REFLECTING on Brisbane's timid preliminary final exit against Geelong last year, coach Chris Fagan was typically philosophical.

He'd guided his team to the second last match of the season after inheriting a virtual wooden spooner just four years earlier.

So, while he was disappointed in the 40-point loss – particularly the nature of it – Fagan saw the positives.

His mantra since arriving to the Gabba has been for the club to have a "growth mindset", which is something he employed in the past off-season.

Dejected Lions Daniel Rich, Harris Andrews and Charlie Cameron after losing the 2020 preliminary final to Geelong. Picture: Getty Images

"Those losses hurt because you're a step away from a Grand Final, and Grand Finals are hard to get to," Fagan told

"We treated it like we've treated every other disappointment over the past four years, as an opportunity to learn.

"You feel the disappointment for a couple of days, but when the clouds clear what often happens is a light shines through and you see the next direction you have to take.

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"That's how it was for us."

Some might say that light was the acquisition of Joe Daniher, the towering, contested-marking forward many think the Lions need to take them to the promised land.

Joe Daniher has a laugh during a Brisbane training session at Leyshon Park on February 17, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

Daniher is expected to complement fellow left-footers Eric Hipwood and Dan McStay in a forward 50 loaded with speed and goal-scoring ability.

Nakia Cockatoo, the immensely talented former top-10 pick riddled with injuries in his five years at Geelong, also headed to the Lions.

He had a good start at his new club but has been set back by a slight hamstring niggle that kept him out of the most recent intraclub.

His pace and power should help another area of need for Brisbane – its bounce from defence – but Fagan said Cockatoo's body was a higher priority.

"Everyone knows and talks about the fact he's a prodigious talent," Fagan said.

Nakia Cockatoo runs laps at a Brisbane training session at Yeronga on February 3, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

"Hopefully what he'll be able to do at this club is prove that he is, because right now that's reputation only, that's not performance on field.

"He's aware of that and he wants to fix that. What we're doing at the moment is learning about his body and how hard we can push him and how hard he needs to go.

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"He's learning how hard to train again and to get some confidence in his body.

"He and I have readily talked about the idea that, 'you've been in the system for a while now, it's about time you step up and show everybody how good you are'.

They've come so far. I think people underestimate what they've been able to do in a short space of time

- Chris Fagan

"He's keen to do that but we've got to make sure he doesn't start to do that until his body is resilient enough to play AFL footy."

The Cats taught Brisbane a lesson in pressure in last year's preliminary final.

Their bigger, more experienced bodies were simply too much physically on a warm October night at the Gabba.

Fagan will look to change his midfield mix in 2021, looking to bring more speed and power around the contest with Cam Rayner, Lincoln McCarthy, Zac Bailey and Charlie Cameron to be deployed at various stages.

It's hoped they will give the midfield a variety to challenge any opponent.

The Lions are close. In 2019 it was two creditable finals performances for two losses, and last season they broke a long Richmond hoodoo in a rousing qualifying final victory before losing to Geelong.

"I'm really proud of our playing group," Fagan said.

"They've come so far. I think people underestimate what they've been able to do in a short space of time.

"It's hard when you're down the bottom to believe you can climb to the top and this group's found a way.

"We haven't got right to the top, but we're getting closer and we know the last few steps are pretty tough but we're keen to make them."

The journey hit another fork in the road following David Noble's appointment as North Melbourne's coach.

Noble has been alongside Fagan since the day he walked into the Lions, and now he's gone.

Although Fagan is delighted for his former football manager, again he saw Noble's move as an opportunity – a chance to generate fresh views and fresh ideas into a football department that has been almost unchanged in 100 months.

"I always face every season with an element of fear," Fagan nervously laughed.

"Which I think is healthy, that performance anxiety.

"There's nothing I've seen so far in our preparation that makes me nervous.

"In the end they were disappointed with what happened in the prelim final, but they know they're getting closer.

"Those last steps are the hardest to take.

"I'm optimistic we can get back into finals again and then give ourselves a test come the end of the year, but there's a lot of water to pass under the bridge and we're not getting ahead of ourselves."