The wet weather of Queensland provided a scrappy affair that ended the career of one of Carlton’s favourite sons. Chris Fagan’s Lions had more to play for, and did what they needed to do to secure top spot, albeit temporarily. Carlton again did a Carlton, and the Lions capitalised, and once they’d put the Blues away, coasted to a victory that was comfortable enough to put the cue in the rack and rest a few stars in the dying stages of the game.
Even though the Blues came up short, their fans will be somewhat happy they were able to fight out the game until the very end to send Kade Simpson and Matthew Kreuzer into retirement with respect.
Here is the Mongrel’s review of Brisbane’s minor premiership securing 17 point victory over the Blues.
THE BACK STORY
Brisbane came into the game searching for their maiden minor premiership. They still need Port Adelaide to lose to Collingwood, but a victory over the Blues would at least put some pressure on the Power to take top spot back. At the time of writing, Brisbane are to play Geelong in a qualifying final, and with the Gabba playing host to the Grand Final, this season has been described by many pundits as Brisbane’s premiership to lose. Claiming a top-two spot in 2019, Brisbane were bundled out in straight sets, and until this young team manages to taste victory in finals, questions regarding their legitimacy will continue to linger.
Carlton, on the other hand, came into this match having squandered multiple opportunities to secure a finals berth, and having lost 3 of their last four matches, in each of them giving up a run of five goals, the Blues have more than shot themselves in the foot in their quest for finals. They are still a young team in the middle of yet another rebuild, and with another disappointing season about to come to a close, you would expect many list changes to come out of Princes Park.
It was a real arm wrestle to begin this match, with both teams clearly coming to play. Lincoln McCarthy got things moving for the Lions with a nice goal to open the scoring, but credit must go to Jarryd Lyons and his ability to pinpoint a dangerous pass through traffic, allowing the Lions to quickly move the ball forward for a scoring opportunity. But the Blues weren’t going to be swept aside, and ramped up their pressure on the ball carrier. It was goal for goal, and every time either side took scoreboard momentum, they were pegged back at the other end. Led by a strong leading Harry McKay, the Blues nailed four straight goals, and went into the quarter time huddle full of confidence that they could take the big scalp, given the Lions had been the better team, but as has become routine, missed some gettable shots to keep the Blues in the contest.
Carlton fans, look away now, because the 2020 Blues came back in the next 16 minutes (plus time on). For the ninth time this season, the Blues allowed a run of five unanswered goals, to basically give the Lions the game. With heavy rain falling, Brisbane ran roughshod, and Carlton became a series of witches’ hats.
It was a quarter of bruise free football, that many Carlton people would be embarrassed by. The stats were damming for the Blues, highlighted by the staggering 23-3 inside 50 count Brisbane’s way. Of the three inside 50 entries the Blues were able to generate, the only score they could muster was a rushed behind, while at the other end, Brisbane kicked five goals, and again missed gettable shots, to go into half time 28 points to the good. Compounding the issues for Carlton was the shoulder injury to skipper Patrick Cripps, while for the Lions, their most important forward Charlie Cameron sustained a minor ankle injury, although he appeared to be moving more freely as half time approached.
As both sides made their way off the ground, a few players started engaging in some roughhousing, and the only reason this is being highlighted is because of the complete hypocrisy of those wearing navy blue. It’s all well and good to throw your weight around when play has ceased, but to not show any fight when the game is in the balance shows a lack of awareness and immaturity that will need to be corrected before this team can seriously challenge for a premiership. This was not lost on David Teague, who launched into his charges with a devastating half time spray, one not seen from Teague in his entire coaching career.
Teague urged his team to show some fighting spirit for departing star Kade Simpson, and in the third term, the Blues finally responded, producing a much better quarter to drag themselves back into the game. Only three goals were kicked between the two teams, but it was Carlton’s pressure that was the highlight of the third quarter, and even though the Lions again went forward more often than the Blues, Carlton’s defence stood up, led by Simpson. Only 24 points down at three quarter time, the Blues would have to fight out the last quarter one man down, with Cripps ruled out of the rest of the game; Carlton taking no risks with their superstar.
It was a scrappy end to Carlton’s season, but it was clear that once Brisbane got a large enough lead, second gear became their best friend. An Eric Hipwood goal at the eight minute mark saw the Lions 31 points up, and the was all she wrote for the Blues.
Some credit must go to Carlton, who refused to be blown out of the water, as they scored the final three goals of the match to get the margin back to a respectable 17 points. However, as we have said so often this season, Brisbane’s goal shooting again let them down, because in this three goal period by the Blues, the Lions kicked four straight behinds, and the final margin wasn’t a true reflection of the match. Kicking 10.1 made the Blues look better than they were, and the Lions more than doubled Carlton’s shots on goal, so to come away with a less than three goal margin means the questions surrounding the Lions legitimacy will remain unanswered heading into a finals series that is set up for them to dominate.
THE PLAYERS OF THE MATCH
As we have already stated, this match was far more one-sided than the margin would suggest. Watching the match without looking at the scoreboard it is clear that the Lions deserved a 40-50 point victory, and as such, many of the players featured in this section wore maroon. As always we start from the winners’ backline, and although the Blues went into this match with three key forwards, Brisbane’s defence held strong in Harris Andrews’ absence.
The main stopper was Darcy Gardiner, who found himself opposed to Levi Casboult for most of the night, and his job in restricting Casboult went a long way in holding the Blues at bay. Gardiner’s stats were modest at best, but more importantly, Casboult had no influence at all on the game.
From an intercepting and rebounding perspective, four Lions deserve praise for their efforts. Callum Ah Chee was his team’s best, and of his ten marks, eight were of the intercept variety, and he recorded five defensive rebounds from his 13 disposals. Grant Birchall was excellent in tandem with Ah Chee, his seven marks a highlight. Recording 13 disposals, Birchall went at 92% efficiency, indicating his assuredness with ball in hand. Brandon Starcevich, in his second season, was also excellent, although his disposal efficiency of 50% left a lot to be desired. Gathering 16 touches, Starcevich had nine contested possessions, four score involvements and five marks. The best of the bunch was clearly Daniel Rich, who produced arguably his best game of the season. Ten of Rich’s 22 disposals were contested, and he registered six score involvements, he drifted forward to nail two important goals.
The only Blues forward worth mentioning is Harry McKay, who showed everyone in the AFL world why he is the future the league. McKay nailed three goals to keep the Blues in the game, and his five marks and five score involvements were a highlight for Carlton supporters.
In the middle of the ground, and given the injury to Patrick Cripps, you could be forgiven for thinking this would be a one sided battle. However, in his absence, Carlton’s young brigade stood up, making this a fairly even contest.
For the victors, and it was business as usual for Lachie Neale, who has had a less than stellar few weeks. Neale was terrific in the trenches, and his 29 disposals were seven clear of the next best. 16 of Neale’s 29 possessions were contested, and he had seven score involvements, five clearances, and nine inside 50s in one final push for his first Brownlow Medal. Hugh McCluggage was very good from the wing, although there are still elements of his game that need improving. Gathering 17 touches, McCluggage had six score involvements, five marks and four tackles, although he only went at 52% efficiency, and he kicked three behinds, taking his tally to a ridiculous 7.20 for the year. Jarryd Lyons also provided vital support to Neale, and he gathered 20 disposals through the middle and half forward. Recording six clearances, five inside 50’s and 9 contested possessions, Lyons once again showed why two clubs made a massive error in letting him out the door.
For the Blues, Sam Walsh was the pick of the bunch, and in Cripps’ absence, Walsh stood up brilliantly with a game-high 31 disposals. A staggering 21 of Walsh’s possessions were contested, and he also had six clearances, five inside 50s and five score involvements. Matthew Kennedy was also very good with 23 disposals, and he also gathered three score involvements, five marks, four tackles and six clearances. Kennedy also had 11 contested possessions and was vital in pushing the Blues inside 50. Ed Curnow was given the job on Lachie Neale, and although Neale was one of his team’s best, Curnow did restrict him somewhat, while gathering 19 possessions of his own. Curnow also sent the ball inside 50 five times, had four defensive rebounds and four score involvements.
Forward of the ball for the Lions, and it was more of a total team effort, rather than any single player enjoying complete dominance. Lincoln McCarthy was a pest all night, and his two goals were important in kick-starting the Lions. Mitch Robinson was also fantastic forward and through the middle, kicking two goals from 14 disposals. Robinson also recorded five clearances, five inside 50s and six score involvements. Cam Rayner also contributed two goals from 11 possessions, but it was Rayner’s work without the ball that will please Chris Fagan the most. Rayner laid seven crunching tackles and affecting the kick of a Carlton defender so much more. Rayner was involved in a goal seven times, and showed why he will be a star of the future.
Carlton’s defenders had to work very hard all night given the lopsided inside 50 count of 61-37. Jacob Weitering was opposed to Eric Hipwood and completely blanketed the Brisbane key forward. Weitering also registered six defensive rebounds from his nine disposals. While the stats won’t support it, Lachie Plowman was the best defender wearing navy blue. While he only gathered nine possessions, two marks and four tackles, Plowman was everywhere when his team needed him, and he regularly worked off his direct opponent to affect a spoil. From the rebounders, and it was two men at either end of their careers that are deserving of praise. Sam Petrevski-Seton used his foot excellently, and 15 of his 17 disposals were by foot. Petrevski-Seton also recorded eight defensive rebounds three tackles and five marks. Kade Simpson, playing in the navy blue for the 342nd and final time, produced another worthy performance that will have many recruiters asking the question if there’s any chance Simpson might want to play on for another 12 months. Gathering 19 disposals, seven defensive rebounds, three tackles, and kicked a goal to put an end to a wonderful career.
THE NERVOUS MEN
The toughest section of this review. Given they were the victors, it seems unfair to label any of Brisbane’s players as their team’s worst. However, two players in particular would be feeling slightly nervous of their place in the side going into the first final. Harris Andrews’ replacement Jack Payne had a tough job on Carlton spearhead Harry McKay. McKay nailed three goals from his six touches, and whenever the ball was in McKay’s vicinity, Payne looked all at sea. If the Lions make it as far as preliminary final week, when Andrews becomes available, Payne is by far the most likely player that will drop back out. Dan McStay too didn’t have his best night playing forward. McStay plays more as a bullocking, selfless forward that takes a key defender away from Eric Hipwood, but with Lachie Plowman consistently working off him, McStay was fairly ineffective for most of the evening.
For the losing Blues, given the lopsidedness of the contest (excluding the final margin), there are more than a few Blues that will be looking over their shoulder to see if a list manager is approaching. Let’s ask this question. In recent memory, has there been any recruit that has (on-field) disappointed his team more than Mitch McGovern. So ineffective was McGovern that Teague saw fit to move him into defence. This move also proved mostly ineffective, although it should be persisted with through 2021. Up forward, and as Harry McKay thrived, fellow key big man Levi Casboult faltered. Casboult’s only effective disposal was his first quarter goal, and although he played spurts in the ruck, Casboult remained largely unsighted for most of the contest. Tom De Koning too barely gave a yelp in his ninth game. Touching the ball just three times, De Koning did not enjoy the wet weather that made a tall forward’s life a misery.
This was a game of significance for both teams, although only one had eyes on the weeks ahead. Brisbane did what it needed to do in putting away an inferior opponent, and Carlton, after yet another fadeout, fought back to send Kade Simpson and Matthew Kreuzer into the sunset of retirement. The Lions at the time of writing are top of the table and eyeing off a home qualifying final, and given Geelong’s last four weeks, it is a game Brisbane will be expecting to win. The Blues will now head into the post season with a few areas of the game to improve on, but the 2020 season showed signs that Carlton has the capacity to be a force in the AFL soon, with a few tweaks and another player or two. But the Lions are all about now. 2019 was just the beginning. It was their coming-out party, but now there is expectation surrounding the Lions, and they should not leave Brisbane for the entire finals series. If they do, it will be all on them, and if they fail to salute in 2020, there will be no one to blame but themselves.