AFL: Joe Daniher’s return poses a selection dilemma for the Lions

Who makes way in the Brisbane Lions’ line-up for the returning Joe Daniher is a question set to be answered this week.

Darcy Gardiner’s injured ribs may have provided a temporary cure for what shapes as the Brisbane Lions’ biggest selection headache of the AFL season – who to drop when key forward Joe Daniher returns from a shoulder injury.

It’s a problem which needs solving immediately, with Daniher tipped to make his comeback on Saturday against St Kilda after a five-match absence.

It will mean for the first time this season Brisbane’s brigade of ruckmen and tall forwards – Oscar McInerney, Darcy Fort, Dan McStay, Eric Hipwood and Daniher – will all be available for selection.

The Lions could have been extra cautious with Daniher considering they have a bye the following week, but Brisbane coach Chris Fagan wants the former Essendon star back on the park as soon as possible.

“He’s been in full training for the last three weeks, so he’s keen to play, (and) the medical people think he should play,” Fagan told SEN’s Sportsday.

“They don’t think having another couple of weeks off is going to make too much difference.

“I’m in their hands. I hope and pray that they’re right.”

Daniher’s return could mean selection heartache for big man Darcy Fort, who is yet to miss a game this season and has mostly worked well with Brisbane’s first-choice ruckman, Oscar McInerney.

However, none of Brisbane’s five giants will have to miss out if defender Gardiner doesn’t recover from the rib injury that forced him off in the Lions’ weekend loss to Fremantle.

Fagan could elect to use McStay, who is set make his 150th AFL appearance on Saturday at the Gabba, in defence as cover for Gardiner.

It’s the selection move Lions great Jason Akermanis favours.

“McStay goes back, Joe comes in, keep the two ruckmen (McInerney and Fort) – that’s a better set-up for the Lions,” Akermanis said.

“That’s what I’d be doing if I was Chris Fagan.”

However, if one of the big men does have to miss out, Akermanis would choose Fort as the fall guy.

“(Fort) would be the one that has to go. Unfortunately for the last few weeks, he hasn’t offered those other things you expect from your second ruckman,” the 2001 Brownlow medallist said.

However, Akermanis’ former teammate and fellow triple premiership winner, Jonathan Brown, would this weekend find room in Brisbane’s 22 for Fort, McInerney, Daniher, McStay and Hipwood and find another replacement for Gardiner if needed.

“St Kilda’s strength is their two ruckmen, (Paddy) Ryder and (Rowan) Marshall, so I’d go with Fort and McInerney in tandem, and play the other three up forward,” former Lions skipper Brown said.

“If that works, we’ll see how it’s used going forward.

“The Lions need to improve in their clearances. They’re giving up a lot of scores in a short period of time from stoppage situations.”

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