UNITED FRONT: Tom Rockliff of the Lions gets a handball away.
UNITED FRONT: Tom Rockliff of the Lions gets a handball away. GLENN HUNT

Rockliff hits back at claims he’s overweight

AFL: Already feeling the pressure of a club-record 12-game losing streak, Brisbane Lions captain Tom Rockliff has rejected reports he is overweight and accused the media of trying to create division between the players and coach Justin Leppitsch.

Interviewed on RSN radio yesterday, Rockliff responded to a newspaper column last week that claimed he would not pass Carlton’s skin-fold requirements and was setting a poor example for teammates.

“To suggest I don’t train hard, and he mentioned about my weight as well, when I had a DEXA scan a few weeks ago, that suggests I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said.

“I think we’ve got a really good footy club that operates well and unfortunately at the moment we’ve lost 12 games on the trot and everyone’s looking for answers.

“Externally, they (the media) are trying to almost drive a wedge into our playing group and coaching staff and it is hard at times, but that’s the industry we live in.”

Rockliff praised Leppitsch for coming to his defence on the morning the column was published, with the coach labelling it “lies” and a “bunch of bulls**t”.

“I think it sent a really strong and clear message to the public out there that we are united and all pushing as one,” Rockliff told RSN.

“He’s commenting on rumours a lot at the moment, which becomes frustrating, and I think he has to defend his job in every media (conference) that he does.

“Unfortunately we’re not playing the way we want to and getting the results we want, so he’s always under the pump, but he’s handled himself really well. We chat regularly.”

Speculation over the future of Leppitsch, who is contracted until the end of next season, has intensified after two-time Geelong premiership coach Mark Thompson’s declared he is interested in returning to senior coaching.

Thompson, 52, told News Corp the Brisbane job was not on his radar, but admitted he needed a challenge in his life.

He said he would talk to the Lions if Leppitsch was moved on, but added: “I’ll tell you what would happen, I would probably ask them more questions than they asked me.

“You’d want to know who you’re working for this time round, because I’m wiser and I know exactly what I want.

“It would be really hard to employ me because I’d ask the questions they might not want to hear.”

In a match that will likely decide who gets the wooden spoon, the Lions are $2.65 underdogs to beat Essendon ($1.50) at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

THE Gold Coast Suns have lost midfielder Dion Prestia for the rest of the season to a knee injury.

Prestia, who is out of contract, has gone under the knife in Melbourne after nursing the injury for much of the season.

His captain, Gary Ablett, will make a decision on shoulder surgery later this week, and Michael Rischitelli will have surgery on his ruptured ACL tomorrow.