THOUGH born and raised on the Gold Coast, Dayne Zorko proudly calls himself a "Brisbane boy" these days.
The pocket dynamo burst onto the AFL scene last year as a 23-year-old with the Lions after being unwanted by the Suns.
Though he holds no grudges, Zorko admitted he had originally hoped to play a bigger role with the Suns than simply being used as trade bait.
Gold Coast recruited him as a Queensland zone selection only to immediately on-trade him north for pick 34 in the 2011 national draft.
Zorko had resisted the temptation to shift to the VFL after being overlooked in the 2007 draft when state under-18 teammates Sam Reid and Brendan Whitecross were given chances at the top level.
"I had a manager at the time who obviously knew the Gold Coast side was coming in and said 'why don't you just bide your time there and see what happens'," he recalled.
Three years on - and three best and fairests with Broadbeach in the QAFL - and still no approach from AFL clubs, let alone the new franchise down the road, Zorko contemplated giving up on his dream.
"I had to make the decision whether to have another crack at footy or move on with my life," he said.
"I chose to have one more crack at it. I had a really solid pre-season ... worked on my fitness a hell of a lot and skills as well."
Zorko would go on to dominate in the newly-formed NEAFL, winning numerous individual honours, including a fourth straight club B&F - and finally a contract with Brisbane.
Making up for lost time, Zorko was an instant hit after making his senior debut in round seven last year, becoming a fan favourite thanks to his hard-at-it approach, not to mention his Yugoslavian name that led to him being dubbed 'Zorko The Great'.
"The boys like to give me a hard time about it, but you don't go chasing that sort of thing," he said of his cult status.
Clearly Zorko made a big impression on his Lions teammates too though, this year voting him into the leadership group.
"If your peers look up to you like that, it's pretty special," he said.
Arguably the league's best first-year player last season, Zorko is now also having to deal with the extra attention from the opposition, his disposal average dropping from an impressive 20 in 2012 to just 13 so far this year.
"I guess sides know a little bit more about me and (fellow half-forward) Josh Green. We're going to get a lot more of the better small defenders in the side," he said.
"That's just something we've got to work through."
Zorko said coach Michael Voss had spoken to him about the potential for 'second-year blues'.
"He said 'don't have any expectations. Obviously you've had a good start to your career, but expectations can get the better of you'," he said.
"So, I've just gone into the season with the same mentality as I had last year and that's just to work hard for team, do my one-percenters."
As for today's all-important clash with the Suns, Zorko said there would be plenty of spice - and not just because the Lions are desperate to get on the winners' list after losses to the Bulldogs and Adelaide.
"It's about territory," he said.
"It's a totally different intensity than the first two rounds have been - it goes up a whole new level. It's like a final these sorts of games."
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