James Madden and Jack Payne’s performances at senior level in 2021 would have given Coach Chris Fagan plenty of confidence he is well stocked for defensive options heading into next season.
Irishman Madden broke through for his AFL debut in 2021 and showed in his 9 senior appearances he has a bright future in the game.
Payne also added 10 games to his tally, following five in 2020, and showed he capable of holding down a key defensive post.
Madden made a huge impression once he joined the team with his extreme pace adding a new element to the defence.
He even earned praise from Lions Legend Leigh Matthews after a breakout performance in the 28-point victory over Richmond at the Gabba in Rd 10.
The Lions three-peat premiership coach left Madden lost for words when he offered him some words of encouragement in the rooms after the game.
“He said 'well done, James, you'll play a lot of games of AFL'," Madden recounted.
"It didn't really hit me until the next day when I thought about what he said.
"To come from someone like that it was pretty special.’’
Madden looked right at home in just his second game, playing a key role in a restructured Lions backline that was missing injured duo Darcy Gardiner and Ryan Lester.
The 21-year-old defender gathered 13 disposals, including eight intercepts, two contested marks and finished his night’s work with a thrilling goal on the run in the third term.
His season’s best outing was a 16-possession effort against GWS while he also had strong games against St Kilda and North Melbourne.
Payne had injury woes in 2021 but still showed his reliability in the 10 senior games he played.
He started the year in the seniors before a foot injury sustained in the Rd 3 victory over Collingwood kept him out until Rd 15.
The 22-year-old returned to play six straight games before injuring his knee against the Hawks in Launceston in Rd 20.
It was a blow as Payne had hit his straps in that game, collecting a career high 22 possessions and taking nine marks.
He returned to the side for the semi-final against The Western Bulldogs but suffered a bad head cut in the opening half and was in hospital as the side went down by a point to the eventual grand finalists.
He also played well against Richmond with 16 disposals and 9 marks.