A premiership winner’s likely availability for the preliminary final is set to give Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan a pleasant selection headache.
AFL: Brisbane Lions are looking to make the most of their week off in the finals, before they gather as a team to see who will be their preliminary final opponent.
Gunston, 31, hasn’t played since suffering medial collateral ligament damage in the Lions’ six-point home win over Adelaide on August 12.
Since that victory, the Lions have won another three straight games – including last weekend’s qualifying final success over Port Adelaide – in Gunston’s absence to book a berth in Saturday week’s preliminary final at the Gabba against the winner of Friday night’s MCG battle between Melbourne and Carlton.
It is expected Gunston will be available for preliminary final selection should Brisbane coach Chris Fagan decide the former Hawthorn star’s experience could prove vital in the do-or-die contest.
‘He’s obviously had those really good experiences at Hawthorn to help us go through this period,” McCarthy said.
“I get along with Jack really well and he’s such a calm, intelligent operator. Hopefully, he gets himself to a position where he’s available.”
McCarthy didn’t think a potential Gunston return would disrupt a Brisbane forward line that had performed well in recent weeks.
“The pleasing aspect of our side has been how flexible we are. We’ve been able to bring players in and it hasn’t really impact on our overall system too much,’ he said.
“That’s what we’ve been working on over the last few years. We have a lot of guys able to play dual roles and when things change, other guys step up and fulfil different aspects of the forward line, or wing, or midfield.
“Jack is really versatile, so that is going to work in his favour and obviously he has the experience in finals.
“We know if his body is right, he’ll be ready to go, but it (selection) is not my decision.”
McCarthy said confidence was high in Brisbane’s camp ahead of a third preliminary final appearance in four seasons.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been through some times over the last four years where we haven’t been able to get the job done, but I feel like it has made us stronger, and we’re still so committed to achieving that end goal,” he said as the Lions edge closer to winning the premiership for the first time since 2003.
“Even myself, I feel a little bit calmer about what’s ahead for us. Among the group, it’s quite a good feeling at the moment, but talk is cheap – we have to get out there and deliver.”