AFL: Dayne Zorko hopes to celebrate milestone with grand final win

Win or lose Saturday’s AFL grand final, Brisbane Lions stalwart Dayne Zorko has no intention of retiring.

As the former captain gave the green light to teammate Lincoln McCarthy who was nursing strapping on his calf at the team’s final Brisbane training session, Zorko was quick to clear any confusion about his own future.

There have been suggestions that winning the premiership in his 250th AFL appearance would be the perfect way for 34-year-old Zorko – who is off-contract – to hang up his boots.

However, the former Lions captain took umbrage on Thursday when asked if post-grand final retirement was a possibility.

“I’ve seen a little bit of the reporting of this over the 24 hours – I don’t know what that speculation is and why,” Zorko said.

“We always seem to knock down players when they get to a certain age that we think they must retire.

“My football has been as good as it’s been over my career over the last 12 months.

“My body’s in really good shape. There’s no reason as to why I wouldn’t continue playing next year.”

Zorko’s form since returning in July from a calf injury has been a key factor in the Lions reaching their first grand final since 2004.

Since losing that decider to Port Adelaide in chasing a fourth straight premiership, the Lions been on a rollercoaster journey that Zorko has been a part of since 2012.

He debuted for the Lions – against this weekend’s grand final opponents Collingwood – when he was 23 after being on-traded to Brisbane from the Gold Coast Suns, who had recruited him as a Queensland zone selection.

“My journey’s a little bit different to most but it just makes this even more special,” Zorko said in reflecting on a top-flight career set to reach 250 games on the code’s biggest stage.

“What an occasion to be able to run out in front of a full MCG house on the last Saturday it in September. It’s what all kids dream of doing.

“It’s such a privilege to play one game of AFL football, but to play 250 and for it to be the occasion of the grand final, I’ll be forever grateful.

“It’s an unbelievable personal achievement, but there’s a lot more on the line than me playing 250 games on the weekend.

“We’ve got a team that’s worked extremely hard, not only this year, but for a number of years under ‘Faces’ (coach Chris Fagan), and the opportunity that presents itself in one we certainly don’t want to let slip.”

Zorko is delighted that his teammate and brother-in-law Ryan Lester will be alongside him for his milestone match and a grand final.

Lester debuted for the Lions in 2011 but only made AFL appearances last season as he fell out of selection favour not for the first time in his Brisbane career.

However, the 31-year-old defender has played in 18 top-flight matches this year, including the Lions’ past 13 games in succession to demand grand final selection.

“He’s so determined,” Zorko said of Lester.

“He’s had knock-backs, form slumps and injuries that have kept him out of the side over the past three, four years, and one thing he’s done is he’s gone back to the reserves, worked really hard and given himself an opportunity to get back into this team.

“It didn’t surprise me this year when he came back in and absolutely dominated. He’s been our most consistent player over the last 15 weeks.

“The work he puts in off-field and on-field, it’s all come to the forefront now, and what an unbelievable opportunity for us, as a whole family to play in a grand final together.”

The family occasion will extend to Zorko’s father Alex being in the MCG crowd.

Unable to fly because of a heart condition, Alex left for Melbourne on Wednesday in a car driven by injured Lions defender Noah Answerth.

“It just goes to show the personnel that we have at this club, (Answerth) offered to drive my old man and uncle down (to Melbourne),” Zorko said.

“Noah’s a phenomenal person. He’s had a horrid run with injuries, but he’s put the team first, put the people in the club first, and to do a kind act like that for me is unreal.”

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