After three weeks where the victories weren’t all that convincing, the Brisbane Lions hit their Round 16 clash against the Suns with a point to prove.

With a top-two spot on the line, the Lions played the big brother role once again, establishing dominance over the Gold Coast Suns early, crashing in harder and ensuring that the Suns had no easy possession throughout the opening stanza.

The Suns looked shell-shocked and reverted to the team that took the field in 2019, fumbling and failing time and time again to hit a handball target. Each missed handball or fumbled receive increased the pressure until the inevitable turnover occurred and the Lions ran forward in waves.

It was an impressive, and to be honest, strangely needed win by the Lions. Not because they weren’t getting the job done recently, but because they weren’t getting it done in style.

Tonight, they reversed what was becoming a worrying trend and The Mongrel watched every minute to provide you with the good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

 

PLAYERS HITTING FORM AT THE RIGHT TIME

Eric Hipwood taking marks… Charlie Cameron kicking goals… Dayne Zorko doing the things that make him so dangerous… Mitch Robinson finding the footy and the body of an opponent to crash into whenever possible – these are the little things that would be making this a good night’s sleep for Chris Fagan.

Hipwood started the game like he was shot out of a cannon, taking four marks and having five touches in the first quarter alone as he attacked the ball in the air with an aggression that is rare from him. With his height and reach, if he gets a clean run at it and is able to extend, he becomes a scary proposition to defend.

He was doing it on a classy defender, as well. Sam Collins has had an outstanding season, but he was moved off Hipwood in favour of Charlie Ballard in the second half in an effort to free him up as an interceptor.

Charlie Cameron was lively in the first quarter as well, and with a score line of 1.2 looked very dangerous around goal. He finished with 2.3 but the feeling that a bag could be around the corner was present for the first time since he hurt his knee.

Cameron was also effective without the footy, putting in the hard yards to apply pressure and make sure no Suns had easy defensive fifty exits in the first half. It was good to see, as Charlie has looked like he’s been dropping his head a little too easily in the last month or so, prompting criticism from some in the press.

This is the way you answer.

Zorko kicked the first goal of the game and worked both ends of the ground all evening. His run and carry, combined with the ability to get to the right spot at the right time were a thorn in the side of the Suns and a shot in the arm for the Lions.

This was the first time this season that the captain has gone for 20+ disposals and at least one goal. Rounding into finals, it was great timing.

And then there’s Robbo, the human battering ram.

He’ll be sore after this one, but his attack on the contested footy set the standard for the Lions in this one, as it has so many times before. His stats are way down this season, but with Robinson it is not how many touches he has, but how much influence he wields on the contest that is important.

He had 17 touches and kicked a goal, but it was once again his hard work at the coal face, his willingness to run back with the flight of the ball, and his acceptance that in order to dish it out, you have to take it as well that made him stand out.

All in all, this is the kind of performance you’d love to see from these blokes heading into a finals campaign. Combine them with the efforts from a couple of the boys below, and you have a team that is not just ready for finals, but one that has bigger plans than just that.

 

COMMITMENT

Apparently, they’d ruled Lincoln McCarthy out of the game after a horrible-looking corkie inflicted by some friendly fire from Archie Smith. Anyone who has played footy had to have winced when the replay was shown and Smith’s knee crashed into the thigh of his teammate.

Remember corkies? I had forgotten about them again until I watched that. Remember the pain of them? Your muscle tightening up and not responding as you try to run?

I would not have blamed Lincoln McCarthy for sitting the rest of this one out. It was a really nasty collision and that’ll be sore for days, but after being ruled out by the commentators, LMac saddled up again and re-entered the fray.

And he was tested, too.

With a loose ball on the half forward flank, McCarthy put his head down and sprinted after it. Coming the other way, Connor Budarick did the same thing. The two met in a huge collision. One kept going. The other stayed down.

With an already-aching body, it was Lincoln McCarthy that came out of that contest the better. He knew he had to go, but with his leg already sore, would anyone have really blamed him if he pulled a little short?

Some people simply only know one way, and Lincoln McCarthy is one of those people. He was hurt, he was struggling, but if you want to be part of this Brisbane Lions team, you give 100% all the time. LMac had to go.

And he went.

 

 

HARRIS WHO?

How many people watched this with someone else and exchanged a bit of a glance when Jack Payne took his third intercept mark of the first quarter? How about after the fourth a minute or two later?

Look, it is a little weird to have a title like “Harris Who?” here as you would choose to have him in the side every single day of the week if he was available, but Payne did a great job as his understudy, stepping in to fill the void in the absence of the reigning AA full back.

The fact that Payne is surrounded with dependable defenders such as Darcy Gardiner and Ryan Lester – unsung but extremely potent – would have made him walk taller as he was charged with minding the dangerous Ben King, but I am pretty sure he would be thanking his midfield for their defensive efforts to prevent any great delivery inside 50.

Payne finished the game with ten intercept possessions as he continued to clean up the mess left by the Gold Coast forwards and would have Chris Fagan and crew feeling much better about life for the next five weeks without their defensive centrepiece.

 

A GOOD MISTAKE TO MAKE?

Did you like what you caught from Keidean Coleman this evening? He was creative, exciting and unselfish… to the point of craziness, it seems.

After gifting Cam Rayner two of his goals, Coleman opted to try to handball to Daniel McStay to get him involved in the game instead of slotting the goal from 20 out, himself. The handball was astray and McStay just failed to get a foot to it as it bounced through for a minor score, but these are the kinds of errors you can live with.

This would have been goal assist number three for the young man, but I think he might get a tap on the shoulder at some point and be told to kick the damn goal.

 

RAYN MAN

I don’t know if he buys his underwear from K-Mart, but if he does, I hope he packed an extra pair because I reckon he’ll be shitting himself, given how angry Fages looked after he tried to snap around the corner from 25 metres out and cocked it up.

Look, he kicked three goals (owes young Mr Coleman two coffees for a couple of them) and was really dangerous for most of the game. I really liked seeing him work up to the wings and even to half back to help out and early in the piece he was integral in the Lions’ attack working.

With him, Hipwood and Charlie Cameron all firing, it makes the Lions a frightening prospect, but you know what I really want to see this season? I want to see him tear a game apart.

I haven’t seen him do this, but I reckon he has a five or six goal game in him. His career-high is three, and counting tonight he has now done that three times – he just strikes me as the sort of player that is ready to have a breakout game and put the footy world on notice.

He has all the tools, but has seemed content to chug along in a second/third forward kind of role. This finals series, the Lions are going to need someone to stand up and make a real difference. I have a hunch that Cam Rayner is capable of being that man. It may not be in the granny, but at some point in around a month’s time, I want to see Rayner do what we’ve all been waiting for him to do – take the game by the throat and shake the life out of it.

He was close tonight, but I reckon we’re just scratching the surface… and have been for a while.

 

BRANDON ELLIS’ BEST GAME AS A SUN

If there was one bloke on the Suns team that looked up for the fight right from the get-go, it was Brandon Ellis.

The former Tiger had his best game for the Suns, running hard up and down the wings and putting his body on the line in several contests.

He may not have had too many mates, but his continued work ethic and ability to win the footy shined through as he managed to send the ball inside 50 on eight occasions. Unlike the majority of his teammates, Ellis actually handled the footy well and finished the game with zero turnovers from 25 touches.

 

A RICH VEIN OF FORM

Daniel Rich had just one touch in the last quarter – it made me like his game even more once I saw that.

You see, I like it when players get it done when it matters. I don’t really enjoy players bumping up their numbers in the last quarter if the game has already been decided, and when I see a bloke like Daniel Rich picking up 21 of his 22 touches in the first three quarters, it gladdens my old heart.

He had a massive 11 intercepts through the first three quarters as he made excellent position and read the ball beautifully in flight. Rich is the kind of player that could rip a game open from half back. He didn’t really do that in this one, but his role in getting the Lions off to the races after errant hacks forward from the Suns made life a lot easier for his fellow defenders.

 

THE BAD

 

STOPPED IN THEIR TRACKS

It would be easy for me to point the finger at a couple of Gold Coast forwards and lament their inability to get involved in the play in this one, but that’s not what I am about. Rather than give them a whack, I would prefer to look at some of the Suns’ running players who seemed incapable of keeping a clean handle on the ball.

With their fumbling, they basically sold their forwards down the river by forcing them out of position by ensuring their leads were either not honoured, or gave them no chance when they finally managed to get boot to ball by hacking it under pressure, or kicking well, but allowing time for extra defenders to arrive on the scene.

But when you make a statement like that, you have to name names, right?

Right!

Lachie Weller – kicked a goal amongst his 16 touches, but had nowhere near the surety he usually possesses. Only had one contested touch and still ran at under 70% efficiency.

Darcy MacPherson – I was on the bandwagon early this year. He looked great in the Marsh Series and I expected a big season from him. After ten games in 2020, I think it’s safe to assume this is not the year he makes the step.

Jack Bowes – Normally so reliable, he had a case of the butterfingers in this one as well.

Jack Lukosius – Don’t be fooled by those 19 disposals – nine of them were turnovers,. And when you consider he is held in the highest regard in terms of disposal quality, you get the picture that these blokes were off the boil.

There were some that tried their guts out all night – Greenwood, Ellis and Anderson were hard at it and made the play, but if you hear any supporters telling you that Sexton sucked, or that King didn’t do enough, I’d suggest rolling back the footage and taking a gander at how often they had made possession only for a teammate to lose the footy, double-grab it, or have to kick under pressure due to fumbling it.

Do that, and tell me they sucked. As forwards, they’re reliant on the delivery, and the delivery to them was coming in with twice as many defenders around them as it should have.

 

I’M STILL NOT SOLD…

Eight touches and two marks tonight for Daniel McStay… if I were Chris Fagan, I’d be really worried about McStay’s form. He snagged an early goal and then basically went on hiatus for the remainder of the game.

The form of Eric Hipwood will more than likely wallpaper over the quiet McStay performance, and when the team is winning, the spotlight never shines as bright on the players not performing, but right now I watch the Lions play and I cannot help but think we’re going to see either the making or breaking of Daniel McStay in the next two months.

His last six weeks of footy have seen him average 6.8 disposals and 2.8 marks per game. He still taking just over one contested grab per game in that time which is probably saving his bacon, but with multiple goals registered just once in 2020, and an average of just 0.75 goals per game, is this truly the second key forward on this team? Is he someone you can trust in a big game? Is he someone you can trust in any game?

My jury is well and truly out, and if the remainder of 2020 does not see a sharp incline in output, I reckon the Lions might be wise to start looking elsewhere for a more potent forward option.

 

THE UGLY

 

THE WORST INSIDE 50 OF THE SEASON

I’m just going to record this off the TV and leave it here. Turn your volume up a little and experience the stupidest attacking sequence of the season by the Gold Coast Suns. I am not a Suns fan, but at this stage of the game, I was throwing my hands up in the air and openly asking nobody in particular what the hell Gold Coast were doing.

They’ve got Ben King developing nicely, Sam Day who can take a pack mark, and Izak Rankine buzzing around their feet. But nah… kick it to the boundary and lose possession – that’s a much better option.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

IS THIS THE CHANCE FOR CAM ELLIS-YOLMEN?

It hasn’t been the dream run for CEY at Brisbane.

Before this season, there were two moves away from Adelaide I thought would be hugely significant. Hugh Greenwood to Gold Coast, and Ellis-Yolmen to Brisbane. So I am travelling at 50%.

However, with Jarrod Berry going down with a shoulder injury, perhaps the door is ajar for CEY to make an impact and push his case to play finals? The man is a beast, and though Berry’s excellent form was keeping him out of the side, sometimes all you need is an opportunity.

With Berry likely sidelined, Ellis-Yolmen looks the logical replacement. He has to grasp this opportunity with both hands.

 

WOULD YOU HAVE ZAC BAILEY IN THE VOTES?

No, I wouldn’t actually. I also probably wouldn’t have McCluggage in there either given he did the majority of his damage in the second half and the game was put to bed by that stage.

Bailey had one touch in the first half and ended up with 19 for the game. Yes, people do have short memories and I have already seen a few listing him as one of the Lions’ best, but this game was won in the first half, and in the first half it was players like Neale, Rich, Hipwood, Zorko, Robinson and Lions that were doing the damage.

Ah hell, McCluggage was very good in the second quarter as well, but I can’t bring myself to throw Bailey in the votes. He really only played half a game.

 

DID THE SUNS JUST LOOK FLAT?

Hmmm, I think they were having a crack, but there is having a crack and there is matching the intensity of your opponents, and I don’t think they were able to do that on this night.

Brisbane were simply harder for longer… actually they were harder right from the start, and it was a bit of a lesson for the Suns as to what is expected week-to-week basis.

 

SHOULD STUART DEW JUST LET IZAK RANKINE PLAY?

Should he take the bad with the good, or should he try to turn him into the disciplined player the commentators seemed to be screaming out for?

I’m very tempted to say he should just let him play. He does the unpredictable, but whilst that catches his opponents off guard, it also catches his teammates unaware as well. Dew could rein him in, removing a character from the game and limiting what makes Rankine special, or he could roll with it, allow him to try to create and have his teammates pull him into line where necessary.

He is a prodigious talent – what would you do with him?

I’d let him play.

 

MONGREL, DID YOU JUST GO THROUGH THE WHOLE ARTICLE WITHOUT MENTIONING LACHIE NEALE?

Yes, I’m sorry – I did.

Did you notice, or like a player getting 30+ touches per week on such a consistent basis, even in shorter game time, did it just feel like it was another game for Neale? The bloke is so bloody good that what is exceptional for someone else is normal for him.

Lachie Neale did what Lachie Neale does. he led all players in disposals and contested touches again and if he doesn’t win the Brownlow this season, there is something very, very wrong.

I just wanted the other guys to get some of the limelight for a change. Cheers.

 

And that’ll do me. A really solid win by the Lions as they march toward the finals. They have the Swans and Blues to go before the big stuff starts, and if they’re serious they’ll head into finals with a seven-game winning streak.

As for the Suns, I’d love to see them throw the cat amongst the pigeons and knock over the Pies next round, but I think they might just have one win left in them – against the Hawks in Round 18.

 

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