The Lions have had plenty to celebrate in 2019.
The Lions have had plenty to celebrate in 2019. Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos

Secret behind Lions' success revealed

THERE'S a definite science behind the Brisbane Lions' rebuild, formulated on computers in backrooms.

Football boss David Noble has revealed data analyst Andrew Walsh as the unsung hero of the Lions' premiership push.

"I've had Andrew with me now for the best part of eight or nine years," explained Noble, who joined Brisbane at the end of the 2016 season.

"We started our relationship at Adelaide. When I got the gig up here I put him on full-time with us.

"We tried to go about it really quietly and diligently. I know a few other clubs are putting people on (in that area) now.

"He's got an engineering and applied math background.

"What Walshy has been able to help us with is the modelling of our future teams.

New Lions Football manager David Noble speaks as Former Hawthorn football operations manager Chris Fagan is announced as the new Brisbane Lions coach. Pic Jono Searle.
David Noble provides an insight into the Lions' planning strategy. Jonathon Searle

"He's been a terrific help for us behind the scenes."

In layman's terms, Walsh's work with the Lions is fantasy football on steroids.

Fantasy though has very much become reality, with his research into Brisbane's needs leading to specified recruiting.

"I think the fans are really into understanding what those numbers mean," Noble said.

"Each club will have their own metrics around what numbers they look for. Everybody has sort of shifted into that space.

Fagan on the training paddock. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Chris Fagan has lifted the Lions from the bottom of the ladder to the top two. Chris Hyde

"The advantage is having someone who works on it on a day-to-day basis, who is able to generate numbers and show you 'this is what the data is telling us'.

"It actually challenges some of your normal thinking."

The results on the field speak for themselves with the Lions' most recent recruiting targets all integral to the 2019 outfit.

Without divulging the Lions' 'secret seven herbs and spices' of their mathematical formula, Walsh's analytical data determines "how that player then fits into the overall plan of what you're trying to build", Noble said.

"I hate using that Moneyball terminology, but it's definitely in that space of understanding what the value of players are.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 27: Lincoln McCarthy handballs during a Brisbane Lions AFL training session at The Gabba on August 27, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Lincoln McCarthy has made his move to the Lions a winner. Bradley Kanaris

"We can take information to list management (headed by Dom Ambrogio) and use it within our recruiting.

"We don't use it in selection."

While eventual All-Australians forward Charlie Cameron and midfielder Lachie Neale were effectively no-brainers when it came to recruiting, data on Lincoln McCarthy and Jarryd Lyons suggested they could be pick-ups just as pivotal.

Injury-prone McCarthy had played 29 games in seven seasons with Geelong. As a lively half forward, he has played every game this season.

"If we were able to get him fit, his data was showing he was going to be a good player for us," Noble said.

Lyons had been on the outer at Gold Coast. With Dayne Beams heading back to Collingwood, the Lions needed a "stoppage expert".

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 02: Jarryd Lyons handballs during a Brisbane Lions AFL training session at The Gabba on September 02, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Jarryd Lyons' numbers continue to impress. Bradley Kanaris

A true ball-winner, Lyons ranks in the top 20 for clearances this season.

"When you lose players of the ilk of Beams and (Tom) Rockliff, you need to be able to pull apart and understand what you're actually losing," Noble said.

"I worked with him (Lyons) in Adelaide (before he joined the Suns). I knew his data coming out of 2016, the year I left, was very, very good.

"I was annoyed I didn't push harder for him to come here at the very beginning. I got a second chance."

Whatever happens in this year's finals series, which begins for the Lions with a home qualifying final tonight against Richmond, the club won't rest.

"There's an old saying you can never have too many good players," Noble said. "We still think we've got some gaps that we'll go to trade this year and try to rectify. "It's like (head coach Chris Fagan) Fage's mantra - continuous improvement. Internally we're no different."