The pillars of Brisbane's AFL rebuild

Brisbane Lions players celebrate going third in the AFL after a 48-point win over Port Adelaide.
Brisbane Lions players celebrate going third in the AFL after a 48-point win over Port Adelaide.

Coach Chris Fagan says two pillars underpin his rebuild of Brisbane.

One, build relationships with everyone from the boot-studder to the boss.

Two, teach them a lesson.

"Teach everybody in the organisation about what the growth mindset is, and that failure is actually a good thing if you learn from it," Fagan says.

The third-year head coach has transformed Brisbane from also-rans to flag fancies.

The Lions are third on the ladder. And have four of the remaining six games before finals at their Gabba fortress.

Brisbane will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 but the Lions aren't purring in contentment just yet.

"We're not giving ourselves a pat on the back," Fagan said after watching his team ruthlessly dismantle Port Adelaide on Sunday evening.

"There is still lots to do.

"But, yeah, I feel like some of the stuff we have done has been good."

Fagan has driven that "stuff" since departing his assistant coaching role at Hawthorn to take over as head coach of the Lions for the 2017 season.

He inherited a basket case: after placing sixth in 2009, the Lions finished 13th, 15th, 13th, 12th, 15th, 17th, 17th, 18th and 15th last year.

But it was late last season, despite the lowly ladder rung in a five-win year, Fagan felt the worm turn.

"Our belief funnily enough started to grow in the second half of last year," he said.

"We got some good wins, we were able to get a win against Fremantle over at their ground and went down to Tassie and played Hawthorn there who are really hard to beat and found a way to win.

"So that sort of spark started last year.

"It was backed up by a really strong pre-season by all of the guys.

"And ever so gradually this year they have started to understand if they play a disciplined brand of footy, and we work hard for each other, then we're a chance in every game that we play.

"Fortunately the wins, when they come, help that build."

During his initial lean years, Fagan and his assistant coaches sold hope.

"We have tried to coach them in a way over the last few years where even though we weren't getting the wins, they could see that we were improving," he said.

"That has been a great thing that our coaches have done over that period of time when life was a bit tough and we were getting more l's (losses) than we were w's (wins).

"It's a a combination of things but we have always focused on our weapons and filling people with legitimate confidence - not rubbish confidence, but legitimate stuff, that is why we would always talk about how we're improving.

"We knew if we stick with that for long enough, that more wins will come. And we will continue with that process because it's a good process."

Solidarity from all at the Lions was crucial but Fagan's uncertain if he had created a rebuild blueprint for other struggling clubs to follow.

"I'm so busy doing it, I haven't spent much time thinking about that," he said.

"The truth is there's all sorts of different ways to do it (rebuild).

"There were times when ... when it didn't look like it was (working).

"But we stuck fat with the process that we started with.

"And fortunately the club has understood all the way through what we were trying to do so there hasn't been any instability there.

"We have been able to get on with our work and everybody at our club has responded."

Australian Associated Press