Charman comeback plans on hold

LAST minute concerns for Jamie Charman's fitness have stalled the Brisbane Lions No.1 ruckman's AFL comeback plans.

Charman was surprisingly named as an emergency player on yesterday when the Lions unveiled their team for tomorrow night's AFL season opener against the West Coast Eagles at the Gabba.

However, recovering vice-captains Simon Black (hand) and Daniel Merrett (quad) won their race against time to be named in a team that also boasts boom draftee Daniel Rich.

Charman - a 2003 premiership player - is not officially on the Lions injury list after overcoming off-season knee surgery.

He was considered a certainty for the Gabba showdown after gaining a special clearance - along with Merrett - to make a low-key return in the AFLQ state league last weekend.

And Lions assistant coach Adrian Fletcher appeared to give Charman the all clear when he assessed the big man yesterday.

“Missed the start of pre-season but has put eight good weeks together and is ready to play,” he told the Lions website.

“He's one of our most important components with his rucking and ability to follow up with clearances.”

However, a lack of match conditioning ultimately ensured Charman was a notable absentee in the Lions team along with Jared Brennan (quad).

Brennan may be available for round two.

Charman's absence ensures the 204cm Matthew Leuenberger steps into the No.1 ruckman role - a challenge Fletcher clearly feels the 20-year-old is up to after a strong pre-season.

“He's put on weight through his core and legs and really grown into his body,” Fletcher said of the third year player.

“Matty's a modern day ruckman with his athleticism and ability to win the ball at ground a level.”

While fullback Merrett has played only an AFLQ game ahead of the first round, star midfielder Black (broken wrist, back and ankle surgery) hasn't experienced a minute of pre-season football due to his long list of ailments.

Subiaco recruit Rich, 18, will line up against the side he used to barrack for in WA after receiving the green light for tomorrow night.

Already a two-time WAFL premiership winner, Rich will join Black and Mitch Clark as the only first-year players to make round one debuts in Brisbane Lions history.

Considered a top three pick, Rich was surprisingly snapped up at No.7 by the Lions in last year's draft.

Fletcher was gushing in his appraisal of Rich.

“Really stepped up to the plate. We'll play him in a number of roles, across half forward, through the midfield,” he said.

“Has to increase his endurance base, but Daniel is level headed, has a mature body and a beautiful left foot.”



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