he return of favourite son Simon Black after a tumultuous off-season has helped the Brisbane Lions feel like one big happy family again, co-captain Jonathan Brown says.
Barely two weeks after hanging up his boots, Black knocked back rival offers to become new head coach and ex-premiership teammate Justin Leppitsch's assistant for the next two years.
He hit the ground running, chiming in with Leppitsch when the Lions returned for pre-season training on Tuesday barely 24 hours before they fly out for a high altitude camp in Arizona.
The Brownlow Medallist's familiar face was relished by a group that had been rocked in the off-season by five homesick players' departures and a very public and messy boardroom stoush.
"He is obviously a great of the game," Brown said of Black.
"He would love to still be playing I am sure but unfortunately the body has let him down but hopefully this will be second best."
The Lions needed all the good news they could get after a two-month boardroom battle which claimed chairman Angus Johnson and challenger Paul Williams.
Then there was the "Go Home Five".
Billy Longer (St Kilda), Jared Polec (Port Adelaide), Sam Docherty (Carlton), Elliot Yeo (West Coast) and Patrick Karnezis (Collingwood) claimed homesickness when they returned to their native states, earning the ire of Lions players on social media.
But Brown said all the new faces at the Lions would help the club become like brothers in arms once again.
"Whenever there's something new it's always refreshing and guys will be jumping out of their skin trying to impress, even a 15-year veteran like myself," Brown said.
"It certainly has been a tumultuous off-season with the board and the young players leaving but that's all been sorted out now and we move into 2014 with a positive vibe around the club.
"I think we're all happy to have left that behind.
"The players here want to be here, they feel really strongly about the group.
"There's terrific camaraderie and spirit here and I'm only concerned about the guys that are actually here."
The playing group included Richmond recruit Luke McGuane in his first appearance in Lions colours and newly re-signed utility Brent Staker.
Black said the lure of remaining in Queensland proved too hard to ignore.
"It was an incredibly difficult decision for me to retire, but has been made that much easier knowing that I could still stay involved with the club in some capacity," he said."It's certainly going to be a different sort of experience, but I'm really excited about the challenge."