Payne of axing eased, Lions defender finds his groove

Jack Payne says his belief is back after "one of those halves" cost the Brisbane Lions' key defender his AFL spot.

The 24-year-old was dropped following the Lions' shock Opening Round loss to Carlton, when Blues forward Charlie Curnow kicked four goals in quick time to spark an incredible Gabba comeback.

It was a big call from Chris Fagan, given Payne's breakout 2023 season and the coach's penchant for loyalty at the selection table.

Asked if he felt his axing was harsh, Payne said, "You'd probably have to ask Fages that.

"I just had one of those halves that didn't go my way. Sometimes in footy those things happen. You've got to move on quickly.

"(I) went back to the twos, knew what I had to work on and got my confidence back.

"The last two weeks I've been able to find my form again and regroup."

Payne was recalled after one week in the VFL and has since kept All-Australian Nick Larkey and Ben Brown quiet in wins against North Melbourne and Melbourne.

It's helped the Lions improve what was an 0-3 record ahead of another stern test, with unbeaten Geelong's forward-line weapons Jeremy Cameron, Tom Hawkins and Ollie Henry waiting on Saturday at the Gabba.

"The vibe's strong at the moment, probably the best it's been," Payne said.

"The spirit of the group is really good and we can't wait for Saturday night."

Zac Bailey (ankle) won't play, while Lachie Neale completed agility work on Thursday as he manages ankle soreness.

Will Ashcroft ran laps of the Gabba as he continued his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

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