Brisbane hoping to take Lions' share of local talent

Tom Bell during his breakout year with Carlton in the AFL.
Tom Bell during his breakout year with Carlton in the AFL.

The Brisbane Lions are preparing to unfurl the 'Welcome Home' banner again as they look to replenish their list with local talent.

The Lions' off-season priority will be to secure academy products Eric Hipwood and Ben Keays, as well as highly-rated Victorian Josh Schache, in next month's national draft.

In the meantime they will explore the possibility of acquiring at least one experienced born-and-bred Brisbane player, maybe two.

Carlton half-forward Tom Bell is certainly in the Lions' sights, while Hawthorn utility Brendan Whitecross may also come into calculations.

Following the recruitment of Dayne Beams from Collingwood 12 months ago, their arrival would help offset the continuing departures of non-Queensland players.

The league's free agency period begins today, and the trade period on Monday.

Lions list manager Peter Schwab told APN the club's recruiting philosophy was "always to bring in the best possible talent you can", regardless of where the players hail from.

"But, I think it's nice that we can start to build our Queensland content," he said. "I think that's good for the footy club.

"We're not locked in to picking a player purely because he's a Queenslander, but I think if they're good enough we'll certainly pick them."

While Whitecross, 25, a popular member at the Hawks where he has been unable to cement a senior spot, could switch to Brisbane for nothing as a free agent, the Lions will have to trade to get the improving Bell, 24.

The Lions can expect to gain a couple of second-round picks for the loss of ruckman Matthew Leuenberger and onballer Jack Redden, which could be used in any other deals. For the first time, the AFL is also allowing clubs to offer up next year's draft picks.

West Australian Leuenberger is expected to join Sydney as a free agent, while contracted South Australian Redden wants to be a West Coast Eagle.

Fellow South Aussie James Aish, meanwhile, may end up in the pre-season draft for out-of-contract players, and in turn Carlton, which has the first pick, after requesting a trade to Collingwood.

Lions chief executive Greg Swann said yesterday: "We understand his position but the club has no intention of trading James. That's all we have to say on it right now."

Aish, taken with pick No.7 in the 2013 national draft, has held off on signing a new contract with the Lions since they first approached him may way through his debut season.   His manager, Liam Pickering, told Trade Radio he could understand Brisbane's frustration, but his client had every right to make his decision.   "They've got the power and they've got to work out whether they want to lose James Aish for nothing or do a deal," he said.   "They held onto some really strong hope of keeping James, and quite rightly so too.   "People think this has been dragging on - it hasn't. He's been undecided about where he sees his future and he wants to come to Melbourne and play for Collingwood.   "It's taken him a long time to come to that decision and now the job is to get him there."   Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide to Geelong) heads the small list of free agents on the move, while Gold Coast pair Harley Bennell (to Fremantle) and Charlie Dixon (to Port), Adam Treloar (GWS to Collingwood), Lewis Jetta (Sydney to West Coast) and Jake Carlisle (Essendon to St Kilda) will be part of trades.


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