‘I’m no Hodge’: Birchall to play his own way
Four-time premiership Hawk Grant Birchall says Brisbane has the talent to win a flag as he prepares to bring a Luke Hodge-style role to the Lions' backline in 2020.
In Hobart - the home town of Brisbane coach Chris Fagan - for the club's pre-season camp, Birchall got his first true taste of life as a new Lion in match simulation over the past two days.
After 248 games at Hawthorn and an All-Australian honour, the 31-year-old Tasmanian assessed Brisbane, the surprise packet of last season, as having the cattle to win a premiership.
"They've definitely got the talent, absolutely," Birchall said. "There is competition for spots, and depth is the sign of a good team, and there are guys really driving for positions all over the ground, and that's really exciting.
"We'll see how it pans out."
Birchall took up a spot in his customary half-back position for the Lions' practice games, which were umpired by "Razor" Ray Chamberlain at the Twin Ovals.
Asked if he was expected to bring a Hodge-type role down back, Birchall said: "Yes. But I'm a different player to Luke. I'll play higher up the ground and play to my strengths and help lead and try and help the team take that next step.
"Luke's one of the best leaders the game has ever seen, so I'm no Luke Hodge. I will play my way and lead where I can."
Birchall has been impressed with the pride of the Lions.
"They're a tight-knit group," he said. "They do everything together on and off the field, they are very young and exciting and enthusiastic.
"That's what I love most about the group."
The camp is a chance to consolidate friendships and learn more about teammates.
"I'm getting used to the patterns and the movements, our ball use and everything involved in our game plan," Birchall said. "I'm trying to work on them and get better.
"It's still pretty early, so it's just getting used to how the boys roll and their strengths, terminology and nicknames. I'm slowly getting there.
"The body is feeling really good - I'm just trying to get strong and resilient again and I've been doing everything that they've asked of me."
Fellow Tasmanian Mitch Robinson jogged laps instead of playing.
"He's got a niggle in his calf at the moment, but it's nothing too serious," Birchall said.
"Robbo" is expected to be available for Brisbane's game against Port Adelaide in the opening round of the Marsh Community Series in Brisbane on February 23.