Pot-holed journey for Lions ruckman

Shayne Hope Melbourne

Brisbane giant Matthew Leuenberger is the sort of player who leaves fantasy football nuts scratching their heads at the start of each season.

A supremely talented former first-round draft pick, his relatively cheap price tag can be attributed to a succession of injuries, which also breeds an element of caution among punters.

Leuenberger managed just five games last year in a campaign wrecked by knee and Achilles injuries, advancing his tally to 94 matches in eight years at Brisbane.

The WA product will finally reach the 100-game milestone against St Kilda at the Gabba on Sunday after being dropped to the reserves earlier this season.

“It’s been a journey,” Leuenberger said.

“It’s a bit of a relief, to be honest, to get there and I’m looking forward to it.”

Taken with the No.4 pick in the 2006 draft, Leuenberger has finished in the top 10 of Brisbane’s best-and-fairest award in each of the three seasons in which he has played 20 or more games (ninth in 2010, sixth in 2011 and 2013).

At his best, the mobile 203cm big man is arguably one of the best ruckmen in the league.

But luckless Leuenberger admits there have been times when he doubted his body could stand up to the rigours of AFL football.

“As time progressed and they (injuries) kept coming, I had a few questions run through my head about when it would ease up and I’d get a clear break to get some continuity in my footy,” Leuenberger said.

A modified 2015 pre-season program, involving extended rest periods and less physically demanding sessions, has put Leuenberger back on track.

But with Stefan Martin holding down Brisbane’s No.1 ruck spot, Leuenberger has had to learn a new craft.

Playing as a key target in attack isn’t as simple as staying deep, taking marks and converting set shots, as it was on the odd occasions Leuenberger ventured forward on his way up through the junior ranks at East Perth.

At the end of this season, Leuenberger is eligible to become a free agent, most likely unrestricted.

He will attract attention from other clubs keen to bolster their big-man stocks.

But he insists he’s settled in Brisbane and won’t let contract talks bother him while he concentrates on finding his best form.