Eric Hipwood works on his ball skills at training.
Eric Hipwood works on his ball skills at training. Chris Hyde

Eric no longer Lions' solo act

ERIC Hipwood will have two jobs when Brisbane host West Coast in their AFL season opener on Saturday.

The first bestowed on the 21-year-old is selecting the music to be played in the Lions' dressing room.

He hadn't settled on the line-up, but there could be a little Rufus de Sol or the Jungle Giants, current favourites.

"I try to be a crowd-pleaser (but) a few of the boys wear headphones. They mustn't be huge fans of my music," Hipwood said.

The other job will be to provide a target in attack against the premiership-winning Eagles defence.

A target. Not the target.

During his short career - and it's hard to believe he's only entering his fourth season of AFL football - Hipwood has at times appeared a one-man band up forward for the Lions.

Not anymore.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 10:  Eric Hipwood of the Lions kicks a goal during the round 12 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Essendon Bombers at The Gabba on June 10, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Hipwood has at times played a lone hand for the Lions in front of goals. Chris Hyde

He remains the focal point. This is a guy who burst onto the scene with bags of three and four goals in his second and third games respectively in 2016.

He slotted a career-best six against Carlton last season, in among hauls of four and three as he topped the Lions' goalkicking with 37.

But Hipwood will this season have the benefit of playing alongside the strong-marking Dan McStay, a fit Charlie Cameron, Geelong recruit Lincoln McCarthy, powerful teenager Cam Rayner and beanpole Oscar McInerney.

It's an imposing set-up, with McStay expected to be a permanent fixture in attack.

"Dan and I work really well together. He's a left-footer as well," Hipwood said. "The more games we play together the better we're going to be."

The pressure will be lifted from the shoulders of the 52-gamer from Caloundra who has had to carry the burden of being compared to the great Lance 'Buddy' Franklin.

Eric Hipwood during Brisbane Lions training at the Gabba.
Eric Hipwood during Brisbane Lions training at the Gabba.

He's a 203cm left-footer who runs like the wind and can kick a goal from anywhere.

There has been a weight of expectation, in more ways than one.

Conversations with Hipwood invariably always come back to him putting on muscle.

"All the fans are always at me about putting weight on," he said. "But it's a slow process, and it will eventually come.

"I'm still working just as hard as any player in the gym.

"I'd like to be a bit heavier than I am now. But I've got to be really smart about the way that I put weight on. You don't want to lose that athleticism, that running capacity.

"I've looked at players like Jeremy Cameron, who's not the biggest bloke but he's still a big forward and been absolutely dominating.

"In the AFL now, you've got to be mobile but strong as well."

Lachie Neale has bolstered the Lions ranks. Picture: Getty Images
Lachie Neale has bolstered the Lions ranks. Picture: Getty Images

Such is their promise, the Lions are expected to be the big movers in 2019.

"The media is hyping us up a little more than usual," Hipwood said.

"We do block it out, but we obviously have our own expectations as a club.

"We've just been taking it day by day, just training hard."

The outstanding kids are another year older and they've added star recruits Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons, Marcus Adams and McCarthy.

"They have been extraordinary for our club, lifting the training standards," Hipwood said.

With the pre-season done and dusted, Hipwood can't wait to turn it on today - both the music and with his performance.

"It hit me on Monday that it's round one. I got really excited. Geez, it's come around quickly," he said. "Back in December it didn't feel so quick."

While it will be a case of taking it one week at a time, coach Chris Fagan is clearly preparing the Lions for finals football, be it this year or next.

Contested footy was a focus of pre-season training.

"You look at the top eight teams. You see what they're really good at it and you try and model your game on them," Hipwood said.

"To be a good team, to be a good finals team, it's something we've got to improve on."

If Hipwood's looking for a classic to play pre-game, Queen's We Will Rock You could suffice.