It was a weekend of football that proved one statement true; Premiership aren’t won (nor lost) in April. Winless in round two with football media rabidly shouting them down, Essendon have squared their ledger, first defeating the Dees before bludgeoning the young, improving Lions at the MCG.

Their brilliant first half, along with magnificent performances from Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Zach Merrett (amongst others) cooked many pundits’ footy tips while crunching the ladder into the tightest of squeezes. The Mongrel looks at who stood tall and who fell short on a sunny Saturday arvo in Melbourne.

Heroes

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti

The man they call “Tippa” or “Walla” depending on who you talk to, is often an indicator of the Dons’ success – if he lays tackles, forces spillages, kicks goals and sets them up for others enough, his red-and-black brethren tend to lift around him. I like him as Essendon’s pied piper – setting the tone for his teammates when they need to lift.

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti went bonkers.

The gun small forward bagged a frankly ridiculous (and career-high) seven goals – with three coming in Essendon’s blitzkrieg of a first half and the remainder as Brisbane attempted a gritty comeback – along with 20 disposals. The most dangerous forward on the ground by the length of the Flemington straight (and you can add several Olympic-sized swimming pools on the end of that, too), McDonald-Tipungwuti led the game for marks inside 50 (five, a career high) on his way to a champagne performance that dictated the flow of the game.

Tippa, we don’t deserve you.

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Zach Merrett and Dylan Shiel

I remember when Merrett was blasted by all in sundry following his pretty average performance in round one against the Giants. He was soft, didn’t tackle, didn’t work hard. Against the Lions, Merrett was brilliant, nabbing a lazy 35 disposals (only one man had more for the game, but we’ll get to him) along with an equal team-high six tackles. Merrett also led the Dons for inside 50s and, along with Dylan Shiel, clearances. He also shared the contested possession numbers with Shiel on the way to a midfield masterclass, kicking a snag to top his day off.

Speaking of Shiel, we should give the ex-Giant some love as well. Playing pretty much in the guts all day long, Shiel gathered 28 touches and along with Merrett led Essendon’s midfielders in most statistical categories, with a game-high five centre clearances, six tackles, seven inside 50’s, four marks and 15 contested possessions.

The Essendon mids are good, and we should give them credit.

Mitch Brown

Brown was dropped for the Melbourne game last week but with Shaun McKernan’s injury, was parachuted back in to the Bombers’ line-up, kicked 3 and had 25 touches.

Not bad.

Brown was really solid for Essendon – the last time he had at least 25 touches was in 2017, where the Dons fell to Adelaide at Docklands. Only Cale Hooker had more grabs with 13 – Brown had 11. With no McKernan for quite a while, we’ll get to see whether Brown can build on this performance next Friday afternoon against North Melbourne.

Lachie freakin’ Neale

Holy leather poisoning, Batman!

Lachie Neale is a really, really, really good footballer who has the ability to get the ball no matter what or when. He had 43 last week against Port and, in a pretty dirty day for the Lions, followed up with 40. Neale’s statline is eye-bulging – seven marks, eight clearances, six tackles, 22 contested possessions. For a guy who spends so much time at the bottom of packs, Neale’s 77.5% disposal efficiency is fantastic. The rest of Brisbane’s midfield didn’t stand up against Merrett, Shiel and friends, but Neale on his own, quite honestly, might be enough in future games. He’s just on fire at the moment.

The bloke is an absolute gun. He’s eyeing off a Brownlow, I reckon

Alex Witherden

He wasn’t bad, the young fella. Witherden had more kicks than a pregnant lady, as per usual, with 20 off the half-back flank. Went at 86% clip, had ten rebound 50’s (career high), took five marks. Witherden was very solid but, unfortunately, his work went to a waste with the Lions thoroughly beaten all over the ground.

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Zeroes

Eric Hipwood and Lincoln McCarthy

What goes up, must come down. Last week, Hipwood kicked six and McCarthy took the most obscene hanger on Dan Houston’s head – that’ll now be beaten by Hayden Crozier going sky-walking on Friday. This week, the pair had two goals between them, seven clangers from a combined 19 disposals and five marks.

It just wasn’t the day for Brisbane’s forwards – as best shown by the Lions’ usually dynamic pairing of Hipwood and McCarthy. The latter in particular struggled, with his only goal from a dubious free kick. McCarthy followed up four tackles against the Power with just one against the Dons.

It’s a huge game next Thursday against the Pies at the Gabba. The response by Brisbane’s forward pair will dictate if the Lions can rebound with their fourth win of the year.

 

Cam Rayner

It just didn’t happen for the number one pick. Rayner was quiet against the Power, with just five disposals yet two goals. Against the Dons, Rayner had seven touches, one behind and a disposal efficiency of 57%. His four marks were vaguely redeeming; the fact that he didn’t lay a tackle in a comprehensive 47-point loss isn’t. The Victorian’s rookie season was impressive but, after five goals in three games to start the year, he’s fallen right off. The last time he’s had two games totalling in 12 disposals or less were his first two games in the maroon, gold and blue.

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