Craig Starcevich addresses his players during Brisbane's clash against Collingwood in round six, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

BRISBANE is not the powerhouse of recent seasons, but one or two tweaks could still see it in premiership contention as the finals approach.

Last Saturday's shock loss to St Kilda was perhaps the most out-of-character performance from the Lions in the past four seasons.

Not only was the 21-pont margin the greatest since the round one defeat to Adelaide in season six – when Kate Lutkins ruptured her ACL in the opening minutes – but it was the biggest chasm from their best football to what they actually produced.

The Lions were belted at stoppages, battled in the wind and were ill-disciplined.

This came just seven days after toppling the previously unbeaten Crows.

So, how do we contextualise this for a team that has won the premiership and lost preliminary and Grand Finals by less than a goal in the past three seasons?

Destined to finish somewhere between fourth and sixth depending on the result of Saturday night's Grand Final rematch against Melbourne, that's probably where pundits had them pegged prior to the season.

Not only did Craig Starcevich lose the competition's leading goalkicker Jesse Wardlaw to St Kilda, but also previous League best and fairest Emily Bates to Hawthorn, along with All-Australian half-forward Greta Bodey.

Key defensive pillar Lutkins has also missed this season, recently giving birth to her first child.

That's four integral players no longer there and a mini rebuild of sorts in the offing.

Kate Lutkins handballs away during round nine, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

The result has been greater exposure and role responsibility to a bevy of Lions youngsters that have been waiting in the wings.

Rising Star nominee Charlie Mullins, defender Poppy Boltz, Irish recruit Jen Dunne and comeback forward Lily Postlethwaite, who has overcome two knee reconstructions, have all been leant on.

While long term this is great for Brisbane to potentially keep its premiership window open longer, it has contributed to some clunky performances this year, including losses to Richmond, Collingwood and the Saints.

After the round six loss to the Magpies, Starcevich said there was a gap from his team to the top three.

Craig Starcevich talks to his players during Brisbane's clash against Adelaide in round eight, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

As much as any player this season, the coach himself has been tested. He's moved captain Bre Koenen from defence into the midfield to add some size and strength in that part of the ground, and last year's Grand Final best on ground Shannon Campbell from defence to the forward line.

Perhaps this is a decision he could revisit entering the most critical phase of the season.

Shifting Koenen might have added some stability to the Ally Anderson, Belle Dawes and Cathy Svarc midfield core, but it has taken away from a defensive group that is light-on for experience.

Koenen is not only a voice of direction, but a brilliant interceptor and someone that rarely loses a one-on-one contest.

Breanna Koenen in action during the match between Brisbane and Richmond at Brighton Homes Arena in round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

She's a security blanket alongside Campbell and Nat Grider as they integrate the younger faces.

Then there's the discipline.

This is something Starcevich and the club dealt with in the middle of the season when Boltz and Jade Ellenger spent a little too much time out and about on a six-day break, resulting in a one-game suspension for each.

Poppy Boltz in action during the match between Brisbane and Adelaide at Brighton Homes Arena in round eight, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

On-field the team has been good, but let frustration overflow against the Saints, costing them dearly in a must-win match.

Ellie Hampson's double 50m penalty to open the fourth quarter put paid to any chance the Lions had of a comeback with the wind at their backs and capped off a 23-16 free kick count against.

That defeat and the lessons learned could turn out to be a blessing for a Brisbane outfit that has already beaten Adelaide and North Melbourne this year.

Its best football is good enough to give the premiership a shake, but with less margin for error than previous seasons, every decision and every action has a far bigger consequence.

The question will be which version of the Lions shows up against Melbourne on Saturday night.