This article is called The Big Questions, and the Suns asked some pretty big questions of the Pies as the teams collided under lights at The Gabba.

Gold Coast got off to a great start, with Alex Sexton once again bobbing up to impact the scoreboard, but it was the return of Jordan de Goey at the other end that had tongues wagging. The out-of-contract star snagged four goals and handed another off to Brody Mihocek to give a pretty fair indication that he is fit and ready to play finals footy.

And that’s what this win did for the Pies. They will play finals footy in 2020 after looking anything but a finals team for a while there. They had a huge lift from Mason Cox, had great service from Josh Daicos, and despite a slow start, Scott Pendlebury worked into the game nicely.

For the Suns, the development of Will Powell continues to impress whilst Noah Anderson strengthened his claim as a contender for the 2020 Rising Star award.

The game was riddled with errors in the slippery Brisbane conditions and you have to wonder… are these the conditions we’re going to get for the night Grand Final?

Here are The Mongrel’s Big Questions.

 

DID MASON COX JUST PLAY HIMSELF INTO A FINALS ROLE?

I fluctuate wildly on Mason Cox.

One week he looks as though he is completely lost on the field and gets pushed around like I push around kids at the local playground and kick them off the swings, and then he comes out and produces a performance like this.

I know Gold Coast fans aren’t really high on Caleb Graham, and I doubt tonight’s effort will do anything to change that – will they say “oh, he was only doing it against Graham”?

Look, they might, but what was Cox supposed to do? NOT do it against Graham?

He clunked four contested grabs, kicked two goals – one of which was an absolute ripper, including taking a running bounce, which he has only ever done three times in his career to that point – and attacked contests in the air without looking tentative at all.

Where has this bloke been???

Now, there has to be some responsibility taken by the Gold Coast defence here. If you give Cox an unimpeded run at the high ball, you’re asking for trouble so whether it was Graham or Ballard (Collins had his hands full!), they have to cop a whack, but Cox looked like a monster out there at points.

I’m going to channel Jack Dyer here – “He reached up with that big testicle…”

Lou Richards – “That’s tentacle, Jack.”

… and clunked a couple of excellent marks to give the Pies the tall timber target they needed.

Yes, he will play a role in finals this year. I don’t know if it will be a big one, but if he can drag down one or two big marks per game and just not get outmarked, the Pies’ smalls and onballers will know what they’re getting and will hit the front and centres hard.

 

AND WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE TRASH TALK?

I used to watch a bit of the NBA and the culture of the game kind of got the better of me after a while. The trash talking and showboating… I am sure plenty of people like that, but I reckon anyone who has played footy would have narrowed the eyes a little when Mason Cox approached Caleb Graham after he took a mark and kicked a goal.

It was a very USA-thing to do.

Can you imagine if the cameras weren’t trained on Graham? Maybe at a local level? What would the response be?

In terms of being whacked, an AFL ground is one of the safest environments you can find. Dozens of cameras, big suspensions and angry coaches means that no one really puts one on someone’s chin anymore.

But you don’t want to tempt fate on the eve of finals, do ya?

In short, I get that some people will like it. I don’t, and we can agree to disagree on it, but if a defender gave the big fella a mouthful every time he was beaten in a contest or didn’t have a good game, I reckon there’d be a lot of defenders out there with sore throats from talking too much.

 

WHAT WAS NICK HOLMAN THINKING?

We’ve seen it twice this season now.

Did he not learn from Matt Taberner’s faux pas earlier in the season?

Did the memories of Nick Riewoldt not come flooding back?

Here’s the thing, and this should be drilled into everyone playing the game – if you take a mark in the goal square, go back and kick the damn goal. Take the responsibility. Don’t rush like Joe Ganino at a brothel… take your time and do a proper job!

I heard Jason Dunstall talking about this on the weekend, and he was imploring players to take their time, not just to kick the set shot and be confident about it, but to give the midfielders who have worked so hardtop get the ball to you the chance to take a breath and rest.

But nope…. Holman played on, was dragged down by the bloke he was supposed to be keeping quiet and the Pies went end to end, resulting in a goal to Mason Cox.

12 point turnaround due to a poor decision.

 

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO HOLDING THE BALL?

No one knows, it seems.

It’s still happening – I have seen players get caught holding the ball. I have seen players drop the ball, or for those sticklers amongst us, “incorrectly dispose” of the footy. I’ve seen players take tacklers on and get caught and I have seen players dragged to ground, given a full 360 degree rotation and then incorrectly dispose of the ball, only for the umpire to yell “play on.”

I do not blame the umpires for this debacle – they are doing what they’re instructed to do. This is the AFL who have cocked up a rule fundamental to our game to the point where nobody knows what the hell is going on.

Alastair Clarkson complained about it in what has become his weekly deflection session, so they swung around to start paying free kicks more often. Some didn’t like it – I didn’t mind it. Then the AFL decided they didn’t like players being pinged for throwing or dropping the footy, so they reined it all in again, to the point where it now appears that the interpretation is looser than it’s ever been.

There were multiple instances in this game where players were caught red-handed and the play was allowed to go on. AFL… that is not good football. Continuous motion just because the ball spills out doesn’t equate to a good product. As a matter of fact, it’s bloody stupid – why would someone legitimately try to dispose of the footy when all he has to do is nod his head and flop about like a fish while lying on the ground. Apparently that “attempt” is good enough for the umps.

I’d like to think the AFL can fix this, but I don’t think it can be this season. It’s a bloody mess.

 

IS JORDAN DE GOEY THE TOUGHEST MATCHUP IN THE CAPER?

The strength of a power forward and the speed and evasion of a small forward – what a combination.

I have missed watching Jordan de Goey play footy.

The last time we saw him in black and white, he kicked five goals, injured his finger and was copping it from left, right and centre for some actions outside the footy sphere. I’ll refrain from comment about that and allow it to play out in the proper forum, but on-field, this man is a force to be reckoned with…

… only tonight there was nobody really equipped to reckon with him.

The returning Collingwood spearhead was the difference in this game, and his three goals to half time matched the output of Alex Sexton at the other end and gave the Pies the lead.

But unlike Sexton, de Goey wasn’t done with his scoring exploits. He added another in the third and handed one to Brody Mihocek after a string mark to not only allow the Pies to kick away, but stamp his authority on the contest as well.

Maybe it was the hair, but de Goey seemed a leaner version of the player we saw earlier in the season. He looked strong, quick and if you’re an opposition coach watching this game, he looked like a scary prospect coming out of the goal square.

We have not seen the best of Jordan de Goey over the past couple of seasons, but after nursing a finger injury, you’d think he would have been doing all the running required whilst off, and if he hits the finals injury-free, his presence inside 50 makes this Collingwood team a daunting prospect.

 

HOW GOOD COULD JOSH DAICOS BE? AND NOAH ANDERSON, TOO?

Did you see what I saw this evening?

The poise, the willingness to stop, consider and then release the footy… there was a touch of Scott Pendlebury about Josh Daicos at points in this game. And after learning the game from his father, how better to refine that game than to watch the Collingwood skipper and adopt parts of his game as your own.

Daicos is fast becoming one of the best young wingmen in the caper, and he was matched up with another who could be counted in that class this season – Noah Anderson.

Between them, they had 41 touches, with Daicos shading Anderson by just one in the disposal count. However, despite playing the same role, these two play the position quite differently. Anderson goes long at every opportunity. Perhaps that is the youngster in him, wanting to hurry things along at every opportunity. Daicos seemed more at ease – more composed with the footy in hand than his young opponent.

Whilst Anderson had a game-high seven inside 50 deliveries, he had just two score involvements, which indicates his team did not reap the benefit of his hard work. Or it could indicate that his delivery needs work.

Daicos, on the other hand, did his work mainly in the defensive half, dropping back as the release player from defensive 50. He ran at 76% efficiency for the night, with just four turnovers, whilst Anderson had six turnovers and ran at 65%.

On the night, you give the points to Daicos who is on the right track to becoming one of the league’s best wingmen. Players like him, Sam Walsh, Adam Cerra and Anderson will make All-Australian selection on the wing a very interesting proposition in a few years’ time.

 

COULD ISAAC QUAYNOR BECOME A STAR OFF HALF BACK?

He played on Izak Rankine for the most part, and I thought he gave him a bit of a beating.

But it wasn’t just his defensive exploits that impressed me; the way he read the footy, got to it first and was clean with his disposal was a real highlight in the trying conditions. He ran at 88 per cent efficiency and had seven intercepts for the game.

So, what do the Pies have in this kid? Is the half back flank his ideal position, or could he be tried elsewhere?

Watching him, he seems a natural coming off the flank. His reading of the play allowed him to take front position from Rankine on several occasions, but his desperation also saw him close down opportunities close to goal.

When Rankine tried to hack one out of mid-air at one stage, Quaynor was onto it. it was him throwing himself at the boot of the Gold Coast star, pressuring him into missing.

All in all, the Pies have got a real goer in Quaynor. He is powerful both in the air and at ground level, and with his confidence growing, and his willingness to take the game on becoming more apparent, he may be one of those players who just needs a big finals series to really put his mark on the competition.

And he’ll have his chance in a few weeks.

 

SHOULD PLAYERS JUST ATTACK THE BODY OF JACK BOWES?

We all heard it, right? During the call, Huddo announced that Bowes has the most candy selling of any player in the game. That actually surprised me, but watching him, it is easy to see why. He refuses to be rushed and will juke a few times before deciding what to do with the footy.

It’s not like they are extravagant baulks, he just kind of feigns and reloads as he assesses what to do with the footy, but it is enough to buy him a second to allow himself the time to get a kick away. You’d think a bit of game tape will be shown by coaches as they prepare for the Suns in the future.

You’ve got to make him get rid of the footy quickly and not buy himself the space to work in traffic with something you know is coming.

 

WHY DID THE JACK CRISP TAG NOT WORK?

It’s a tough gig playing as a defensive forward. Whilst you’re expected to lockdown on a prolific ball winner and prevent him getting easy disposals on the rebound, there is also an expectation that you work hard to provide an option, thereby making that player defend you.

That was the situation Nick Holman found himself in and after the error I mentioned above, it seemed as though his confidence evaporated.

Jack Crisp has had a ripping last month for the Pies and it was a great piece of coaching by Stuart Dew to identify his potential to be damaging. Holman started well, holding Crisp to just three first quarter touches, but as the game wore on, Crisp found his groove and started to put together quite a nice game.

As a defensive forward, it must really sting to see your opponent drift forward and kick a goal. It’d be like salt in a wound, or sand in your Vaseline, but that’s what Crisp did in the last quarter as the Pies capitalised on the Suns’ errors to record their win.

Maybe Holman was the wrong man for the job? Crisp finished with 23 touches for the game, providing plenty of drive for the Pies and his five inside fifty deliveries indicate he was happy to run forward to shake the attention of Holman.

 

HAVE THE SUNS FOUND ANOTHER ONE IN WILL POWELL?

Oh, definitely.

There will be others that grab headlines and be more popular, but the work of Powell in defence has been a real highlight for the Suns this season.

With just 13 games under his belt, he is adapting to the role of intercept defender with ease, and at just 185 centimetres and 78 kilos, he is doing his thing against blokes much bigger and stronger than him.

He handled the slippery ball well in this one and notched eight intercept possessions as he once again had a solid outing for the Suns. Though some may state he has already had his breakout year, he is one I can see jumping to the next level in 2021 and we may be talking about this kid who has come from nowhere to be a very important part of the Suns’ defence.

He didn’t come from nowhere – we were already talking about how good he is in 2020.

 

IS JARROD HARBROW COMING TO THE END?

It really seems like it, doesn’t it?

He has been wonderful for the Suns since the early days, but he is looking a fair bit off the pace this season, and it was evident tonight.

His disposal was for so long the weapon that teams feared. That, and his pace. Both were great, but when the memory becomes greater than the dream it might be time to consider things for 2021 pretty closely.

 

IS THERE A MORE CASUAL PLAYER THAN JACK LUKOSIUS?

Remember Darryl White? Or maybe Jared Brennan?

Or maybe a little more contemporary, how about Brennan Cox at Fremantle?

There are some players who just look completely unflappable when they get the ball and there is pressure coming from all angles. Lukosius grabs it, looks left and right, has a bloke about to tackle him… he’s pointing off in the distance and yelling instructions and then he kicks at the last second as the contact comes and he doesn’t even bat an eyelid.

He looks as though he is operating on his own terms out there, and maybe he is. Having just re-signed with the Suns last year, and possessing one of the purest kicks in the business, Lukosius knows his value to this Suns team. He bites off the tough kicks and has the guts to do it. He is trusted with the kick-in duties and is the go-to man when the Suns need an avenue out of defensive fifty.

But I don’t want to offend Brennan Cox here, so I have a proposal.

Next week, both Freo and Gold Coast are competing in games that do not impact their standing this season. Sure a draft position might be on the line, but in this whacked-out season, picks are more of a lottery than ever.

What I suggest is that we have a competition to see who the most relaxed footballer in the league is. I want to see one of them yawn as they kick the footy. I want to see one of them leaning against the goal post when the ball is at the other end. I want one of them to have a lay down on the massage table and fall asleep at half time.

Mongrels, you know I like little obscure things in the game we love. Watch these two blokes closely next week. Watch how laconic and in-control they appear. This defending thing comes pretty easy to blokes like Jack Lukosius and Brennan Cox, and if one of them lets out a yawn while they’re on the park, I reckon he gets the title of most relaxed player in the game.

 

IS JOHN NOBLE THE MOST UNDERRATED SMALL DEFENDER IN THE LEAGUE?

He’s got some competition.

Liam Duggan, Liam Baker, Caleb Daniel… well, those guys are either getting the recognition, or starting to get it – you don’t really hear much about Noble, who has quietly averaged 20 touches per game for the Pies over the last six games.

He started this game on Sean Lemmens, but the injury to the Sun saw him switch up and cover Darcy MacPherson when he went forward. Whilst MacPherson brings the heat to every contest, Noble was well and truly up for the challenge.

He had six intercepts and gathered 21 disposals as he continually got back deep in defence to break up the Suns’ forward forays. Whilst I don’t think you will see Noble’s name in many articles praising the Pies, his contributions to this team at a time when the stars have all spent time on the injury list should be commended.

He has played 14 games this season and looks to be another nuggetty, reliable, no-nonsense defender in the Magpie back half and at just 23, the best is yet to come.

 

DID THE ROLLS ROYCE STALL?

I’m not sure when Scott Pendlebury last went stat-less in the first quarter, but we saw it tonight, and the cynics amongst you probably went down the path of wondering if he was too old or something, didn’t you? Yeah… I know what you people think.

“Shut up, Mongrel…”

See, I heard you think that!

But you should never doubt players like Pendlebury. Others have learnt the lesson the hard way. Mike Sheahan put his foot in his mouth when he stated that he believed Pendles was no longer an A-Grader.

That was a few years ago now, and whilst Pendles has bounced back to some scintillating form, Sheahan is running away from podcasts as a semi-regular occupation.

If you had a moment of doubt about Pendles in this one, it was erased rather quickly. Whilst 19 touches will never be a game he is satisfied with, his eight score involvements and two direct goal assists indicate that he is as damaging with the footy as he has ever been.

You might keep him quiet for a quarter. If you’re really good, you might shut him down for a half, but the Collingwood captain is simply too damn good to be down for too long. The cream rises to the top, and Pendles did just that after quarter time.

 

DARCY MOORE OR JACOB WEITERING AT CHB IN THE AA TEAM?

Look, I am not an idiot… despite popular belief. I know Magpies fans are reading this and there aren’t many Blues fans. Given that, the intelligent thing to say would be that I think Darcy Moore should be the AA centre half back, right?

Well, truth be told, I’d say it even if I was reviewing a Carlton game.

I’ve loved what Moore has been able to produce this season and it is so gratifying to see him get through a season without a damn hamstring injury.

Moore picked up another nine spoils in this game and would have held Ben King goalless had it not been for the first of Brayden Maynard’s kick-ins from hell. In fairness, King missed a couple of gettable goals, but Moore had some huge wins in the context of the game and when they announce the best team of the season, I would be completely flabbergasted if he is not right there as a key position backman.

Not to discredit Weitering’s season at all – I just think Moore provides the kind of rebound Weitering doesn’t. it is another string to his bow, and having watched a heap of both players, I have Moore marginally ahead.

 

WHERE TO NEXT?

The Pies have a mouth-watering clash against the Power to close out the season whilst the Suns are a definite chance against my Hawks. As a matter of fact, they could go in as favourites given the way they performed in this one.

 

Finally… the Grand Final is going to be played in the evening at this venue. I’ll leave you with this line from Anthony Hudson, describing the footy in the third quarter.

“It’s a piece of soap out there!”

Yep, night games in Brisbane do NOT provide the greatest spectacle. Get ready for a mess of a Grand Final.

 

And that’ll do me – 17 Rounds down and we have reviewed every single game this season. It’s been a wild ride, but with one round to go, I am going to drink in as much footy as I can from each team before the big stuff starts… and the Pies will be part of it.

 

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