Defence key for Lions on their own Redeem Team mission

Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

It's unlikely Kobe Bryant knew he was inspiring Brisbane's 2023 AFL premiership tilt when he ran straight through good friend and Spanish rival Pau Gasol at the 2008 Olympics.

That statement set the tone for a US side now referred to as the Redeem Team, who went on to win gold in China after a shock loss to Argentina four years earlier sent the program spiralling.

Their commitment was built around the team's superstars buying into defence, rather than simply rely on their audacious offensive skills.

Chris Fagan had his Lions watch the 2022 Redeem Team documentary in the pre-season, Bryant's levelling of Gasol in particular resonating with the coach and his players.

"They'd (USA) lost their way, and all the big guns bought into defence, and they ended up winning the gold medal," Fagan said after a win over Geelong earlier this year.

"It's been a bit of a theme of ours during the year – if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us."

Brisbane beat the Cats that night 9.10 (64) to 7.11 (53) and then won games despite mustering 77 and 72 points in the final month of the regular season.

In it's simplest terms - points conceded - the Lions' defence has improve from the 10th best in 2022 to sixth this season, while small forward Charlie Cameron has the second-most inside 50 tackles of the competition with 42.

The recruitment of defensively-minded midfielder Josh Dunkley also helped make that group more resilient while the subtle shift of defence coach Murray Davis to the forward line can't be underestimated.

A year ago Brisbane entered an elimination final with Richmond aware a shoot-out would take place, the Lions eventually prevailing thanks to a late Joe Daniher goal in a game that had 17 lead changes.

Fast forward to Saturday and Brisbane will be confident they can grind out another win at the Gabba, where they haven't lost all year, against Port Adelaide.

"It was reflective of our year a bit last year, up and down in the back half," co-captain Lachie Neale said.

"Sometimes we were really good defensively, other times poor.

"This year we've been more stable, and the game plan's based on contest and defence and that should hold us in good stead."