Justin Clarke happy to hold up an end for Lions

Justin Clarke of the Lions is tackled by Luke Dunstan of the Saints during the round 9 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and St Kilda Saints at The Gabba in Brisbane, Sunday, May 31, 2015. (AAP Image/Matt Roberts) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Justin Clarke of the Lions is tackled by Luke Dunstan of the Saints during the round 9 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and St Kilda Saints at The Gabba in Brisbane, Sunday, May 31, 2015. (AAP Image/Matt Roberts) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY. MATT ROBERTS

IT'S fortunate Justin Clarke likes a challenge. As a key defender with the Brisbane Lions he's had more than his fair share in his short career.

"Playing on big forwards who have another 5cm in height and 10kg of extra weight can be a bit interesting, but I always relish those opportunities to test myself out against those big boys," the 195cm, 93kg Clarke told APN.

But, the 21-year-old South Australian (pictured) who plays his 50th game tomorrow, has also taken on more than just his direct opponent this year.

With Joel Patfull gone to GWS, Matt Maguire retired and Daniel Merrett injured, Clarke has stepped up to be the general of the Lions' young defence that also includes Darcy Gardiner (24 games), Harris Andrews (10) and Marco Paperone (36).

"I'm very proud of the way the defence has held up. We've certainly been under the pump," he said.

"None of us have the biggest bodies going around the place, but we're certainly learning as we go along."

Clarke did admit he would welcome the return of Merrett for his first game since round one after overcoming a hamstring strain, with the Lions hosting Sydney.

The Swans have regained Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett from suspension, while Sam Reid and Adam Goodes have also been named in attack.

"There's certainly a lot of height in that forward line," Clarke said.

Merrett is set to man Franklin, who makes his first appearance at the Gabba in seven years.

"He should be good to go," Clarke said of Merrett. "It'll be fantastic to have that bit of extra experience."

While the Lions are back on the bottom of the ladder at 2-11 and the Swans sit second (at 10-3), the hosts are aiming for another competitive showing after pushing Fremantle in Perth last week, and Adelaide in the game before that.

Clarke said his side had been working to "try and reduce the fade-outs and be able to close out games".

As well as Merrett, the return of star pair Tom Rockliff and Pearce Hanley will help, though Josh Green (foot) and Mitch Robinson (foot) are sidelined.

Clarke said he hoped the weather would make life a little more difficult for the big Swans forwards. "The wetter and windier it is the better," he said.



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