The Brisbane Lions saw off a spirited challenge from the Saints, and did themselves no favours yet again with inaccurate kicking for goals as they ran out two-point winners in a thriller at the Gabba.
The Lions kicked 3.7 in the third quarter and managed just one behind in the last as the Saints blew a few chances of their own to pinch an unlikely win.
In a pulsating last stanza, a young Lion stood up to be counted when the pressure was at its highest and a couple of leaders made sure the Lions got home, whilst the move of Jack Billings from the role of beaten wingman to lively forward was almost enough to pinch the win for the away team.
So, will this poor kicking bring the Lions unstuck? Should the Saints be content with an honourable loss? And why did Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventures on Disney+ have a much better ending than Game of Thrones?
All this and more in The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
Seriously, Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventures is a ripping effort for a kids TV show.
CONTACT, WING DEFENCE
This is a bit of a two-part section, so buckle up.
The first part centres around the intent, and though I will touch on inaccurate kicking and a host of other things in this review, you could not help but have your eye caught by the attack on the man in the opening moments of the game by Mitch Robinson.
He lined up an open Zak Jones and split him right up the middle, leaving him gasping for breath on the deck. You simply don’t see enough of this in the game anymore. The AFL have made players terrified of hitting someone in the head to the point where a good, old-fashioned hip and shoulder bump is advised against so much more than it is promoted.
Thank god we still have players like Mitch Robinson that can do it properly and take the wind out of a bloke without the whistle blowing. He followed that up by chasing the play to half back where he then paid a big tackle. In the grand scheme of things, Robinson could be looked at as a pretty small factor in this win, but for reasons I will get to, if you think that, you’d be very, very wrong.
The Lions controlled the wings in this game. Absolutely owned them, and it was not just the work of Hugh McCluggage running and picking up 12 touches in the first half it was the defensive work the Lions put into the St Kilda runners that made a huge difference.
I’ll look at Brad Hill, but I’d prefer not to, as he has been on the nose all season. 15 touches is a decent return, but he was involved in just two scoring chains for the day, preferring to pissfart around with the footy than to make his line-breaking runs worth anything. What I’d like to do is concentrate on Jack Billings.
Without Jade Gresham in the side, Billings’ importance to St Kilda increased. When allowed to roam around without defensive attention, he has been able to notch his 20-22 touches and do as he pleases without getting his hands dirty. He is not an in-and-under player, and that’s fine, but when pressure is applied he does not seem to function well.
Between Robinson, Zac Bailey and McCluggage, the Lion were able to pay enough attention to Billings to make him a non-factor through the first three quarters, and as such the Saints struggled to get the same run down the wings they’ve enjoyed at times this season.
To his credit, once Billings was moved forward, things became very different. Released from the defensive attention of his fellow runners, he was able to become a huge factor in the Saints’ last quarter surges, but early in the game, things seemed a little too hot in the kitchen for his liking. He had just six touches through the first three quarters, but picked up nine playing inside 50 in the last.
THE DEFENSIVE DOUBLE-DOUBLE
Earlier this season, I wrote a members article about the defensive triple double – it’s when one player collects double figures in intercepts, one-percenters and rebound fifty disposals. To my surprise, only one man has been able to achieve that, but in researching it, I found that not that many actually achieve double figures in two categories.
But Harris Andrews does.
He notched his second double-double of the season with ten intercept and ten one-percenters in another blanketing display. Some may argue that it was Ryan Gardiner taking on the largest responsibility, with the job he did on Tim Membrey, leaving Andrews the less consistent and lighter-framed Max King to deal with. It’s a nice luxury to have a player like Darcy Gardiner, huh?
But it should not at all detract from the performance of Andrews, who took great delight in reading the play, positioning himself beautifully and killing contests all game long. I think we’re at the point now where Andrews could sit out the rest of the season and still collect the All-Australian full back slot – he has been masterful in his role this season.
Five touches in the last quarter… that’s what the stats sheet tells me.
And that’s why you simply cannot rely on stats to tell you the story of a game. If you do, chances are you’ll picture something very different than what actually occurred.
Zac Bailey was huge in the last quarter for the Lions, and if you wanted to point to one bloke who pulled them out of the fire, it would be him.
All five of those touches came in the contest. He laid two tackles and had three intercept possessions as he continually ran hard into defence and took on the responsibility of getting his team over the line. Oh, three of those five disposals drove the Lions inside 50, and considering they only went in seven times for the quarter, you can see how much of an impact he had.
Zac Bailey is just 20 years old and is already playing like a seasoned veteran. With Mitch Robinson clearly labouring at times this year, Brisbane have a ready-made replacement when the time comes, and the future looks very bright for him indeed.
I think he’d be top five in the Lions B&F right now, easily.
SEB ROSS… THE LOCKDOWN TAGGER?
This was unexpected, as in I really didn’t expect that Seb Ross had it in him to perform the task of limiting Lachie Neale’s influence.
Lo and behold, there he was, battling for position at stoppages and generally making for a miserable afternoon for the Brownlow favourite. Neale finished with less than 20 disposals for the first time this season, and whilst Ross is a man who is also used to racking them up, the trade off to have Neale’s clearance brilliance subdued was well worth it, particularly as the Saints had Jack Steele controlling things in the middle.
Neale rallied to have six touches in the last quarter – his workrate is unquestionably great, but to not acknowledge the work of Ross would be neglectful on my part.
And as Neale struggled, another young Lion stepped to the fore.
I thought Jarrod Berry was the best player on the park in the first quarter, matching the output of Jack Steele and adding a goal off his own boot. Later in the game, it was the clearance work in the middle that got the Lions off and running as they made their break on the Saints.
Berry went long inside fifty and didn’t stop running. In the mad scramble, he received a great little give from first gamer, Tom Fullarton and slotted a goal on the run.
Berry is another of the young Lions that will hold them in good stead for year to come. At 22, his best footy is definitely ahead of him and given we have spent two parts of this review so far yapping about the play of two Lions aged 22 or under, you could feel very justified in thinking this Brisbane team won’t be going anywhere for quite a while yet.
THE MAN OF STEELE
If you love good, contested footy, you cannot help but love what Jack Steele brings to the table.
Mrs Mongrel doesn’t really know what he looks like, but she sure does like the name Jack Steele. It’s like he is a video game character, or a spy or something. The fact she likes him for his name reminds me of when Homer Simpson decided his name should be Max Power – much better than Luke Power, I reckon.
Steele was a monster in this game early, with an unbelievable 14 contested touches in the first half alone. The Lions really tightened up on him in the second half, with even Lachie Neale taking his turn in manning up on him at stoppages, but Steele continued on his way to collecting a game-high 27 touches, and he slotted a vital goal against the tide in the third quarter.
Last time I checked, Lachie Neale was leading the coaches votes player of the year award, but Steele was one of just a couple of blokes capable of catching him. Though quieter in the second half, it would not surprise me at all to see him bridge that gap, even just a little, when votes are released for this game.
Yeah, he missed out on being part of the first kick-first goal club, but his influence on the game in the third quarter was enough to make me sit up and take notice.
In a five minute stretch, he seemed to be everywhere, assisting in the ruck in the centre as the Lions got on a roll, getting forward to hand a goal off to Jarrod Berry, and kicking one himself. Yes, he had only eight touches for the game and normally that would be nothing to write home about, but good players can have an impact on a game even when they’ve been quiet for most of it, and in one five minute blast in the third quarter, Fullarton had more impact than many of his more experienced counterparts did all day long.
I’ll get to his first quarter error soon, but in watching the way Tim Membrey attacked the contest today, I’d say he almost atoned for screwing up the Rowan Marshall snap for goal that was going to go through had he not decided to… do whatever it was he did.
It’s not often you see a marking forward give the third or fourth efforts, but Membrey is a bit of a different breed. About 18 months ago, people laughed at me and put me down (just another day) for stating that Membrey had the ability to be an A-Grade forward. Maybe I was being overly optimistic, but I still see that in him.
He has great hands, is a lovely field kick of the footy and apart from the yips he got a while back, is usually a great shot at goal. Today, he added tackling to his ever-growing repertoire. He was determined to keep the footy in the Saints’ half, and was second only to teammate Jack Steele in the tackling department.
He’s now 26 years old and should be entering, if not already in his prime, and as the Saints look to make an assault on the finals, the form of Membrey, and his ability to apply pressure after the initial contest, will be vitally important in terms of how far the Saints can go.
HIPWOOD… IF HIP COULD
The return of 0.3 will be scrutinised by both Brisbane fans and the ravenous media over the coming days, but there is a bit to like about the way Eric Hipwood attacked the footy in this game.
Yes, a goal would have been nice, but the big flaw in the Hipwood game over the past couple of seasons has been his inability to impact contests in the air, often being outmarked. He was having none of that shit today!
Hipwood dragged in four contested grabs as the go-to marking forward and did it against a player I really rate – Dougal Howard. Sometimes he looks like a relatively attractive woman, other times he looks like a baby giraffe, but in this game, Eric Hipwood looked like a bit of a beast, hitting the contest hard and giving the Lions a big marking option up forward.
Goal kicking aside, I really liked what I saw.
IS THERE A CRAYON STUCK IN HIS NOSE?
Second Simpsons reference in the same review… I’m either on fire, or running out of ideas.
What the hell is going on with Dan McStay? Do you remember that Simpsons episode where Homer becomes intelligent because they remove a crayon from his brain that he stuffed up his nose when he was a kid?
I reckon someone should shine a light up Dan McStay’s nostrils and make sure one isn’t stuck up there.
When Homer was struggling, he was afraid that every time he learnt something new, he would forget something he already knew. It’s like that with McStay. He learns how to clunk a mark and forgets how to kick for goal. He remembers how to kick for goal, and forgets which foot his kicks with. All the pieces of the puzzle are there for this bloke – size, good hands, power… he just has to get them all to fit.
And he should get his nostrils checked… just in case.
A bit harsh here, pointing the finger at a young bloke playing on the competition’s best defender, but Max King got both hands to a lot of marking attempts this afternoon, and was perilously close to dragging down a few grabs inside 50.
But is being perilously close good enough on a team ready to give things a shake this season?
King ended up with four marks and finished with 0.2 for the game, including a big miss late in the piece with the game in the balance. He will be great eventually if he stays healthy, but the Saints need him to be just a bit better right now. Flying for marks and dropping them, only to have the commentators yell “…almost” is the domain of Hawthorn’s Tim O’Brien. Believe me, Sainters… you don’t want King falling into that category too often.
NOT SHEPHERDING A GOAL
Yeah, I gave Tim Membrey a wrap above, but what was he thinking in the first quarter when he decided to stop the Rowan Marshall snap from going through for a goal?
Brain fade? Confusion? Lack of talk? I hope like hell it wasn’t a moment of selfishness.
I believe it was Eddie McGuire that said “let’s hope they don’t lose by a point” after the Lions shut down the repeated effort to score from Membrey and Jack Billings, who Membrey also prevented from soccering a goal.
They lost by two points, Ed. Close…
It’s five seconds Membrey would love over again.
IT’S GONNA COST YOU AGAIN SOON…
That was the score line this week, and unless the Lions can correct their woeful conversion, it’s going to bite them on the arse again.
Remember the game against Richmond last season? How about the game against Richmond this season? Or the loss to Geelong this year?
Bad kicking is bad football, and if you’re going to give good teams the chance to hurt you, they will. Letting any team off the hook in this league is asking for trouble, but the Lions have fallen into a terrible habit of peppering the goals for little result. Hipwood, McStay, McCluggage, Neale… all have had shockers in front of goal this season and need to start making sure of things.
Easier said than done, I know, but against good teams in about seven weeks, kicking like that will see Brisbane suffer the same fate as last season. There is little room for these kinds of errors in finals footy.
HOW DID CHARLIE CAMERON GO?
I was ready for the knives to come out about half way through the second quarter. Many have questioned his… hmmmm “application” over the last couple of weeks, and though he was absolutely gifted his first touch of the footy when the ball bounced off a Saints defender and over the line for an out on the full free kick, Cameron converted the tough shot and got a hell of a lot better from there.
Let’s face it; he could not have got much worse than what we saw prior to that. He finished with four touches for the game – nowhere near good enough, but a lot of credit has to go to Callum Wilkie, who is one of the more underrated defenders in the game right now.
IS DARCY GARDINER A TOP TEN DEFENDER IN THE LEAGUE?
Whoa Mongel… you’re so shocked by your own question that you forgot how to spell your own name!
Anyway, this ‘Mongel’ has been a fan of the way Gardiner has taken on the big jobs this season. He is as reliable as the day is long, which… probably doesn’t say much in winter, but I am sure you get my point. Often covering for Harris Andrews when the full back goes after the pill, Gardiner’s combination with Ryan Lester in this game, and his form throughout the season have had a huge impact on the back six for the Lions.
Maybe not top ten… but top 20, definitely.
IS LINCOLN MCCARTHY IN TROUBLE FOR HIS HIGH HIT ON BEN PATON
I like McCarthy and in another time, that would have been just another shepherd, but this is 2020 and he chose to bump, got Paton high and decked him.
He’s in trouble.
REMEMBER WHEN DOUGAL HOWARD V HARRIS ANDREWS WAS A THING?
I do… and I miss it.
I believe in Dougal Howard and still think he can emerge as an All-Australian-calibre defender. He’s quick, agile and loves a good kill in a contest, but over the last few years, Andrews has been nurtured as he developed his defensive game and Howard was told to play forward.
Andrews will this season collect his second AA blazer, whilst Howard is finding his feet again as a defender. Between the two of them, they own three of the top four one-percenter totals ever recorded in a single game, but at this stage, only one has gone onto establish himself as an A-Grade defender.
As I aid, I am a Howard fan. He will get there, but Harris Andrews is there already and given the level he’s playing at, Dougal has some hard work to do to catch him.
ANY PLAYERS WORTH KEEPING AN EYE ON?
Oh yes… many.
I really like the Brisbane defensive pair of Noah Answerth and Brandon Starcevich and feel that with time, they will develop into potent lockdown/rebounding defenders for Brisbane. They’re both just 21 years old and are part of the nucleus that will carry Brisbane forward.
For the Saints, Nick Coffield continues to construct a really solid season. People will hear the name “Coffield” come up here and there, and similar to Zac Baily, think he’s been around a while. Guys, he’s 20 years old and is already playing great footy across half back. You’ll be hearing that name for quite a while, yet, and eventually it will be as he is introduced as an All-Australian. Not this year, but not too far away, either.
And that’ll about do me. Next week the Saints run into the Dees in what should be a ripper. You guys know I love footy – I am genuinely looking forward to that one.
The Lions get themselves a week off… or a round off, at least, so enjoy that won’t ya? And while you have a week off, watch Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventures… it’s great!
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