AFL: Rayner and Petracca set to shine at Gabba

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Being compared to Christian Petracca sits well with Cam Rayner, and it’s not only the on-field exploits of the Melbourne star which have set an example for the in-form Brisbane Lion to follow.

On Friday night, the pair will clash in a Gabba blockbuster in an AFL final-round battle with huge consequences.

The winning team will secure a spot in the top four, while the losers will almost definitely have to settle for a spot in the bottom half of the top eight, from where it’s extremely tough to win the flag.

For Rayner, who stood tall with a matchwinning three-goal final quarter in Brisbane’s crucial win over St Kilda last Friday, it’s pressure he relishes.

“This is the time everyone loves to play footy; when the pressure’s up and the moments are getting bigger and bigger,” the former No.1 draft pick said.

It was the type of high-stakes football Rayner desperately missed last year as he sat out the whole 2021 season following a knee reconstruction.

“This time last year I was sitting in a pub, watching the footy, having a couple of beers. It’s a lot more exciting this year, that’s for sure,” he said.

Among those to help Rayner through the tough times was Petracca, who suffered a similar injury seven years ago.

“He did his ACL as well and when he reached out, that was awesome to me,” said Rayner, who was this week compared to Petracca by Brisbane’s triple premiership-winning great Jonathan Brown.

“It’s good to be compared to good players – it means you’re doing something right.

“I see the similarities with our ability to play in the midfield and forward. He’s a player I try to model a bit of my game on. He’s a superstar.”

Rayner is also following in Petracca’s footsteps in supporting others being forced to sit on sidelines for lengthy periods.

“That’s what I try to do now after my injury – speak to people who are going through long-term injuries because it’s just nice to speak to someone who’s been through what you’re going to go through,” he said.

“They can give you a breakdown and they’re always a bit of a sounding board if you need anything.”

Rayner is looking forward to catching up with Petracca in the off-season.

“We’re going to try to do a couple of gym sessions together, which will be nice,” he said.

However, on Friday night their friendship will be put on hold temporarily as they seek to give their teams a crucial ascendancy.

“We’re not worried about them – we’re just worried about what we’re going to do,” Rayner said.

“Either way, win or lose, we’re really confident of going into the finals that we can give it a good shake, so it’s going to be an exciting month ahead.”

Originally published as Lions ace Cam Rayner pleased to be compared with Demons star Christian Petracca


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