BRISBANE coach Chris Fagan says his side has had an ideal preparation for its first finals series in a decade, despite Sunday's loss to their qualifying final opponent Richmond.
The Lions return to the finals for the first time since 2009 on the back of a 27-point defeat to the Tigers that ended their nine-game winning streak.
But playing in front of more than 75,000 fans (which was the most ever for a Lions home and away game) and holding their own after quarter-time, coupled with their come-from-behind win over minor premiers Geelong last week, has Fagan excited about September action.
Lachie Neale was a clearance beast for the Lions. Picture: AFL Photos
"It was good to play here. It was an outstanding [crowd]. That's great preparation [for us], and after last week having a full house at the Gabba," he said post-game.
"I'm not surprised that our group fought back, they've been able to do that throughout the year this year and today was no exception."
The Lions kicked the first goal of the day thanks to a sharp shot from gun midfielder Hugh McCluggage, but then the Tigers booted six, with four coming to Richmond star Jack Riewoldt before quarter-time.
TIGERS DENY LIONS Full match coverage and stats
However, the visitors steadied and only lost the rest of the game by two points, after getting within seven points during a brilliant third term.
Fagan said the big occasion, as the Tigers secured a top-four spot and double finals chance, had not affected his players.
"We didn't have stage fright last week, we didn't have it at Adelaide Oval when we played Port Adelaide in front of a full house (in round 17). I just think the Tigers were up and about, it's what you do to teams when they're the away team and they're on the road," he said.
"I didn't think we had stage fright, I just thought we didn't use the ball as well as we should have.
"If you have a look at the stats today, we won a lot of the areas you need to win to win a game of football: clearances, contested possessions, tackles, pressure. All that was a tick."
Fagan said he hoped to use some of his lessons from the game next time the sides met, with his ball-winner Lachie Neale outstanding with 51 disposals and 14 clearances (including six out of the centre).
After just five wins the previous two seasons under his watch, the third-year coach has steered the Lions to 16 wins this season as they finish a remarkable home and away season in second position on the ladder.
However, having been a key part of Hawthorn's triple-premiership era, he said he would be working to make sure his young group doesn't let being in the finals impact their preparation.
"We just keep things normal. That's the art of playing in finals, trying to keep your own club environment as normal as possible. Stick to the things you've had throughout the year and don't change too much," he said.
"The biggest mistake you can make in finals is when you think you have to raise everything by 25 per cent. It's not that. It's just doing what you do well, over and over again."