Hard knocks helping Lions in AFL flag hunt

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Brisbane coach Chris Fagan is adamant the Lions' winding path to a third-straight AFL finals series will help them go further this time.

The Lions jagged fourth place and will play minor premiers Melbourne on Saturday after an incredible climax to the regular season saw both teams leave it until the final moments of their games to cement their spots.

Brisbane's third straight top-four finish comes despite ACL tears for Cameron Rayner and Eric Hipwood before and during the season respectively, while reigning Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale and a bevy of key backline talent have all missed time with niggles.

Injuries were few and far between in the previous two seasons that saw them finish the regular season in second place but not progress to the grand final.

"I've enjoyed it now that I can look back on it," Fagan said of a turbulent 2021 campaign.

"At the time you think 'not this, not that' and it can weigh on you.

"But overall the benefits far outweigh the opposite for the experiences we've had and those little bits of adversity build resilience which you'll need in finals.

"There's always moments where that gets tested and I'd rather be in the situation we've been in this year than have a beautiful year, no injuries, everything's working magnificently then you hit the finals and get injuries and go 'wow that's going to be hard to deal with'."

The shuffling continues ahead of the Adelaide Oval clash, with defenders Harris Andrews and Mitch Robinson both declared fit to come into the side.

Fagan's tough task was made easier with both Ryan Lester (hamstring) and Callum Ah Chee (groin) both left out with minor injuries that shouldn't require more than one week's rest.

The veteran coach is in his fifth season at Brisbane, progressing them from five-win sides in his first two years to a preliminary final exit last year.

"Losing finals hardens you a little bit," he said.

"There's no fairytales in finals series, it comes down to hard work and who's in form.

"You've just got to keep knocking on the door and giving yourself a chance."

Brisbane led the Demons by 20 points at half-time in their round-12 clash, but lost by 22.

"Both teams would have a healthy respect knowing if we play at our best we can trouble each other, so it'll be an interesting contest from that regard," Fagan said.

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