BRISBANE has locked away one of the best draft classes in its recent history by securing long-term deals for exciting duo Zac Bailey and Brandon Starcevich.
Bailey and Starcevich, the No.15 and No.18 picks in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft, will both be in Lions colours until at least the end of 2024 after inking three-year extensions.
They join No.1 pick Cam Rayner, who finalised a deal early in the off-season until the end of 2023, as long-term pieces for last year's preliminary finalists.
In Rayner, Bailey, Starcevich and key defender Jack Payne, the class of 2017 not only shapes as crucial to Brisbane's premiership chances this season, but for many beyond.
"I'm really excited about the future of the club," Bailey told AFL.com.au.
"There's so many young players signing on long-term, like Hugh McCluggage a few weeks ago.
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"I reckon you've always got a connection with the guys you're drafted with, you just gravitate to them in your first year or two at the club.
"Obviously the longer you stay, you branch out and have great friends everywhere, but there's always that connection."
Brisbane's recruiting manager Stephen Conole says a lot of work went into tracking the progress of Bailey and Starcevich during their draft year.
Bailey was from the Northern Territory and boarding in South Australia, while Starcevich was in Western Australia.
"It was a critical time in our rebuild," Conole said.
"They weren't boys we had penciled in (to follow) during pre-season that year like you might with some others.
"But they really caught our eye early.
"Zac was at Norwood, the NT, PAC (Prince Alfred College), the Allies and Brandon went through state league, school footy, the (under-18) championships … it was a super long year for everyone and the amount of time and resources we spent on those boys was enormous.
"For five or six weeks in the middle of the year we targeted to watch them both off Broadway if you like, when they were back playing footy at school and getting to know the key contacts and people around them."
It took a whole-of-club approach, with pick-trading landing the Lions the No.15 selection and Tom Rockliff's free agency departure netting the pick that would secure Starcevich.
"We were confident both boys would get to us, but you never know on draft night," Conole said.
Their progression and impact has been stark.
Bailey is a lightning-quick and agile midfielder, in the mould of his skipper Dayne Zorko, who has played 46 games in three seasons and will spend big minutes onball in 2021.
Starcevich was the 2020 revelation, locking in a backline position to defend the opposition's most dangerous small to medium forward.
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"Being part of the journey for a few years, to see the progress the club's made is pretty exciting," Starcevich said.
"Coming into the club, me and Zac were pretty lucky that a lot of eyes and pressure were on Cam, so we were able to cruise in the background.
"We hid in the back and went about our business.
"We've all had different journeys to get to where we are, but I think last year we took pretty big steps as individuals and as a team, and coming into our fourth year we're really confident in what we've done and how we can help the team going forward."