A SIMPLE change in mindset has taken veteran Ryan Lester from a fringe Brisbane player to an integral part of its stingy backline. 

The man teammates call 'Froggy' is nearly always playing for his AFL life, again out of contract after signing one-year extensions the past two off seasons.

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But the 28-year-old could not be playing any better, keeping Richmond spearhead Jack Riewoldt quiet in Friday night's qualifying final win – the first final of his 140-game career.

And Lester says his form all comes down to what's happening above the shoulders.

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"It's all mindset for me," he said.

"In the past I've probably waited for someone else to do something.

"(I'm) Potentially trying to be more selfish out there in a way, but I think by doing that I'm actually contributing to the team more, playing a bit more assertive and backing myself in.

"We've spoken about mindset, being able to play with a clear head.

"After the finals last year we spoke about guys being a little too 'red head', a bit too emotional the way they play.

"For me, I have to be a little bit more red head than blue, which is more calm.

"I need to get outside my comfort zone. It seems to have worked for me."

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Since being drafted in 2010, Lester has had the respect of his teammates, and is something of a culture glue-guy in the Lions' dressing-room.

His is Dayne Zorko's brother-in-law, marrying the captain's sister Emi, and is a father to four-week old Romeo.

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Daniel Rich is the only player that has served longer at the Lions, and is also one of Lester's best mates.

"He's the best I've seen live and represent the values and morals of the footy club," Rich said of Lester.

"He's such a caring guy who not only wants to improve as a footy player but also wants to improve as a person. He has a genuine interest in everyone's lives, more importantly away from footy. He's the type of guy that people turn to if they have questions or problems to figure out.

"He's always thinking a bit outside the square of how to keep people connected, something different to bring the vibe up.

"He puts in as much work as anyone at the footy club. We're all so happy for him."

It's all mindset for me ... in the past I've probably waited for someone else to do something

- Ryan Lester

Lester knows he's never far from teetering on the edge, finishing his business degree at university during the COVID shutdown period and speaking to former players about their transition away from the game.

But it's a transition he might have to put off a little longer.

Chris Fagan and his coaching staff have put Lester into the role held down by injured Marcus Adams for the back half of last year – a third tall defender alongside Harris Andrews and Darcy Gardiner – and he's thrived.

Fagan gave him more than a week's notice he would be playing on Riewoldt ahead of the Tigers' clash.


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"Initially I was a bit nervous," he said.

"Jack Riewoldt has won two or three Coleman Medals and is a great player. As it got closer to the game I watched more vision, talked to the guys that have played on him and then with Harris being able to help me out, it worked out all right for us.

"It was a great opportunity for me and I certainly gained a lot of confidence from it."

Riewoldt kicked two goals – the first being on Andrews following a switch of assignments.

"Ten years and there's no better time to be in the side over that 10 years than right now," Lester said.

"I certainly feel lucky in that regard."