Numbers don't lie: Brisbane can definitely win the premiership

Everybody loves a fairytale story in sport and it's the reason why we all hopped on board the Brisbane bandwagon at the beginning of the season.

The Lions are a club which have faced their fair share of adversity over the years; from player retention struggles to horrible on-field performances to the simple fact they play off-Broadway in Queensland and have to battle for every single membership sale. Nothing has ever come easily.

Last year may have only been a five-win season, but it was a great stepping stone for Chris Fagan's group who were clearly becoming competitive on a far more consistent basis. Scoring increased from 75 points per game in the first half of the season to 84 in the second half, while their defence became much more sound, conceding a staggering four goals less per game than in 2017.

These drastic numbers, along with the high-profile off-season signing of former Dockers star Lachie Neale, had many football pundits predicting a significant jump in 2019. Did anyone ever imagine Brisbane would be sitting third, and just percentage off ladder-leading Geelong, with three rounds of the home-and-away season remaining? Certainly not.

However, as exciting and impressive as the Lions have been throughout the year, most would still say they probably aren't quite at the level of some of the other top-line teams in contention for the premiership. Most bookmakers are currently rating Richmond, Geelong, West Coast and GWS as more likely to win the flag this year than Brisbane.

But make no mistake, the data suggests the Lions can definitely win the 2019 premiership.

Champion Data says there are two key areas almost every recent premier has excelled in: Scoring from intercepts and winning contested possessions in general play.

Since 2011, only one premier has failed to rank inside the top five for intercept scoring. Fans and the media place so much value on scoring from stoppages, but given that around 75-80 percent of an average game is played away from a stoppage, it's actually far more beneficial for a team to be able to create turnovers and punish their opposition.

In the first half of the year, the Lions were having no issue scoring from clearances. In fact, only Collingwood had a higher score from clearance differential than Brisbane. However, they were only ranking 12th for what's the more important scoring from intercepts, and aside from the Western Bulldogs outlier in 2016, this just doesn't align with a premiership team.

It's clear Fagan and his coaching staff identified this as an issue after a disappointing loss to Carlton just before the bye. Since then, things have changed dramatically.

From Round 14 onward, Brisbane has jumped from 12th to first for scores from intercept differential, a staggering improvement in such a short space of time. It hasn't come because the Lions are scoring more, instead it's because they are much tougher to score against when they lose possession of the ball.

In the first 12 rounds, they were giving up a score 21 percent of the time they turned the ball over, ranking them the competition's worst in this area. Since the bye, they are the competition's hardest team to score against from a turnover, only conceding a score 14.5 percent of the time. It's certainly no surprise they are riding a seven-game winning streak since their bye.

This all comes down to set-up and structure behind the ball for which Fagan and his group deserve enormous credit, not only for identifying their flaw, but for addressing it and transitioning from the worst to the best in just seven weeks.

The other area where Champion Data says aligns closely with recent premiers is the ability to win contested possession away from stoppages.

Again, like scores from clearances against scores from intercepts, winning contested possessions away from the stoppages translates to success much more than winning it at the stoppages as over three quarters of an average game is played outside of a contest.

Since 2011, six of the eight premiers have ranked in the top five for general play contested possession differential while just one premier ranked in the top five for stoppage contested possession differential.

This year, at the stoppages, Brisbane rank a lowly 15th for contested possessions, but in general play, where it matters more, they sit second and only behind the ladder-leading Cats.

This is another area the Lions had identified as a weakness and one they have done a stellar job in rectifying in 2019.

Not only is Brisbane ticking boxes when it comes to scores from intercepts and general play contested possessions, but they are also the competition's most damaging side forward of centre. They've scored more points this year than any other team and on average need just 27 disposals before kicking a goal -- ranking them number one in the competition for efficiency in that area.

Many might still be questioning their premiership credentials, but one thing is certainly clear if recent history tells us anything: The Lions can most definitely go all the way in 2019.