SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 04: Keidean Coleman of the Lions is congratulated by team mates after kicking a goal during the round 12 AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the Brisbane Lions at GIANTS Stadium on June 04, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

The Lions will enter the 2022 season with redemption on their minds following their disappointing end to last year, which saw them lose at home to the Bulldogs by a solitary point in the semi-final.

Whilst the Lions have not made many changes to their squad, they will be hoping for their improvement to come from their young players reaching new heights this year.

However, Brisbane haven't lost many players over the off-season, with the main departure being Grant Birchall, who retired immediately after their one-point loss to the Bulldogs.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 20: Grant Birchall of the Lions leaves the field after playing his 250th match during the round 3 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the West Coast Eagles at Metricon Stadium on June 20, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

With the returns of Cameron Rayner and Eric Hipwood, the Lions will be pushing for their first premiership in 19 years. Even though they are still a young side, Brisbane are now past the stage where finals are enough. They are a well-established side who should be right in the thick of things on the last Saturday in September.

We take a look at what Brisbane's best 22 might look ahead of Round 1.

Ins: Darcy Fort (Geelong Cats), Kai LohmannJames TunstilDarcy Wilmot

Outs: Connor Ballenden (delisted), Grant Birchall (retired), Tom Joyce (delisted), Archie Smith (retired), Brock Smith (delisted)

Defenders

Whilst the loss of Birchall will see the Lions' ability to run and carry be negatively affected, Chris Fagan will hope that Callum Ah Chee can fill the void relatively well whilst working on alternate flanks to All-Australian Daniel Rich.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Daniel Rich of the Lions in action during the round one AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the West Coast Eagles at The Gabba on March 23, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Brandon Starcevich will be hoping to continue his placing as one of the game's best small defenders, whilst two-time All-Australian Harris Andrews will attempt to lock down the best forward the other side has to offer all while picking off inerrant kicks.

Meanwhile, Darcy Gardiner will likely play on the team's next best tall, with Marcus Adams peeling off to take intercept marks. Like a lot of top sides, their strength comes in intercept marking, which is then used to catapult the ball forward with pace.

The recruitment of youngster Darcy Wilmot via the National Draft is also set to bolster run and carry from defence for Fagan's planning.

Midfielders

The Lions midfield will once again be hoping for a successful year as they line up with the same array of onballers and wingers that has propelled them into the top four for three seasons in a row.

Headlined by superstar Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale, the likes of contested ball beast Jarryd Lyons and the speedy skipper in Dayne Zorko, Brisbane's midfield ensemble will be striving to improve clearance numbers even further this season.

AFL Rd 2 - Brisbane v Fremantle
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 13: Lachie Neale of the Lions celebrates kicking a goal during the round 2 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Fremantle Dockers at The Gabba on June 13, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

'The Big O' Oscar McInerney will be tapping it down to these guys while also trying to get forward to kick goals.

With Jarrod Berry, Nakia Cockatoo, Cam Rayner and Deven Robertson likely to get minutes through the midfield as well as the forward line, the Lions will be hoping to increase each utility's scoreboard impact.

Hard-nut Mitch Robinson's toughness in the contest and Hugh McCluggage's ball skills and unbelievable endurance complement each other extremely well and will be of great importance for the Lions this year.

Forwards

Whilst Eric Hipwood likely won't be fit for the majority of the season, there's no denying his place as one of the Lions most key figures in their best possible 22, with Daniel McStay will see as the most probable replacement for him early into the year.

Alongside him will be Joe Daniher, who after one full year with the Lions will be hoping to gain consistency and make a larger impact long into September.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 24: Joe Daniher of the Lions marks the ball during the round six AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Brisbane Lions at Marvel Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Crumbing at their feet will be the likes of All-Australian Charlie Cameron, up-and-coming young gun Zac Bailey, the talented Keidean Coleman and high-flyer Lincoln McCarthy.

As aforementioned, the likes of Berry, Robertson, Rayner and Cockatoo are also destined to move forward and help with the Lions' goalkicking, which has plagued them for years.

Best 22

FB: Brandon Starcevich, Darcy Gardiner, Marcus Adams
HB: Daniel Rich, Harris Andrews, Callum Ah Chee
C: Hugh McCluggage, Dayne Zorko, Mitch Robinson
HF: Lincoln McCarthy, Eric Hipwood, Zac Bailey
FF: Charlie Cameron, Joe Daniher, Keidean Coleman
FO: Oscar McInerney, Jarryd Lyons, Lachie Neale
IC: Cam Rayner, Deven Robertson, Jarrod Berry, Nakia Cockatoo

Emerg: Daniel McStay, Jack Payne, Rhys Mathieson, Darcy Wilmot

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