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In-form Lions gave Saints harsh pre-finals lesson

Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

Brisbane have given St Kilda a nasty taste of the improvement that's still needed if they are to make a mark in the AFL finals series.

The Saints have finished in the top eight for the first time since 2020 and Saturday week's elimination final against GWS will be only their fourth major-round game in the last 12 years.

It will be their first final against the Giants and St Kilda's first final at the MCG since they lost the 2010 grand final replay to Collingwood.

Captain Jack Steele says last Saturday's match against Brisbane at the Gabba was a solid pre-finals hitout, given the Lions finished second and they have a perfect record this season at their home ground.

While St Kilda only lost by 12 points, Brisbane had 27 scoring shots to 15.

"It was a fair challenge facing Brisbane in Brisbane - it could have been a lot worse than what it was if they'd kicked straight," Steele said after Tuesday training.

"So there were still definitely some things we needed to look at this morning, which we did. (There's) plenty to work on.

"The game on the weekend was a fair reflection of what finals footy can bring and how high-pressure it can be.

"It was a fair test for us."

GWS are coming off an upset win over Carlton that sealed their top-eight finish, with the Giants boasting an excellent run of form through the second half of the season.

But after some wobbly form, the Saints have looked sharper in the last three weeks and no-one doubts their defensive strength.

They could also regain Max King, Seb Ross and Dougall Howard for the elimination final.

"They're very dangerous, but so are we when we're playing the footy we want to be playing, so it will be a good game and a good fight," Steele said.

One clear key will be GWS captain Toby Greene, the favourite to be named All-Australian skipper on Wednesday night.

Steele was a teammate of Greene at the Giants before he joined St Kilda and has massive respect for the game-breaking forward.

"He's a fair competitor and I suppose a player you hate to play against, but you'd love to play with," Steele said.

"I've had the pleasure of doing both. He's one to watch.

There was speculation about the final being played at the Saints' Marvel Stadium home, but Steele was unfussed about the venue.

As he noted, their last finals three years ago were in the Queensland COVID-19 bubble.

"We're just happy to be playing finals footy anywhere, we don't really care. As long as we're playing, that's all that matters and to be doing it in Melbourne, in front of our fans ... is great," he said.

Whatever the Saints achieve next month, they have come a long way since the tumultuous events of a year ago, when Brett Ratten was sacked only weeks after being reappointed and Ross Lyon returned as coach.

"This time last year, I probably didn't think we were going to be in this position with the changes that were coming, but I'm glad," Steele said.