The Mongrel Wrap – Brisbane v Sydney

In a game that threatened to get very ugly at quarter time, the Brisbane Lions have recorded their first win over the Sydney Swans since 2009, saluting an encouragingly sized home crowd, holding onto a 20-point win, despite smashing out of the blocks to a 28-point quarter time lead.

Tonight’s win showed an otherwise unseen maturity in a Lions outfit that were able to keep their heads after a more experienced Swans lineup reduced the margin to just 2 points at the long break, despite their star midfielder, Lachie Neale well held by George Hewett throughout the game.

Whilst the win catapults the Lions to a rare appearance inside the top 4, the Swans sink to 1-6 and 17th on the ladder, with early season concerns having been a mainstay of the clubs’ fortunes for the past three seasons now, as the club powerbrokers attempt to address both an ageing list and growing salary cap concerns not providing the on-field results that such an age profile should be delivering.

This result probably provides more questions than answers to how the Bloods proceed. They possess a forward line that showed promise without star forward, Buddy Franklin, but still a midfield that looked very same-same and too predictable in its centre bounce set-ups. In the winners’ rooms – no-one seems any more convinced that the Lions are the real deal just yet, but they’re still putting the wins on the board to have every chance of proving it in September. The Mongrel Wrap explores the players behind these burning questions.


Hugh McCluggage

24 touches (13 contested), 4 marks, 6 tackles, 4 clearances, 8 score involvements, 9 inside 50s.

A real no-brainer for best-on-ground today. From the classy opening goal on his right from the boundary, to the wet conditions after half time, McCluggage was the only bloke handling the ball cleanly from start to finish, and was damaging far more often than not.

While Lachie Neale is the nominal replacement for Dayne Beams as far as on-field leadership, a marquee name and probable salary banding goes, for quality ball use and outside run, it’s McCluggage. I’m a big fan – probably the closest player out of any going around to match the attributes of Scott Pendlebury – while the peripheral vision, and the awareness of how much time he has to get rid of the footy aren’t quite to the great Collingwood captain’s just yet – the bloke has yet to play 50 games mind you – I reckon he’s got all the attributes to be more damaging around goal.

His running patterns so early into his career are just as smart as they come – he not only finds space, but its consistently to the benefit of his team – he’s not a seagull looking to get on the end of someone else’s hard work (hello to Aaron Hall) or avoid the rough stuff. The bloke on the end of McCluggage’s delivery ends up in far too good a position consistently for it to be a coincidence. I had him in a few iterations of my All Australian teams to date, but ended up taking him out on the basis that he hadn’t yet really had a big game without Lachie Neale delivering too.

With Sydney refusing to go away late in the game, in spite of the dominance Brisbane showed with some phenomenal inside 50’s numbers and a one-sided clearances win, Sydney getting within 10 points nearing time-on, it was McCluggage who stepped up to nail a running goal again, and shut the door on a dogged Sydney fightback that never seemed to end for three quarters, without ever really getting started either.

The 2016 draft doesn’t get spoken about as much as its other iterations as far as redrafting in hindsight goes (or for the fact that Brisbane absolutely picked the eyes out of it with all 3 of their first picks being spent on arguably the best player available at that pick). Are Bomber fans at a stage where they regret Andrew McGrath going at pick 1, given what McCluggage, and also Tim Taranto have been able to put on the board so far?

McGrath isn’t a bust by any stretch. He shows bits and pieces fleetingly as a good ordinary half back flanker. The two after him already look elite level midfielders 50 games in.

Tom Papley

18 disposals, 8 contested, 4 marks, 4 tackles, 4 goals, 9 score involvements

On a poor weather afternoon that should have been a feast for the small forwards, few made much of an impact at all. Tom Papley, however, refused to say die, and continued to be the difference between Sydney looking like they’d pinch the unlikeliest of victories up until the last five minutes of the game, and Brisbane putting a cricket score on the board.

Charlie Cameron flirted with dominating the game without ever really putting it on the scoreboard. Lincoln McCarthy failed to deliver, Cam Rayner and Lewis Taylor were barely sighted. Sydney probably went in two small forwards short – if not for a partner for Tom Papley, as Kieran Jack failed to fire a shot as a makeshift small forward, but how much the Swans could have done with Papley in the guts also.

Throughout the game, the Swans’ starting midfield six hardly varied. Callum Sinclair in the ruck obviously, with Josh Kennedy the midfield mainstay, George Hewett tagging Lachie Neale, with Zak Jones rotating in from the back half and Luke Parker having a spell in the middle with a decent run forward.

Isaac Heeney was playing a inexplicably defensive wing role and the position of rotating attacking winger was played between Jackson Thurlow and Oliver Florent of a consistent level of no input. No x-factor, no-one of any real worrying speed.

The goal of Callum Mills playing midfield looks all but abandoned. Why not Tom McCartin in patches? Their most damaging player by foot, Jake Lloyd seemed to be underrepresented in the midfield minutes also. Isaac Heeney appears to be playing a similar role to what Jaidyn Stephenson was doing earlier in the year, until Bucks decided better of it, yet Heeney has nowhere near the natural linebreaking speed that Stephenson has. This benefits no-one. If Kieran Jack can no longer play a meaningful role in the midfield, what is the point of him being in the 22?

Papley could have been a welcome injection into that midfield but remained the Swans only real constant forward line winner for the day.

Mitch Robinson

22 touches (12 contested), 9 tackles, 1 goal, 6 clearances, 7 score involvements, 6 inside 50’s.

I can think of plenty of situations I don’t want Mitch Robinson in my football team. When the game’s up for grabs, it’s usually a matter of time before he gives a silly free kick away. In a one on one contest, it’s pretty reasonable to expect him to over-commit to the contest, and either overrun the footy or again give away a needless free kick. If I want precision kicking, I’m going to get a ball b
ombed 20m up in the air to no-one’s advantage.

But when the conditions get a bit wet and the game goes a little bit retro, he’s one of the absolute best in setting the standards required for putting your head over the footy, and not over-finessing with the ball in hand. See ball, get ball, get rid of the ball. Today was no exception.

When the Swans hit back in the second quarter, Mitch led from the front to ensure the Lions stayed true to the task. I loved his efforts to go back with the flight of the footy, get crunched by Lewis Melican, only to pop up and give the ball off to Tom Cutler in the goal square. In years gone by, Mitch was either popping straight back up, rushing a set shot and missing from 20m out, or he was going to return the favour to Melican and give the ball straight back… only to do it late in the game anyway, with an unnecessary 50m penalty to give Jake Lloyd the easiest of goals and keep the Swans within 15 points late. Like a moth to a flame, he can’t say no.

His first quarter had his stamp of authority all over it too. McCluggage’s classy opening goal? A superb assist from Robbo. A Hipwood goal from a pass that was relatively lace out by Mitch’s standards.

Robbed of a second goal with a bizarre goal umpiring call too. Baffling.

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Luke Parker

20 touches (10 contested), 60% efficiency, 5 tackles. 6 score involvements, 1 inside 50

Perhaps a harsh call, but in the context of what we know Parker can do and can be, it was a nothing game from him, at a time the Swans needed the captain to step up.

I’m still not sure what his role is, and I’m not entirely convinced he does either. Those numbers as a midfielder who rests forward aren’t fantastic. He’s never been one for high efficiency percentages, so that’s no surprise. Inside 50’s however, is disappointing. Six score involvements are surprising, given he failed to trouble the scorers himself all day, and was barely sighted around the stoppages. As a forward who rotates through the midfield, he didn’t offer much at all. Too much was left to Papley, and he never looked threatening.

For all the talk about the Swans kicking off a rebuilding phase by offloading Buddy to a rival club, it’s optimistic at best that a club is not only a) interested; b) have the cap space to accommodate it, and c) the trade currency to make it worth the Swans’ while.  To a lesser extent you can probably add d) the time to spare in trade week to spend reworking the biggest contract in the game. The Swans can justifiably expect a late first rounder for their troubles and for how the money is structured in the deal, just as every other club is going to baulk at that, and use the Gary Ablett trade back to Geelong as precedent.

Luke Parker is probably a different story. Two years left on the contract at the end of the year, still at a reasonable age, and capable of contributing more to a different midfield set up and circumstances. He’s not as critical to the Swans’ midfield as Kennedy, but they need to look to the future and ensure Papley and Jones get a run through there as often as they can. Hewett’s up there as one of the best taggers in the game. It doesn’t leave much for a bloke who probably isn’t quick enough to play on a wing.

He’d be Carlton’s second-best midfielder. He’d be the Saints’ best midfielder if they aren’t completely scarred from trading with the Swans again after his good mate Dan Hannebery’s arrival. He’s AFL standard, so the Roos would offer him a 12 year deal. The Suns could do with him too and would have picks to burn. If they can get a top 10 pick for Parker, it just makes sense.

Cam Rayner

8 touches, 1 mark, 1 goal, 0 tackles, 3 score assists

Do I dislike the bloke because he only ever ends up on the highlights reel taking shots at goal he really shouldn’t be taking, rather than just doing the team thing? The unjustifiably arrogant strut, or am I just subconsciously a bit of a prick and find the Wayne Carey/Chris Lynn eyes too close together thing a bit unnerving?

I’d like to think it’s the former. That and his contribution seems to be limited to when it suits and benefits him. No tackles again a big red mark. Having said that his one goal today was an absolute belter – a true indication of his freakish talent, and what he can do. The rest an indication of what he doesn’t do anywhere near enough.

We’re in a ‘talking drafts in hindsight’ mode here tonight. The 2017 crop still remains too early to call – and you really have to appreciate the context of the Rayner selection as someone fully prepared and enthusiastic about heading to the Lions in the face of a decade long player exodus. Those picked immediately after him – way too early to call – Dow, LDU, Brayshaw all showing enough to say its likely they’re long-termers to varying ceilings. At this point, I’m not convinced Cam Rayner ever has a season better than what Jaidyn Stephenson had in his first year. That in itself is concerning (and perhaps a reflection of what they missed out on).

Robbie Fox

79% gametime for 7 touches, 2 tackles, 2 clangers.

I’m simply not convinced this bloke actually exists anymore. Sometimes I pay quite a lot of attention, other times I zone out and meow at the TV. Once the game went beyond doubt, I had a quick glance at the stats sheet to see if I’d missed anyone, and realized I hadn’t noticed Robbie Fox. And it hadn’t been for the first time this season either.

So for the final 10 minutes, I just decided to see if I could find the bloke on the field. I misread Jake Lloyd’s jumper number a couple of times, and late in the game, you can clearly see a Dane Rampe kick-in go over the head of a bloke wearing a Swans’ 42 jumper, into a grassy knoll, before being gathered by Jake Lloyd wearing a babushka.

The real Robbie Fox, Coburg gun has clearly run into foul play at Piranha Park. Possibly involving the ETU. This is just a cover up, and the Swans are actually still getting games into Jude Bolton or Sandford Wheeler using a Beatles’ inspired alias. Is Oliver Florent actually a play on Mel Torment? George Harrison played on a Dave Mason album as “Son of Harry” and Hari Georgeson….Harry Cunningham?

We’re through the looking glass, here, people. Not sure what conspiracy theory exactly, but a lot more clarity than whether Robbie Fox still exists.

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  • Have any side suffered more from the 6-6-6 rules than the Swans so far? Bloody difficult to consistently force another stoppage from the centre bounce with just 4 blokes around the ball (including a ruckman and a full time tagger in Hewett). From what I can see so far, they really struggle to put any defensive pressure on sides getting the ball out of the centre. There’s teams with similar difficulties in spreading wide enough to put pressure on the next option, but that is also cause for concern too. Far too optimistic at this point effectively relying on Kennedy getting a clean look. Can they continue to persist with Hewett as a full time tagger despite the one on one results he’s getting?

  • He had 30 touches himself today, but they were of fairly low quality – just 3 score assists were the second lowest in the past week of any player in the competition to register over 30 possessions – whilst limiting Neale’s influence, but I think there’s better value in reassigning Hewett where a tag on the attacking wingman is an option, and bringing Parker or Zak Jones in on a full time basis. Or a more wild suggestion, if Buddy is on the way out – play him in the midfield for the rest of the year. Take inspiration from how Alastair Clarkson took him out of the focus of Hawthorn’s forward line in his last year, and redevelop the Swans’ forward line around the stock they have – Reid, Hayward, Heeney, Papley, Blakey, Dawson – the foundations are there.

  • A couple of times today where a player slid in late over a reckless kick off the ground, and no whistle was blown either way. Not a massive fan of the sliding below the knees rule. It remains nearly a decade later, a gross overreaction to a perfect storm of events – atrocious weather, Gary Rohan’s commitment for the ball, and a reckless bordering on negligent Lindsay Thomas going in at full speed. We haven’t seen an incident as severe in those circumstances that regularly occur since. This is not a reflection on the rule change so much as players being more aware of their duty of care, or perhaps that it just never really happened that much to begin with anyway.

  • Today was probably the sort of slippery conditions where we were going to see a replication of that sort of injury. Putting the whistle away rather than paying a kicking in danger or below the knees free seems negligent in wet weather footy. Saturday night at Marvel Stadium in dry conditions? No worries. This just seemed confusing and a poor read of the playing conditions.

  •  Still no Nick Smith for the Swans? Huge loss.

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