Rayner responds to calls for Lions to axe him
FORMER No.1 draft pick Cam Rayner is tuning out the "outside noise" as he fights through the second-year blues amid the Brisbane Lions' push for an AFL finals spot.
In 2018, Rayner - Brisbane's prized recruit - was the undisputed Lions king, booting 20 goals from 22 games in a stellar debut season.
But it's been a different story this year as fluctuating form and the Lions' new-found depth began exerting pressure on his starting berth.
The 19-year-old endured a lean May with only eight touches against Sydney in Round 7, eight against the Western Bulldogs in Round 8 and just three in Brisbane's one-point win over Adelaide in Round 10.
Rayner's lack of touches and scoring attracted plenty of critics with triple premiership-winner Alastair Lynch and former North Melbourne great David King among those calling for change, but the young Lion says he hasn't felt that pressure inside the club.
"I'm a pretty low-key bloke, I don't really listen to that stuff," Rayner said.
"I guess I've heard a bit of criticism, but from the inside all our coaching staff have been happy with me and that's the focus for me.
"If my teammates and my coaches are happy with my form, I'm not worried by outside noise."
Round 14 proved a turning point with Brisbane coach Chris Fagan admitting he considered dropping his star forward before Rayner's key role in a 56-point win over St Kilda.
Rayner has since shown glimpses of his 2018 form with 16 disposals against Melbourne and a clutch goal against GWS offering Brisbane fans plenty to savour.
His intercept goal from a Heath Shaw kick-in opened up a crucial second-quarter lead over the Giants, who until last week's 20-point boilover were considered close to unbeatable at home
"It was pretty physical out there, fair bit of body on body stuff but it (beating GWS) was another scalp we wanted to take," Rayner said.
"Their average winning margin at home was something like 70 points so to go to their ground which we know is a fortress and get the win in the way we did gives us a bit more confidence going forward."
Brisbane's charge from cellar-dwellers to top-four contenders has surprised almost everyone except the Lions themselves, with Rayner insisting little change occurred between his first and second seasons.
But a 10-5 season speaks volumes and not even Fagan's refusal to discuss finals can suppress the building excitement.
"(Finals) gets thrown around a little bit outside but I guess that's all part of a team that's improving," Rayner said.
"It's good to have people saying that because it means you're doing something right, but we're just sticking to it one week at a time and we've got a pretty tough challenge against Port Adelaide coming up."