Y’know, it’s probably unfair to focus on a singular incident in a game that runs for two hours of actual play.

Yet how can you not?

Let’s get straight into it with The Mongrel’s  good, bad and ugly

THE GOOD

NEW LYONS KING

I’m starting to look like a right dickhead here, but unlike most people who write on the internet… I’m actually fine with being proven wrong.

I doubted Jarryd Lyons.

At his third club, part of me wondered what the hell was wrong with him that would see Gold Coast, of all teams, allow him to walk to the Lions for free? I was convinced there had to be something that’d rear its ugly head at some point during this season, and early on, I took a ‘wait and see’ approach with Lyons.

Well, we’re now in Round 18, and he has just put together back-to-back weeks where he has been the best midfielder on the ground. He smashed Port last week, and he smashed in against North this week.

Over the past two games, he has averaged 33 touches and 20 contested disposals. That is monstrous, and he is doing it on the same team as contested ball-king, Lachie Neale!

Lyons had 13 clearances this week to lead all players, and added nine last week as well.

So, I would like to apologise to Jarryd Lyons for doubting him. He has proven over the last fortnight that he is a genuine midfield star capable of putting the team on his back when Neale is receiving the attention, and that role is so valuable to the Lions as they build a resilient midfield group.

RICH FROM 55….

What a way to hit the front, huh?

The 200-gamer, marking a shallow defensive 50 exit at 50 metres, going back and slamming it through for a goal… you could feel that Brisbane roar building as soon as he struck it. It was palpable – the Lions’ roar echoing through the Gabba, into the effects mic and out of the TVs around the country.

And you know what that roar says?

The Lions are the real deal.

Rich has had a wonderful season. At times overshadowed by other ‘marquee’ defenders, he has gone about his business in the Brisbane defence, providing great options as he drives them forward. I’m not sure whether he’ll make the AA Squad of 40 this season, but he probably deserves to.

GOLDY DRAGS NORTH BACK

What a last few minutes by Todd Goldstein this evening – he looked like a man who just wanted to will his team over the line.

He won clearances late in the game, linked up through the middle and if we look at the last few minutes in isolation, Goldstein was probably the most important player on the park.

He is an unrestricted free agent this upcoming off-season, and it begs the question – what will North do without him?

A fit Majak Daw would make things interesting, but I wonder if I am alone in wondering whether he’ll be back anywhere near his best after such horrific injuries? Do North wish Goldy all the best if he decides to leave? Some of his tap work to Higgins and Simpkin in this game was otherworldly. Can North do without that as they look to build on this season’s regrouping and coaching change?

I’m a little torn on it. Goldy is 31. Will he be a part of North’s next genuine premiership-contending team? Unless that happens in the next couple of years, you’d have to think he may not be. If that is the case, maybe Goldstein is better off plying his trade elsewhere next year.

But the hole he leaves will be enormous, and the silver service for mids will not be easily replaced.

BROWN AND ANDREWS

Pair these two up and it sounds a bit like a board game manufacturer. Well, between them, they produced an enthralling battle, replete with surprises, late game heroics and stoic defence.

Nice work Brown and Andrews… I hope to experience this style of game again.

Ben Brown finished with three goals, including one from a dubious ruck contest late in the game (and that is in no way Andrews’ fault as a defender) and Andrews managed his routine double figure tally of one-percenters.

Brown had only eight disposals but managed to get free for three marks inside 50, whereas Andrews had six intercept possessions to go along with his spoiling exploits. It was a genuine full forward v full back contest with no true winner. You could argue three goals for Brown is a reasonable result, but you could also argue that holding Brown to three, after his six goal haul last week, is a win for Andrews.

As the black knight said to King Arthur, we’ll call it a draw.

And if you don’t like that, I’ll bite ya legs off!

CHARLIE AND MARLEY

Aaaand if the last one sounded like a board game manufacturer, this one sounds like a movie where the dog gets killed at the end (Marley) and the young fella in it (Charlie) gets very upset.

Nice try, huh? Charlie wasn’t upset, and the only thing that died was North Melbourne’s finals chances.

I loved their match up, and found it entertaining every time they duelled in a one-on-one contest. Marley was good at holding his ground and making sure Charlie didn’t get out the back (except once… and he was hot on his tail). And Charlie was able to conjure a couple of goals and 13 touches for the evening.

Cameron is one of my favourite players to watch in the league, and is the premier small forward in the game at the moment. I reckon had he stayed at Adelaide, we may have already seen the last of Eddie Betts, which is both a little sad, and almost necessary at the moment.

I’ve been a bit of a critic of Marley Williams at times, but credit is given readily at The Mongrel when it’s due. He was resolute on Cameron all game and is one of the few players on the North Melbourne team that will willingly take that diagonal kick into the guts without hesitation.

Match ups like the two listed here are the reason this game was so close. Can you pick a winner in the Charlie v Marley clash? How about in the Brown and Andrews clash?

Pretty tough, huh?

THE SCORE REVIEW WORKS! FINALLY!

So, are we all aware that the great goal Charlie Cameron kicked off the deck in the second quarter was originally ruled a behind, because the goal umpire thought Marley Williams got his foot to it?

Imagine the uproar if there were no score review of that one? As clear as day, Charlie stuck his foot out and kicked the goal, but without video review, we would’ve been lamenting the problems of relying on humans to make split-second decisions… and we still will a little later.

However, in this case, the score review actually worked! Yes it was an open-shut case, and yes a blind man could’ve had an inkling that Cameron was responsible for the kick, but for once, let’s just celebrate something going right with the score review system.

There are three games tomorrow for the success to be short-lived.

A LITTLE SMILE

Just a quick one – I loved seeing Ben Cunnington and Mitch Robinson collide on the outer wing late in the third quarter.

Two genuine hard-at-it players going for the ball and crashing into each other, and the result?

Smiles.

Robbo smiles knowing that he is right up for it had Cunnington wanted to go on with it, and Cunnington smiled knowing that it was a good, hard contest – just the way he likes it.

Respect for those two blokes – they play good, hard footy, and I reckon that was a nice tip of the hat to each other.

THE BAD

CATCHES WIN MATCHES

Jared Polec is on good coin.

That’s an understatement. Jared Polec is making a very, very good living at the North Melbourne Football club and will be for another four years after this one. He is supposed to earn this money by utilising his run, his endurance, and his precise long kicking.

Taking uncontested marks in defensive 50 are pretty important as well.

Jamie Macmillan is a player that seems to divide North supporters. Some love his run from the backline and ability to draw the football and deliver it well. Others think he is mistake-prone and his turnovers outweigh any of the good he produces. When he is at his best, he can accumulate with the best of them and his run is vital to the success of the Kangaroos.

Taking uncontested marks in defensive 50 are pretty important as well.

Both men put telling marks to grass over the course of this game, and both cost their team goals.

North made nice position for Polec to fly at the ball deep in defence in the second quarter. He did so, and couldn’t glove the mark. The ball hit the deck and Allen Christenson swooped. Panicked, Polec was desperate to make amends – sadly, he took the forward high and gave away a free kick.

Midway through the third quarter we had a repeat performance – this time from Macmillan. Again, his error allowed Allen Christensen to swoop. He grabbed the spill, snapped and put another goal on the board.

We’ll get to the error everyone will talk about next, but these two errors were just as costly. These errors cost North Melbourne goals – these were not the umpire’s fault. These weren’t North Melbourne getting robbed. These incidents were professional footballers making mistakes. And just like the idiotic umpiring decision that followed in the last quarter, they cost North Melbourne dearly.

THE TOBY GREENE EXPERIENCE

Hi Ben Cunnington – you’re now part of the Toby Greene experience. Do you know what that is?

You’ll become aware very shortly. It’s a place you really don’t want to be. It’s a place where anything and everything you’ve done in the past will be held against you and applied to anything you do in the future. It is a place where your reputation precedes you, and there is little you can do about it. You are guilty until proven innocent and you receive no pity from the football public, who call you a grub, or a sniper, regardless of how well you play.

But don’t despair, because you see, there are people who like the way you play – people who like that you have a hard edge to you and enjoy the last bastion of physicality in a sport that used to exude it. Yes Ben, you are now one of the most hated players in the league, without even being suspended, but footy purists will love you, always.

Ben Cunnington should give Toby Greene a call and ask how he handles being whistled for innocuous infractions such as the “prohibited contact” he was pinged for late in the third quarter. That was a joke.

This is a man’s game (at least this version of it) and blokes will occasionally run into each other. North are blessed (cursed?) with a few blokes who like running into others. Cunnington, Jack Ziebell and Jed Anderson. Sadly, in this day and age, unless you’re asked politely to bump into someone, it seems as though you’ll be pinged.

Put the whistles away and stop penalising good, hard players on reputation.

THE UGLY

ONE DECISION

With a minute to go in the game and scores tied a long ball went inside the Brisbane Lions attacking 50. Scott Thompson, experienced and string, used his body to out-position Oscar McInerney.

Now, the fun begins – all year we’ve heard umpires talk about you can’t guard the space and displace your opponent if you don’t contest the mark. We’ve seen players penalised for it, and as supporters, I reckon we’re all of the same mind – as long as you are consistent, we’ll deal with the interpretations the umpires are advised to administer.

It’s when there is an outlier that problems start to arise, and that’s what we had tonight.

Thompson took the mark on his chest and the whistle blew. I was sitting home and I had this horrible feeling that in a crucial moment, the umpire was about to make a big mistake. He did. A huge one, and it has, at least in part, put paid to North Melbourne’s finals chances.

North Melbourne and Scott Thompson were punished for being stronger and having better judgement. Oscar McInerney was rewarded for not contesting strongly and for flopping out of the contest.

This is not what our game is about.

Aussie Rules football is about strong, physical contests. It is as much about strength as it is skill. It is as much about courage in the face of adversity as it is jumping into someone’s back and taking a hanger.

What it is not about is a poor decision late in a game that swings the result in favour of one team. Yet here we are.

I hated what I saw in the last minute of the game at the Gabba. I hated that a game that was fought so closely was decided by an umpiring decision that was a guess. It was a misinterpretation of the rules – a wrong decision.

I have loved the way North Melbourne have rallied under Rhyce Shaw, and I’ve loved the emergence of the Brisbane Lions as a power once again.

This game deserved a better ending than the one we got. Brisbane may have won and taken home the four points, but thanks to guesswork, panic, and a whistle-happy umpire, the biggest losers on the night are not North Melbourne. The biggest losers are the fans of the game. We were robbed of the finish that game deserved.