed Fagan's expectation that the Bombers would arrive ready to play.

"The players are pretty clear that game (against Hawthorn) was a start ... we have to work hard to get better because we are not good enough yet," Worsfold said.

"Our focus is on playing the type of footy we have developed together and building on that."

Playing the Hawks at their own game, the Bombers registered 130 marks to control possession.

"They're a team that can move the ball incredibly quickly," Fagan said.

"They love to bring the ball into the corridor, their forwards are really dangerous, they work well as a team and they've got a strong group of midfielders.

"Generally speaking they're a good all-around team.

"A very important part of our game tomorrow night is our ability to defend quickly and stop that ball movement and hold them up a little bit."

Fagan said the Lions were excited to be laying out the welcome mat at the Gabba, despite the big wet hitting Queensland in recent days.

The Lions had a light run there on Friday.

"The ground was fantastic. It was so good to be out there," Fagan said.

"That's the first time since the day I was appointed way back in October that I've got to stand on the Gabba. It's really exciting for all of us."

Former Magpie Jack Frost will make his debut for the Lions after serving a one-match ban, at the expense of young mid Ben Keays.

Frost will be expected to take the experienced Hooker, coming off a three-goal haul, while Harris Andrews renews acquaintances with another young forward star, Joe Daniher.

Andrew's battle with Suns co-captain Tom Lynch last week was a highlight of the QClash.

For the Bombers, ex-Lion goalsneak Josh Green (hamstring) won't make the trip up, and has been replaced by Ben Howlett, who will play his first game since 2015.

Josh Schache (knee) and Hugh McCluggage (ankle), meanwhile, will return from injury in the NEAFL on Saturday.

News Corp Australia

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