L-R: Hugh McCluggage, Lachie Neale, Charlie Cameron, Harris Andrews. Pictures: AFL Photos

THERE'S no textbook on how to build a premiership-contending list, but Brisbane has done as good a job as any in rejuvenating itself from the scrapheap over the past decade.

From losing five top-30 draftees in the same off-season almost 10 years ago to the day, to watching the final members of its premiership era retire in the same period, Brisbane slowly but surely built a competitor again.

A combination of developing Academy players, accruing top-end draftees, and some shrewd acquisitions through trade and free agency, and the Lions are back to their first Grand Final in 19 years.

Let's take a look at the key pillars that led Brisbane to the final Saturday in September.

Harris Andrews (2014)

No better place to start than the current co-captain. 

Andrews was part of Brisbane's Academy, and a late bloomer. With his club (Aspley), the Academy and the Allies under-18 teams, Andrews played as a forward during his draft year. 

That was until Allies coach Adrian Fletcher decided to throw him to centre half-back one day to help save a game. He clunked everything and the Lions were convinced. 

At the time, opposition teams had to bid on northern Academy products prior to the trade period, with host teams only needing to match with their next available selection. 

Harris Andrews during the U18 championships on July 1, 2014. Picture: AFL Photos

Liam Dawson was bid on by Richmond in the second round, which Brisbane matched, and then it was North Melbourne that bid on Andrews with their second-round pick.

However, with the Lions next selection not until No.61, that's all they needed to pay.

Brisbane had no idea the 202cm leader would turn into a two-time All-Australian, but in hindsight, this was a ridiculous steal.

Hugh McCluggage (2016)

Next up, the current vice-captain. 

It wasn't just the selection of McCluggage at No.3 in 2016 that was so good, it was the nous to keep him despite dropping back in the draft.

The Lions had the No.2 pick that year (behind Essendon and ahead of Greater Western Sydney), and with new football manager David Noble keen to get as many high-end selections as possible to rebuild with new coach Chris Fagan, they traded No.2 for No.3 and No.16. 

That turned into McCluggage and Jarrod Berry – best mates who had boarded together in Ballarat. 

Hugh McCluggage (R) and Jarrod Berry after being drafted by Brisbane in 2016. Picture: AFL Photos

They also got Alex Witherden and Cedric Cox to implement the plan of recruiting country Victorians to ward against the 'Go Home' factor. 

Charlie Cameron (2017)

Twelve months later it was the first established recruit to come on board in the Fagan-Noble and new recruiting boss Dom Ambrogio era. 

Cameron had just helped Adelaide to a Grand Final, kicking five goals in a preliminary final win over Geelong, and was keen to get back to his home state. 

Charlie Cameron in acton during the Grand Final between Adelaide and Richmond at the MCG on September 30, 2017. Picture: AFL Photos

At the time, Noble – who was close to Cameron in his time at the Crows – said he could see the speedster taking advantage of the fast Gabba deck. 

He didn't know how right he'd be, with the 29-year-old kicking 270 goals from 128 matches in Lions colours and becoming arguably the most popular figure in club history.

Lachie Neale (2018)

Of all the pieces, this one transformed the Lions more than any.

It dropped like a bomb following the 2018 season, with Fremantle's two-time best and fairest winner making the longest trip in the game from West Australia to Brisbane. 

And remember, Brisbane was coming off two five-win seasons under Fagan at that stage. Neale was not coming to an established contender.

He saw promise in the list and was convinced to join. Surrounded by fellow recruit Jarryd Lyons, veteran Dayne Zorko and young mids McCluggage and Berry, Neale helped lift the Lions all the way to 16 wins and second place on the ladder. 

The rest is history, with two Brownlow Medals, three best and fairests and now a co-captain alongside Andrews. 

Lachie Neale celebrates winning the 2023 Brownlow Medal. Picture: AFL Photos

Brisbane was suddenly a destination club with other big fish to follow.

This coup, for club and player, cannot be overstated.

Every player on the list has a story and every one plays a significant role, but the above quartet can be seen as the pillars of the re-build.

Acquiring Zorko from Gold Coast after the Suns decided to on-trade their zone product was a huge win.

Joe Daniher's arrival via free agency gave Brisbane an All-Australian key forward it craved, while Josh Dunkley's two-way prowess complements a midfield that was lacking that touch of defensive intensity.

Whether they win or lose on Saturday, the Lions are well set-up for the immediate future, with Zorko, Ryan Lester, Neale and Lyons (if he's again named the substitute), the only players 30 or older on Grand Final day.

It won't stop them from wanting to improve this off-season, but the pieces are well and truly in place for more tilts at success.