HAD ENOUGH: Daniel Merrett of the Lions will call it quits at the end of the year.
HAD ENOUGH: Daniel Merrett of the Lions will call it quits at the end of the year. GLENN HUNT

Sauce's departure will have Lions on red alert

STEFAN Martin stated the obvious when he said it "couldn't hurt" having an older head down back at Brisbane next season.

The Lions' young defence could be in for a world of pain - even more so than this season - if they aren't able to recruit one in the off-season.

Granted, the side has some outstanding defensive prospects in Darcy Gardiner, 20, Harris Andrews, 19, and now Matt Hammelmann, 20.

But they are about to be left to their own devices with tireless and incredibly popular clubman Daniel Merrett set to hang up the boots.

Sauce, or "Rog", as he is affectionately known, has given his all for the club since debuting in 2005 after the "threepeat" era.

Even with the Lions rebuilding he has remained loyal in recent seasons, after being tempted by a move down the road to the Gold Coast a couple of years back.

"I was pretty close," he admitted to Australian Regional Media. "When you're around long enough, something's gonna come up."

At 31, he deserves a break after so often carrying the entire defence on his broad shoulders.

However, off-field, his leadership and mentoring of young players such as key forward Josh Schache, who he put up at his Brisbane home, will be missed in such a time of turmoil.

And it goes without saying he will leave another massive hole on the field when the Lions were already trying to fill the one left by the shock retirement of Justin Clarke earlier this season due to concussion concerns.

Without Clarke this season the Lions have conceded a staggering 129 points on average - by far the worst for the club ever - and up from 105 the previous year.

Disgruntled Fremantle backman Alex Silvagni is said to be in the Lions' sights. They would want to do a lot better than that, but he may be all that is on offer.

Of course, what has contributed to the Lions' defence being under such immense pressure has been the midfield allowing their own opponents to create so many forward-50m entries for their team and chances to score.

The Lions have given up an average of 62 a match - five more than the next worst in Essendon. Geelong, their opponent on Sunday, by comparison, concedes a league-best 44.

Having fit a Dayne Beams (two games this season), Allen Christensen (11) and Tom Bell (12) winning their own ball through the middle will also help in that area.


Daniel Merrett wasn't the only ginger to to call it quits this week with 2008 Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney also set to retire.

They both make our AFL (1990-2016) Team of Redheads.

B: Ben Hart, Dustin Fletcher, Daniel Merrett

HB: Brendon Goddard, Justin Leppitsch, Guy Mckenna

C: Adam Cooney, Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis

HF: Dermott Brereton, Lance Whitnall, Jack Riewoldt

F: Jarryd Roughead, Barry Hall, Darren Bewick

Foll: Sam Jacobs, Cameron Ling, Nathan Burke

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