Hodge's AFL pre-season message in Brisbane

Luke Hodge has made a statement of intent before his second AFL season with Brisbane, returning early to lead the Lions' fitness sessions.

luke hodge of the lions handballs during the warmp ups before the afl match between the brisbane lions and the hawthorn hawks at the gabba in brisbane australia
LUKE HODGE of the Lions handballs during the warmp-ups before the AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Hawthorn Hawks at The Gabba in Brisbane, Australia. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Luke Hodge's early return to lead Brisbane's pre-season training sessions has boosted the AFL side's morale after the shock exit of Dayne Beams.

Former Lions captain Beams moved in last month's AFL trade period, returning to Collingwood despite earlier assurances he would stay on at the Gabba.

The switch shocked teammates, who had drawn considerable inspiration from his candour as he mourned the death of his father.

Jarrod Berry, who rates himself a "very close mate" of Beams, said he was surprised but understanding of the midfielder's departure.

"He's like that mentor role; it'll be hard but I think what we've done over trade period we'll be able to collectively fill that role," Berry said.

"You've just got to roll with the punches and move on as a club.

"It'll be a good match in round five (against Collingwood); I'm keen to get a role on him and maybe play on him."

Berry, 20, hasn't needed to look far for another role model though, with four-time premiership winner Hodge waiving his right to a later pre-season return to mix it with the squad's youngest members.

The midfielder revealed the former Hawthorn captain had been joining them for optional fitness sessions for the last month.

"You can't keep Hodgey away, he bloody loves it," Berry said.

"It's great for our culture to see a bloke like that, who's done it all basically, to come out and show us young boys how to train properly."

The ceiling is high at the Gabba and a finals berth is now something the rebuilding club is happy to target after a season that again produced far more positives than their 5-17 record would suggest.

"We've publicly said that we want to play finals; it's something that we've got to be working towards," Berry said.

"You can't put a number on the games we want to win, as long as we're improving we're going to claw our way up the ladder."


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