INJURED Brisbane defender Darcy Gardiner believes a torturous pre-season will see his team show plenty of improvement this year, after a lowly 15th-placed finish in 2014.
Going off the Lions' showing against Collingwood on Saturday night, Gardiner's prediction might not be too far off the mark.
Brisbane lost 12.14 (86) to 11.8 (74), but the team's fitness from its gruelling pre-season showed late in the game, kicking the last seven consecutive goals to set up a thrilling finish.
"The pre-season has been quite tough," Gardiner said.
"Most of the boys, including most of the senior boys, said it's one of the toughest ones they've done."
Training in energy-sapping heat in Brisbane only strengthened the team's resolve to win more than the seven games the Lions achieved last year.
"Just the way they (teammates) took to every session. They didn't really question the sessions taking part in the heat," Gardiner told APN.
Gardiner, 19, has been impressed with star Lions recruit from the Magpies, midfielder Dayne Beams, and the attitude he has brought to these training sessions.
"Beams is very professional off the field and the way he attacks everything on the field is unbelievable," he said.
Having a former premiership-winning defender as coach in Justin Leppitsch at the Lions has also been invaluable for the Round 2, Pick No.22 from the 2013 National Draft.
"Just the way he talks to the group - you feel like you can always go and have a chat to him, and he's a very smart coach," Gardiner said.
"He's always showing me where to go and what to do which is always handy."
Gardiner added Leppitsch was going about building a young roster for future success in the correct fashion.
"Everyone's got that feeling. We might not see something happen overnight, but hopefully in a few years we can build together and work to achieve something special," he said.
Gardiner is hopeful of a possible return to the playing paddock against North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium this Sunday, after injuring his shoulder against the Gold Coast in his team's final NAB Challenge fixture.
Widely rated as the best defender from the draft class of 2013, Gardiner - at 191cm - was badly missed against the Magpies.
"I just hurt it against the Gold Coast and I'll see how it goes throughout the week," he said.
"It's just some soreness and bruising."
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