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26 disposals, 3 broken ribs and 2 panadols

Tom Rockliff is hurting.

The Brisbane Lions have won just two matches so far this season and, for the moment, there’s not a whole lot the injured skipper can do to turn their fortunes around.

“Not being able to compete with the boys, and lead the way I’d like to, makes it pretty tough,” Rockliff told this week.

More literally, he’s hurting because – for the second time this year – three of his ribs are broken.

In Round 1, a knee through the ribcage also punctured his lung. Incredibly, he missed just two matches before making a Round 4 return against West Coast.

In Round 5, he suffered a heavy concussion. The Lions won two of their next four after that, and just as it seemed Rockliff’s horror run was over, his ribs were broken again.

“I just tried to take the pain away as best I could – I had a couple of Panadols.” – Tom Rockliff

It happened midway through the first quarter of Sunday’s clash with St Kilda.

“I didn’t know that I’d broken them all again, but I knew I’d done some damage.”

Remarkably, the 25-year-old played out the remainder of the match, finishing with 26 disposals and a goal.

“I just tried to take the pain away as best I could – I had a couple of Panadols. My main focus was to get the boys up. We started the game so well in the first quarter but let St Kilda back in.

“Once it cooled down, that was when I had the most pain. You really just want to continue to play so that it stays warm and you don’t lose that adrenaline that you’re running on.

“There was a fair bit of pain at different times, but it was something where I felt like I could get through and continue to contribute, and I think I did, in the end.”

AFL 2015 Rd 08 - Essendon v Brisbane

Rockliff can’t wait to get back out there, but isn’t yet sure when he’ll return. In the meantime, he’s not having too much fun at home.

“Sleeping’s a bit of an issue. When I try to rotate [to roll over], that’s the main source of pain and restriction… The ribs are obviously a bit tender, but I’ll survive.”

Despite the discomfort, Rockliff isn’t sitting around feeling sorry for himself. His focus remains on his club and his teammates.

“Sleeping’s a bit of an issue. When I try to rotate, that’s the main source of pain.” – Tom Rockliff

“I’ve just got to support the boys and try to lead them the best I can without being out there.

“I come down to training and sit on the sidelines and talk to the boys when they come on and off the ground. I try to give them pointers – things that could help them go out there and perform their role better.”

The experience has given him an insight into the life of a coach.

“I’m spending a bit more time with the coaches and seeing what that’s like. It’s a bit of an eye-opener and a bit of education in terms of whether that’s something I want to do post-footy.

“The management of it all would be the tricky part – but I won’t have to worry about any of that for a fair few years. My main focus is to get right, and get back out there playing alongside the boys as quickly as possible.”

Though 2015 hasn’t gone to plan for the Lions so far, Rockliff is buoyed by the improvement he sees in the club’s younger players – something he hopes will set the side up for years to come.

“I think Harris Andrews is a really exciting talent for us, the way he’s continuing to develop.

“And Daniel McStay is playing as a key forward in his second year, which is pretty exciting for him, and for us and our development.

“They’re two of the main key position players at either end of the ground, so we’re hoping to get as much footy into them as possible.”

Click here to read about Rockliff’s approach to captaincy