People tell me that it’s only one game; that it’s only round one, and that it’s a long season.

They’re right. It is only one game. It is only round one, and it is a very long season, but every game counts, and I would counter their arguments by saying that every game is worth four points irrespective of what round it is, and that every four points is vital, whether it be in round one, or round 20.

When you miss the finals by a game, or miss top four by percentage, that’s when these games matter. In your mind it might not matter too much right now, but it might later.

My missus always tells me that I screw over future-me. I put something off to do later, or I do half a job now, and have to work harder later. That’s what happens when you don’t perform early in the season, and we’ve seen it from a couple of teams that everyone expects to play finals this season.

Tonight we saw it from the West Coast Eagles.

Credit where it’s due – the Lions flipped the switch after a sloppy first quarter, and they turned the heat up on West Coast, who seemed to really struggle in the conditions. They put to rest fears of the hype surrounding their possible improvement being overblown, and they delivered in a big way, taking the scalp of the premiers in the process.

It was a sloppy game, riddled with skill errors, and in the end the more desperate team took the chocolates, and it was well-deserved.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of the Lions huge win over the Eagles.

THE GOOD

HARRIS ANDREWS

So Andrews had 17 1%ers, which I am going to gather were all spoils in this game – he was an absolute contest killer!

Right before he had his extended period on the sidelines last season, I had Andrews pencilled in as the All-Australian full back. Of course, that time on the sidelines scuttled that, and old mate Rance got the nod in the end. Well, I reckon that spot is now Andrews’ to lose this season.

He was a giant in defensive contests in this one, and I reckon they might need an ice pack for his fist due to the amount of time he absolutely smashed the contest. He is no man-mountain, which makes his defensive efforts all the more impressive, and on a night where high marking wasn’t going to be on the cards, you could tell he was licking his chops every time the Eagles went long inside 50.

He finished with 20 touches to go with his spoiling brilliance, and was a key to repelling Eagle attacks all evening.

HUGH MCLUGGAGE

This is going to be pretty high praise – there is a touch of Scott Pendlebury about McLuggage. The way he gets the ball, holds it, waits for options and then releases… that kind of stuff is innate. I’m not sure you can truly teach it, but you can encourage it, and you can tell that Fagan has given McLuggage the green light to take his time with the ball and make good decisions. If he gets caught, so be it, but the reward far outweighs the risk.

His handballs into space to get teammates running, and decision to prop and send the ball back inside instead of going down the line were the kind of plays that stand out when you’re looking at a game where people are throwing the ball at their boot to gain distance. He was like an island of skill and poise in an ocean of wild kicking and fumbling.

This is going to be a big year for him.

DOM SHEED

Started like a train and continued to find the ball all game.

Sheed looks to have taken some real confidence out of his finish to 2018, and in both JLT games, he was easily the most prolific ball winner on the park. Today was no different.

He picked up 38 disposals and had a career-high ten clearances amongst them to lead the Eagles on what was a pretty bleak day for them. Also career highs for Sheed were disposals and contested possessions (21).

Yes, his team was belted, but he was a solid contributor for the entire game, and one of just a few who looked as though he was still giving 100% even though the result was not in doubt.

RHYS MATHIESON

What do we call this dude? The junkyard dog? Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? If you’ve got any ideas, let me know, but it’s obvious that he dances to the beat of a different drum, and that can go one of two ways.

Luckily, it seems to be going in the very right way for the Lions. In basketball there are players who get no plays called for them. One of those guys used to be Cedric Ceballos, who still went out a couple of seasons and averaged over 20 points per game for a two straight years in the 90s. He was a garbage man – making something out of nothing, and I get the feeling that is a good way of looking at what Mathieson provides.

You’ve got Neale, Zorko, Lyons and McLuggage in the middle. They’re your marquee mids, and then there’s Mathieson. He’s there to do the dirty work and pick up what he can.

And he does it well. He had 25 touches with 12 coming in the contest, and he added five clearances as well. A very nice game from him tonight. Let me know what you reckon about nicknames for him… I need one that’s gonna stick.

JARROD BERRY

One of my favourite Lions behind only Simba, the one from Narnia and the one that met his owners after all that time in the wild and gave them big hugs.

Jarrod Berry is all hard work, and never, ever shirks the issue. He had 25 touches in this one and on a night when hitting targets wasn’t easy, ran at 84% efficiency.

I loved that there was no showboating about him. He played wet-weather footy, getting down low to cut off slipping, bouncing balls, and looked for the best option – not just the first option.

He finished with four tackles inside 50, which was so valuable in providing his team with repeat opportunities at goal. I’m looking forward to seeing his development continue this year – he will be a star.

THE SMALL FORWARDS

Talk about getting a new lease on life! Lincoln McCarthy (good friends with Lachie Neale in case you missed the 15 times the commentators spoke about it) continued his excellent JLT form with four goals tonight, combining with Charlie Cameron, who kicked three.

Cameron’s goal, running back to the square, with Jetta all over him, was an absolute classic. You know what I noticed about him? He just does not lose his feet in the contest. He refuses to go to ground and give up.

In another contest in the second quarter, again Cameron refused to go to ground, instead losing Jetta and centring the ball to McLuggag
e, who converted from 40 metres.

With both Cameron and McCarthy roaming the forward 50, the Lions have what is close to two brand new recruits. Charlie missed a chunk of 2018, and McCarthy’s hustle has been infectious. With them using their pace and ability to read the play, the Lions have added substantially to their offensive arsenal

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THE BAD

THE ERRORS

When you see a class player like Elliot Yeo making error after error, you know something must be up. For a while, the Eagles ran with all cylinders pumping. They looked like a million bucks, and when the Lions took a risk, the Eagles made them pay.

But when the pressure came, it looked as though West Coast continued to attempt to play dry weather footy, even though it was painfully apparent that this game had to be treated like wet weather footy. You could see the ball slipping along the grass, and the only way to deal with that is body lining the ball.

Still, West Coast tried slick handballs, and fumbled them. They tried skilful kicks around the corner, and either turned them over or of kicked them out of bounds. They over-possessed, and by the time they started to play direct footy, the game was lost. Brisbane had worked it out much earlier and had scoreboard pressure on their side.

You had Waterman dropping uncontested marks, Tom Cole missing targets, Vardy spilling marks, Yeo kicking on the full… there were so many errors. Meanwhile, the Lions adjusted better, ran in numbers and ran all over the tired-looking premiers.

I’ll speculate here that Brisbane is a far more adaptable team than West Coast currently. The way they adjusted their game spoke of a maturity I had not given them credit for. The Eagles… they look like they’re built for dry weather footy, so tonight was not the right conditions for them to thrive.

Is that an excuse? Maybe. I prefer to think it’s a valid reason.

THE UGLY

THE DANIEL RICH KICK IN

I reckon with the kick in rules relaxed to the point you can kind of amble out of the square and get the ball outside 50 with little to no effort, there is very little reason for a turnover from a kick in inside your own defensive 50 metre arc. It would now be like the cardinal sin for whomever is taking the kick ins.

But that didn’t bother old mate, Daniel, who basically handed a goal to Daniel Venables in the second quarter when West Coast were really struggling to score.

The Lions were turning the screws on the Eagles at this point, and at the time, I wondered whether this would be enough to get the Eagles up and running. It turns out that it wasn’t, obviously, but sometimes those errors – unforced errors – are the things that bring a team undone.

Rich is a beautiful kick of the footy usually, and has a cannon for a leg – a 30 metre pass should be the absolute last option when he is trusted with the kick in. I hope he learnt his lesson on that one.

THE EAGLES’ SECOND, THIRD AND FOURTH QUARTERS

So did West Coast put the cue in the rack at quarter time, or what? That was as insipid as I’ve seen them for a long while in the final three quarters of this game. After kicking six goals in the first quarter and looking like they might put the Lions to the sword, they added just two goals for the rest of the game. Yep, two goals in three quarters.

They were disgraceful as a whole, with only Dom Sheed, and maybe Tom Barrass, Shannon Hurn and Luke Shuey able to hold their heads high.

In the lead up to this season, I thought that playing two ruckmen was a given, and the Eagles went in with both Hickey and Vardy. They could not get near it. Granted, these were not conditions that made anything easy for rucks, but combined, their stats are appalling.

Between them, they gathered five disposals and one mark. That’s it.

Hickey, who in the pre-season thrived with the new ruck rules, was unable to move either Stefan Martin or Oscar McInerny off the ball to take possession in ruck contests, and was rendered useless around the ground in the slippery conditions. Vardy was worse, and he was pretty pissed off about it, too.

In contrast, you had Martin, who is criminally underrated, gather 13 touches and lay three tackles. He proved his worth. Vardy and Hickey… they’ve got some work to do, and dry conditions will aid them immensely.

The kids – both Brander and Oscar Allen looked okay in patches, but Waterman and Petruccelle didn’t do enough. The slippery ball looked like a foreign concept to the latter in particular. Daniel Venables wasn’t involved in a lot, either. This means that there was no real lift from the kids in this one.

The Eagles needed one or two of them to play above themselves. They got none.

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THE STUPID

LIAM RYAN REPORTED IN THE FINAL MINUTES

Ok, I get that there’s some frustration when you’ve been belted on the scoreboard and personally, you have hardly touched the ball since quarter time, but you’ve just been given a free kick for in the back, there’s only the junkiest of junk time remaining.

The smart thing to do is get up, ignore whatever attention comes your way, go back and slot the goal, right?

Well, not if you’re Liam Ryan, who decided to get up and land a jumper punch, have the free kick reversed, and get reported in the process. Of all that happened tonight – of all the boneheaded errors, the lack of composure, the fumbling and bumbling, Liam Ryan took the cake as the dumbest bloke on the field by jeopardising not only percentage, but his place in the team for next week.

There’s no excuse for stupidity, and while he has been lauded for all the good things he does on the field, that kind of stuff was bush league footy. He got sucked right in.

QUICK BITS

The commentators spoke a bit about the Eagles missing Gaff and Kennedy, but Rioli would’ve made a world of difference, for mine. He is an x-factor with such clean hands, and in slippery conditions, those sort of players can make a real difference.

I’m a big Mark Hutchings fan, but Dayne Zorko probably did enough to suggest that he successfully broke the tag in this one. Zorko has had enormous problems with tags in the past, so it was good to see him not be pinned down completely by a negating player. Hutchings did switch over to Neale for brief periods as well, but Neale is basically impossible to stop die to the nature of his game.

Zorko also really sucked Vardy in to giving away a free kick in the last quarter, and then milked a 50 metre penalty for an easy goal. I reckon he loved that. I thought he went a little high when he crunched Brad Sheppard in the second quarter. Will be interesting to see if anything comes of it, as he had his arm raised. That said, I’m yet to see a proper replay.

Good to hear both Yeo and Redden getting the boos in Brisbane – don’t forget, Lion fans. I love that kind of stuff in footy.

Old man Hodge was more than serviceable tonight. You know, when he announced he was going to Brisbane, I thought it had the potential to end terribly and tarnish what was a great career to that point.

I was wrong. He has enhanced his reputation by what he adds to that young team. His chase down tackle of Waterman, and his sprint to close down Yeo’s kick to Masten were both the kind of actions that make a team walk taller.

I hated the free kick against Witherden to Liam Ryan for a push and shove where both guys were doing exactly the same thing. It cost a goal, and the umpires need to be better than to pay a free kick when the forward is obviously trying to get the defender to bite.

Until Eric Hipwood proves he can consistently take an overhead mark, I’d barely put a finger on him in marking contests. Lewis Jetta looked like he could not have given a stuff when he gave Hipwood a free in the second quarter, but he needed to make him take the mark – he doesn’t do it often enough.

I’m still watching Jarryd Lyons really closely. He hasn’t put a foot wrong thus far in his Lions tenure, but the fact Gold Coast gave him away for nothing really doesn’t sit well with me. I’m kind of waiting to see bad Jarryd, but all I see is good Jarryd. 26 touches and seven tackles… that’s good Jarryd all over.

Who decided that the name ‘The Rayner Man’ was a good idea? Does he buy his underwear at Kmart? Is he great at counting cards? Rain man/Reign Man… yes! Rayner Man… no, no, no.

That may have been the best game I’ve seen Mitch Robinson play in a while. Hard at it and uncompromising as always, the conditions really suited his style of game.

Was I the only one who had images of Andrews getting smashed by Cameron as he ran back with the flight into a contest with darling in the last quarter? That was such heart in mouth stuff, but it speaks volumes about Andrews, doesn’t it? The game was over at that point and he could’ve pulled up – no one would’ve worried too much about it, but he didn’t flinch. It was fantastic.

And that’s it. Great win for the Lions who get North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium next week. The Eagles get to go home and should have a belting contest with the Giants.

How good is footy! Stay Mongrel…

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