DANGER MAN: Josh Kennedy of the Eagles (left) will present a big challenge to the Brisbane Lions today.
DANGER MAN: Josh Kennedy of the Eagles (left) will present a big challenge to the Brisbane Lions today. JULIAN SMITH

Young Lion Hipwood faces tough test against Eagles

ERIC Hipwood’s debut for Brisbane at the Gabba today against West Coast will provide some rare excitement for the club in a tumultuous season.

He’s another local product for the local team ... with huge wraps.

But the kid from Caloundra will just need time to grow into his athletic 202cm frame. Right now he’s almost 20kg off where he will end up.

And while a senior debut is well-earned after impressing in the Lions reserves, it could be a baptism by fire.

Hipwood made a name for himself at last year’s national under-18 championships as a dashing defender but has also made an impact up forward in the NEAFL, kicking a couple of bags of four goals.

With fellow Lions Academy graduate Harris Andrews (groin) and Dan McStay (omitted) missing from the defence today, and just Josh Schache and Josh Walker to hold up the attack, Hipwood could be used at either end today.

But that would mean either trying to help Dan Merrett and Darcy Gardiner curb Eagles forwards Josh Kennedy, who kicked eight goals in the round-one win over the Lions, and Jack Darling, down back, or trying to get the better of Eric McKenzie, Will Schofield and Jeremy McGovern up forward.

With his height, and Trent West being dropped, Hipwood will surely have to help out in the ruck, where he could be safest with Nic Naitanui (achilles) and Scott Lycett (club-imposed ban) not making the trip.

Certainly embattled coach Justin Leppitsch saw the benefits of that pair’s absence.

“That’s a positive for our midfield ... we’re a better chance of winning hitouts now,” he said.

With the pressure mounting on him after a 1-11 start, Leppitsch said: “You don’t go into a boxing fight not expecting to get a punch in the face do you?

“They (West Coast) will get the game on their terms and how we respond to that will be the most important thing of this week ... sometimes you just have to hold the fort for 10 minutes.”

Wherever Hipwood ends up on the field, anyone who knows him will be aware he loves a challenge, though, and will certainly be up for the fight for his coach and his team.