CHRIS Fagan was "flat" but philosophical following Brisbane's heartbreaking semi-final loss on Saturday night, saying his young team had progressed and shown more resilience than ever in 2021.
The one-point loss to the Western Bulldogs was the Lions' fifth loss in six finals over the past three years, but the coach was full of praise for his team.
He said unlike 2019 when they had few injuries and surprised the competition with a barnstorming rise, or 2020 when much of the season was played in Queensland, this year was a series of hurdles they continued to clear.
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Fagan said overcoming a 1-3 season start, enduring serious injuries to Cam Rayner, Eric Hipwood, Lachie Neale and Darcy Gardiner, and fighting through a late-season form slump were all signs of progress.
"In some ways I think, in my time here, this year has been our best year because we've had a bit more adversity than we've had in previous years," Fagan said.
"I think we've shown a lot of character this year and I think it'll hold us in good stead going forward.
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"I thought our list was really tested this year, our composure was tested with our poor start to the year, and we've had a lot of stuff going on with COVID that was a bit of a surprise.
"From a macro point-of-view it was a really good progressive year, from a micro point-of-view, the game tonight, it was disappointing we couldn't get up for a win.
"Hopefully that eats away at us a little bit and makes us better in the future."
Fagan said despite the disappointment he felt Brisbane was still in a good place to push for a premiership in coming years.
He said the development of young players Deven Robertson, Keidean Coleman and Tom Fullarton – who all had good moments against the Bulldogs – along with Jaxon Prior and Jack Payne, were all positives.
Along with Rayner's return next year, and that of Noah Answerth (groin), he said there was a lot to like.
One thing the Lions will have to wait a year to rectify though is their record in finals – something the coach is eager to do.
"We got beaten by three points in a semi-final two years ago, tonight we got beaten by a point," he said.
"We're a whisker away from being in three preliminary finals in a row with a really young group.
"I can't stop people from saying what they say, they'll look at that record and go "it's one win and five losses in finals".
"We've got to live with our reputation and the only thing we can do is try and get back there next year and put that to bed."