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Eric Hipwood paving the way for Lions

This is the story of Eric and Lachie, the key men in Brisbane trying to transform promise into productivity in 2019.

Chris Fagan's Lions are suddenly relevant again after a significant period of hibernation, and barely a week separated from a successful NAB AFL Trade Period raid. 

Lachie Neale's arrival makes Dayne Beams' departure easier to take, on top of separately luring Marcus Adams and Lincoln McCarthy.

Don't be fooled by the five-win tally, which on its own suggests there haven't been many gains made in recent years. 

Several key performance indicators moved in the right direction in 2018, including two in the graph below, and they were involved in as many games decided by 10 points or fewer as the previous three seasons combined.

The next step is winning those matches, after losing five of the six in that scenario this year. 

The list is also in much better shape and littered with potential stars, but arguably no player is more important than emerging forward Eric Hipwood and gun midfield recruit Neale.

Hipwood's 37 goals this past season – good for 19th in the AFL – were the most by a Brisbane footballer since all-time great Jonathan Brown booted 47 six years ago. 

BRISBANE LEADING GOALKICKERS

2018: Eric Hipwood (37), Dayne Zorko (26)
2017: Dayne Zorko (34), Eric Hipwood (30)
2016: Josh Walker (23), Dayne Zorko (23)
2015: Josh Green (25), Daniel McStay and Allen Christensen (19)
2014: Josh Green (33), Jonathan Brown (21) 

At 21 years old, the smooth-moving 203cm giant is the main man in attack, his 160 inside-50 targets dwarfing the next-most-targeted forward at the club, Daniel McStay, who had 96.

No player at Hipwood's age in the AFL carries such a burden, an even tougher assignment once you consider Brisbane ranked bottom five for inside 50s in each of his three seasons to date. 

The Lions' answer to Lance Franklin takes most of his marks on the lead at this stage, but had an encouraging eight-game stretch in the second half of 2018 where he hauled in 11 contested marks.

Hipwood's continued natural improvement next year will go a long way to greater Brisbane success, and keeping him on the field is crucial, given the thin key forward depth behind him.

He kicked 23 of his goals in the final 11 games, benefiting in part from the Lions' increased ability to win the Sherrin.

They went from averaging 34 fewer disposals than their opposition through the first 11 rounds to averaging 25.1 more in the second half of the season. 

Contested ball was no longer a liability, but Brisbane particularly became a force on the outside during that period.

Four-time club champion Dayne Zorko was influential, the likes of Jarrod Berry, Hugh McCluggage and Tom Cutler went to another level and Rhys Mathieson stood up as well.

Nonetheless, the departure of Beams leaves a gulf Neale will need to fill if the momentum is to rage on. 

The dual Doig medallist as Fremantle's best and fairest player is capable of doing that despite boasting different strengths.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs