Brisbane captain Jonathan Brown says he enters his first game of the pre-season as refreshed as he could ever be and rejuvenated by the Lions' encouraging showings last year and over the summer.
The Lions will chase a place in the NAB Cup final when they take on Collingwood at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, and have shown their intentions by selecting a strong side, minus only the recovering Simon Black and the rested Jack Redden and Matt Maguire.
Brown, at 31 and entering his 14th season, is now on a year-by-year basis and admits the physical impact of games gets harder every year. But he is grateful for a lighter schedule before Christmas that allowed his battered body some recuperation at an age when powerhouse forwards tend to decline in output.
"I feel freshened up and rejuvenated - how long that lasts into a season, I'm not sure," he said on Friday.
"The way they've managed me through this pre-season has put me in really good shape so far. I don't feel banged up coming in to the season. It's important to at least start the season not banged up."
Brown was 21 and had played 76 games when in 2003 he won a premiership medal for the third successive year. But since the Lions' defeat to Port Adelaide in the grand final the following year, he has played just two finals, both in Michael Voss' first year as coach in 2009.
But the side's improvement last year, when it won 10 games [the scalps of West Coast and Adelaide among them] and an unbeaten pre-season campaign has given him an extra spring.
"At this stage of your career, you're really only focusing on team success," Brown said.
"I've been fortunate enough to taste what team success feels like and you'd love to at least get that feeling again.
"The side is on an upward curve, which gives hope to a few of us veterans."
Brown stressed Brisbane was "down here to win" to maintain its good form, and that Saturday night's clash was also a handy dress rehearsal for the round one visit to the Docklands to play the Western Bulldogs.
Black is in doubt to play in that game as he recovers from last year's knee surgery, but at least resumed running this week.
A Collingwood win will also likely push the Magpies through to the final, but in contrast, the Magpies will rest several key players, including forward Travis Cloke and midfield stars Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury.
Defender Ben Reid will also miss because of the knee injury he suffered in the win over West Coast, while Luke Ball and Dale Thomas are still battling in their bids to be available for the round one game against North Melbourne.