From mercenaries to finals contenders, Simon Black admits Brisbane face a tough challenge when they host Gold Coast in Saturday’s AFL derby at the Gabba.

Simon Black’s opinion of Gold Coast appears to have risen along with the Suns’ climb up the AFL ladder.

In May 2011, the then-Brisbane midfielder fired the first real shot in the rivalry between the two south-east Queensland clubs by labelling former Lions pair Jared Brennan and Michael Rischitelli “mercenaries” for joining the Suns.

Fast forward three seasons and Black, now an assistant coach at the Lions, has only praise for Gold Coast as the expansion club threatens to completely overshadow big brother.

The Suns head into this Saturday’s derby at the Gabba knowing a second win over the Lions this year will reignite their hopes for an inaugural finals berth.

The Lions were thumped by 53 points by the Suns in round three this year and Black admits his team goes into Saturday’s clash as underdogs.

“We won five of those games straight but we now know what a good side the Gold Coast have developed and are maturing into,” Black said.

“The tables have turned a little bit, we got badly beaten the last time we played them. This will be a big challenge for us this weekend to get over the line and get a win … it’s a big game for the club.”

Aiding the Lions’ hopes of retaining the QClash Cup is the absence of Suns’ skipper Gary Ablett.

The Suns fell to defeat against the Western Bulldogs in their first match following Ablett’s season-ending shoulder surgery but while Black admits the Suns will miss their talismanic leader, it’s far from a fatal absence.

“He’s the best player in the competition so obviously they are weakened but at the same time they’re blessed with enormous talent already,” he said.

“With that development they’ve had last year and this year they’re a very good side in the AFL now.”

The Lions will be boosted by the return of midfielder Tom Rockliff after he served his one match ban for striking, a player Black says is one of the club’s best performers this season as well as providing a leader on the field.