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Lions won’t be taken lightly: Rawlings

Matt Burgan  August 17, 2017 11:34 AM

We’ve got a lot of ambition to where we can take it over the course of time, so I’m just lucky to be part of the growth of the club and seeing individuals in the team improve

ASSISTANT coach Jade Rawlings says Melbourne is fully aware of the Brisbane Lions’ capabilities and says the red and blue is prepared for a genuine contest at the MCG on Sunday.

Although the Lions are 18th on the table, they are the best performed bottom of the ladder side since – coincidentally – the Lions of 1998, when they finished last with five wins.

Given the Lions kicked their highest score since round 17, 2007 last round – 22.10 (142) – and defeated the Gold Coast Suns by 58 points at the Gabba last Saturday, Rawlings said Melbourne was ready for the improving Lions.

“They’ve had a really good month, the Lions. They score really well and had the Bulldogs on toast three weeks ago, and then took a young team to Perth and then played well against Gold Coast last weekend, and scored very heavily,” he told melbournefc.com.au.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for Brisbane and we’ve watched them pretty closely over the course of the year and we’ve seen a lot of growth and improvement in them.

“We’ve been putting a fair bit of time into their strengths and what they bring to the game, so we’ve got to make sure we bring our best as well.”

The defensive coordinator said plenty was gleaned from last Sunday’s 24-point win over St Kilda at the MCG that would be taken into round 22.

“It was really good to review some positive elements to our game, which have eluded us in the previous two weeks,” he said.

“The players were really aware of what makes our system work and we knew it would be a pretty high pressure game playing St Kilda.

“We were pretty positive with some of the things that came out of the game, which we think are going to serve us well at the backend of the season.”

Rawlings said one of the most pleasing aspects from its second win over St Kilda this season was its consistency across the board.

“I think when we play our best, we have a pretty even spread of contributors,” he said.

“James Harmes, who helped set up the win for us, Cam Pedersen, Mitch Hannan and Jake Melksham kicked nine of our 14 goals, and Josh Wagner came in and played a good role on the wing.

“I thought Jayden Hunt got back to his best and Tom McDonald, going down back after playing up forward for two or three months, was very good. Angus Brayshaw came back and was an important introduction to the team and he played the way we wanted him to play.

“Alex Neal-Bullen had a really positive influence and is becoming a regular senior player now. We’ve trained our players up to perform in any conditions, on any stage, against any opposition. There were moments where our leaders had major impacts on the game and moments where our inexperienced players were the ones that were leading the way.

“The most important thing was the even spread we got.”

With two more home and away rounds before a possible finals berth – which would be Melbourne’s first since 2006 – Rawlings said the external talk about September was not the focus within the football department.   

“I think our senior coach has led the way on that front for the whole year – saying it’s where you are in round 23 and not where you are at the end of round 21,” he said.

“That’ll take care of itself and we just need to keep playing to our strengths and keep putting a team out there that’s going to be able to play the way we want, and compete the way we want. Everything else will run its course as the year goes on.”

Rawlings, who has been part of the AFL’s level four coaching course and is among the next wave of senior coaching prospects, said he was relishing his time at Melbourne, given he joined in September 2011 and has gone through some tough times.

“It’s been really pleasing to be part of the growth of the club,” he said.

“We got close [to finals] last year, but we showed we weren’t quite ready by winning 10 games and then we’ve made more improvements again this year.

“We’ve got a lot of ambition to where we can take it over the course of time, so I’m just lucky to be part of the growth of the club and seeing individuals in the team improve.”