AFL: Rayner set to shine for Lions against the Swans

Lions star Cam Rayner’s steady return from a major knee injury is set to step up a notch.

It has taken six matches, but Brisbane Lions star Cam Rayner believes he has finally rediscovered his mojo in his return from a serious knee injury.

And that could spell danger for the Swans in Sunday’s AFL blockbuster at the SCG.

Rayner missed the entire 2021 season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in a trial match in March last year.

It was a long road back for the top pick in the 2017 national draft, but an impressive pre-season had Rayner eager to make an immediate contribution to Brisbane’s 2022 AFL campaign.

But while Rayner hasn’t missed a match this season. Lions coach Chris Fagan was forced to rein in the 22-year-old midfielder-forward’s desperation to make up for lost time.

“We spoke about that at the start of the year when I was on the edge about coming back and trying to dominate straight away,” Rayner said in recalling his conversation with the coach.

“’Fages’ told me it was going to take time, and it has for me.

“It’s always going to take time for anyone when you’re not doing something for 12 months.

“It’s pretty hard to come straight back in and pick up where you left off even though that’s what I was trying to do.”

Having eased his way back, Rayner said a turning point came in Brisbane’s 52-point thrashing of the Gold Coast Suns in last Sunday’s QClash at Metricon Stadium.

“Last week was a big step forward for me in getting back to playing more consistent footy,” he said.”

“To be able to come out and put together one of my better performances over the last six games, it was a confidence booster for me and hopefully I can take it further in the next few games.

“I was getting a lot more clarity with what I needed to do with each game, and that means it’s so much easier to perform and do your role.

“Now I’m back, and I’m excited and happy that I’m back. It’s just been good to out there and play, and have a bit more of a normal routine this year than what it was last year.”

Rayner’s improving form has perhaps mirrored that of the Lions, who have won five from six this season without hitting their peak.

“We still don’t think we’ve played our best footy yet, but to not be playing our best footy and still have won that many matches is a really good sign of the maturity of the group and how far we’ve come since we started this journey,” he said.

“In saying that, we want to get to our best footy as soon as we can, and we’re still trying to find out what that looks like.”

The Lions might need their “best footy” to beat the Swans, who have also won five of their six games in what has been an impressive start to the season.

“They’re really attacking the corridor now and it’s exciting footy that they play,” Rayner said.

“They’re a great team and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

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