It’s Geelong and Richmond in the 2020 AFL Grand Final after the Cats dismissed a pretty poor Brisbane Lions from contention and secured their place in the biggest game of the year.

Geelong probably should have put the game away much earlier, with costly misses to Sam Menegola and Gryan Miers keeping Brisbane in the game, but with an attack on the footy that was relentless and some great discipline through the middle and in defence, Geelong were able to withstand anything the desperate Lions could throw at them in the last quarter to run out winners by 40 points.

The Cats moved to 5-0 at the Gabba in 2020, with the venue a veritable home away from home for them. They have been on the road basically all season and were facing a team that has had the luxury of sleeping in their own beds for pretty much the whole season.

And that Brisbane team played like they had been sleeping in their own beds… perhaps with the night light on at times in this game, with players going missing left, right and centre.

I’m not sure any Lions fan will be content with the performance of their team. They were timid and outworked in the contest. They were smashed in the clearances and in the first half and were sloppy with the ball in hand. Much of that was due to the pressure of the Cats, but I doubt anyone is feeling like giving Brisbane an out right now. they deserved this loss.

In a season where circumstance gave them the advantage of playing so many games at home – an advantage Victorian teams so often get, the Lions fell over when it mattered and I get the feeling there will be some home truths for a few players in their official review.

But this review is not just about the failings of Brisbane.

We have dreams on the cusp of realisation. Patrick Dangerfield is playing in his first AFL Grand Final. Gary Ablett has the chance to cap his homecoming off with a flag, and Joel Selwood will get the chance to finally captain a premiership team – one of the greatest captains the cats have had with the chance to do what so few have done before.

Standing in their way, as we all knew they would, is Richmond.

Before we get there, however, we have some answers to find around this clash.

Here are The Mongrel’s Big Questions from the second preliminary final.

 

WHO IS THE MOST UNDERRATED CAT CURRENTLY?

His name is Brandan Parfitt, and he is not at all the player I pencilled him in to be about two years ago.

When I was watching Parfitt back in around 2018, I saw a young bloke who looked as though he would settle into one of those hit-and-miss kind of half forwards, who drift in and out of games and can either be the hero or the villain of their own team.

However, the development of Parfitt over the last season has been remarkable as he has morphed into this hard-bodied, fierce-tackling part-time midfielder who works as hard as anyone else on the park to ensure the footy starts heading in his team’s direction.

With 70 games now under his belt, we are starting to see him emerge as one of the best defensive mids in the game, relishing in dragging down an opponent in a well-executed tackle.

Parfitt was at it again in this game, following up his stellar nine-tackle game against the Pies with another seven in this one. His hard run and chase of the oblivious Jarrod Berry in the second quarter was the sort of action that cannot help but inspire teammates around him. He won the free kick and went on his merry way, collecting 14 touches for the game.

Looking ahead, Parfitt’s influence against a Tiger midfield that has rediscovered their hunger for contested footy will be vital to this Geelong team. He will be salivating at the prospect of slapping away that fend off and dragging Dustin martin down. He will be chomping at the bit to lock horns with Trent Cotchin at stoppages. And he will still relish the opportunity to sneak forward and slot a goal.

When you look at this Geelong team, be seduced by the names all you like. It’s hard to ignore Dangerfield, Ablett, Selwood and Hawkins, but cast more than just a sideways glance at the bloke wearing the number three guernsey from time to time – he is quietly going about building a reputation for himself at Kardinia Park this season.

And he is doing it on the back of bloody hard work!

 

IS LACHIE HENDERSON THE BEST DELISTED PICK UP OF THE SEASON?

Look, I have to be honest… I can’t remember who the other delisted pick-ups were, but I do remember the Cats cutting Henderson after last season and picking him up again pretty much right away.

They’re not silly, are they?

Here’s a bold statement – over the three finals the Cats have played in this season, Lachie Henderson has been the best and most consistent player the team has had. Now, if you want to prove me wrong, go right ahead, but what I am doing here is giving respect to a player that really doesn’t have his name mentioned often at all when people speak about Geelong.

A silly 50 metre penalty aside, Henderson performed admirably again for Geelong in this one, notching the lazy seven intercepts as he gave Daniel McStay the kind of spanking you’d usually have to pay for and say “Thank you Ma’am, can I please have another?” after every whack.

Don’t ask me how I know…

Henderson’s ability to win contests at his position (and to get back and play goalkeeper – this will be very important against Richmond.. mark my words) has released Mark Blicavs to play a more attacking role and has given Chris Scott some real luxury in terms of his defence.

Henderson is largely a forgotten man, but if the Cats can get up next week, he will have a place reserved in the hearts of die-hard Geelong supporters. What he has been able to produce this finals series has been spectacular!

 

DO PEOPLE STILL HATE KOLODJASHNIJ?

Well, do you?

I hear it from Cats fans now and again. They don’t give much love to Kolodjashnij. I reckon it’s because they can’t spell or pronounce his name properly, but if it is based on his performance on the field, it might be time to walk it back just a little.

After a little bit of a shaky start, giving up two goals to Charlie Cameron in the opening quarter, Kolodjashnij buckled down and refused to let Charlie near it.

Now, I have to add that Brisbane did Cameron absolutely no favours with their delivery inside 50, but by the same token, Cameron’s penchant for trying to sneak out the back to get on the end of an easy one was a cheap tactic in a game with so much riding on it.

Kolodjashnij took the front spot and flat out refused to allow the ball out the back after quarter time. The result saw Charlie end up with just two touches after quarter time. That is a lock down job!

Kolo also capitalised on the non-existent Cameron defensive pressure to aid teammates and provide a nice outlet as the Cats exited defensive fifty.

I came into this contest believing that Jed Bews was the best man for the job on Cameron, and felt the move was imminent after Cameron slotted his second, but Chris Scott showed a lot of faith in Kolodjashnij to turn things around, and the defender returned that faith in a huge way.

 

HOW GOOD WAS HARRY TAYLOR ON ERIC HIPWOOD?

This is a two-fold question. How good was Taylor and how poor was Hipwood?

So Harry just did what he’s always done when confronted with a player a bit quicker and a bit more agile than him – he keeps his body as close as he can, and uses a mix of strength and clumsy spoiling to keep his opponent both off balance and out of the contest.

Hipwood loomed as a difference-maker coming into this contest. Against the Tigers, his hard leading and strong marking allowed the Lions to get out and run, feeding off his contested work and running to either receive the handball or attack the front and centre contest as he brought the footy to ground.

However, he could simply not impact this game at all despite slotting a goal from a lucky advantage call inside 50 in the second quarter. He finished with a disastrous five touches for the game, with just one coming after half time as old man Taylor wore him like a glove.

There were some that have questioned Taylor’s role in this side, but how much does experience play in a big final like this? He was calm, collected and… I was gonna say cool but really, Harry Taylor isn’t cool. Let’s go with clam, collected and in control. How’s that?

The Geelong defence as a whole is a tight-knit bunch. They can shut down a game when they have to and play true team defence. Taylor is supported by names like Stewart, Tuohy, Henderson, Bews and Henry. Each has their role but the timing of their help defence is impeccable and it thwarted the Brisbane attack time and time again.

Can Chris Fagan blame the delivery to his forwards? Well, yeah, he can to an extent. The number of quick hack kicks inside 50 that fortunately landed with a Geelong player could have easily dropped onto the chest of a Brisbane teammate, but on several occasions they just overshot their teammate and it resulted in an easy intercept.

This will be Harry Taylor’s last year, and in the midst of all the romance surrounding Gary Ablett’s last dance, Taylor’s contributions to this club should be celebrated as well. He has been a tireless worker for the Cats and once again in this game, when a huge effort was required on one of the young guns of the competition, Taylor put his hand up, took on the job, an produced the results.

 

HAS GAZ GOT ONE MORE PIECE OF MAGIC IN HIM?

It might come down to whether he has the ability to create a scoring avenue for the Cats one last time as to whether they can trouble the Tigers.

Looking at Richmond’s defence… and I know I am going into Grand Final preview mode here, they have Short, Baker and even Grimes who could do a job on Ablett, so he will have to be at his best, but seeing him run out of the centre, his shoulders hunched over the footy and knowing nobody was going to catch him before launching his second goal of the third quarter – Gaz demonstrated that he still has enough left in the tank to make a significant impact in spurts.

Gaz a quality opponent on him in this game – Daniel Rich was coming off a brilliant month of footy where he averaged 22 touches, 5.5 rebound fifties and 8.8 intercepts, but as he attempted to provide the same kind of punch for the Lions this week, he left an opponent a little too much room, and if you leave Gary Ablett room, you’re gonna get hurt.

I watched with interest the 2019 finals series where Brayden Maynard went to Ablett. He gave the ‘Little Master’ the respect he deserved, playing tight on him the whole game. Rich was a bit more loosey-goosey, and he paid for it on the scoreboard.

On the whole, a two-goal return for Ablett is not the end of the world, right? I mean, Charlie Cameron had that at the other end and we’re not talking about his impact, right?

Wrong!

Ablett’s goals gave the Cats the break that would lead them to victory. They came at telling points in the premiership quarter, and they bookended the long Cam Rayner goal that had the capacity to be a team-lifter for the Lions. How quick did Gaz shut the crowd up after that Rayner goal? Did it take 30 seconds?20?

Whether it is Baker, Short, or even if Damien Hardwick opts to hand the role of minding Ablett in the Grand Final to someone else, leaving him a metre of space could prove to be a fatal error. You’ve been warned.

 

WHY IS DANIEL MCSTAY IN THE BRISBANE LIONS TEAM?

Great question.

Cheers.

He stunk in this one. Absolutely stunk. Collecting just three disposals for the entire game, he was flat-footed when he needed to be on the move, he was out of contests the Lions needed him to be involved in, and he missed the only chance he had to make an impact, slamming his round the corner shot at goal into the woodwork.

In the lead up to this game, I produced a preview talking about the potential passengers for each team. McStay’s name was prominent in that article and he absolutely proved me right.

Here are his 2020 finals stats. Bear in mind, these are totals over two games.

Six disposals. One goal. Six marks.

That is absolutely abysmal and you can see exactly why the ions would be interested in bringing a one-legged Joe Daniher into their current team after this “performance”.

Long term readers will remember me stating this after the Lions won the Qualifying Final against the Tigers – McStay will cost you a final. Well, it happened, and I cannot for the life of me understand what he provides this team. He has had five touches or less on six occasions in 2020. If that is what your key forward is coughing up on a consistent basis, you’re playing with fire in terms of finals. You cannot carry passengers, and that’s what the Lions had to do in this one.

And given the volume of passengers they were forced to carry, the load was just too great

 

DID THE YOUNG LIONS SIMPLY FAIL TO STAND UP?

In a nutshell, yes they did.

We’ve all been singing the praises of players like Jarrod Berry, Zac Bailey and Cam Rayner, but against the experienced bodies of the Cats, they were too easily brushed aside and simply could not get into the game.

Berry made stupid decisions – his effort to take a mark and take Brandan Parfitt on was one steeped in ignorance. It was obvious that a) Berry overestimated his own speed, and b) forgot that Parfitt is the number one tackling player in this finals series. Parfitt dragged him down with apparent ease and earned himself a free kick in the process.

Berry had just eight touches for the game and was insignificant at a time the Lions needed him to be so much more.

Jump to Zac Bailey – looked completely overawed by the occasion, which I was quite surprised by. He was there last season, with packed houses against the Tigers and Giants. He has felt the heat, but he was nowhere near it in this one. Plenty of double grabs and fumbles en route to seven touches.

And then we have Cam Rayner, who seemed to roam around half forward with the same level of intensity displayed by a grazing cow. Not a bull… they look dangerous. A cow.

He did slot a beautiful long goal, but after performing his one act of competency for the game, he meandered off to continue his grazing. Being the number one pick comes with pressure, but we’re now at the end of season three for him – he is basically the same player he has been since 2018.

I would have loved to see him play tight on Tom Stewart and make him earn every touch. I would have liked to have seen him crash a couple of packs or take the body of an opponent in a contest. Instead, we got six touches and no tackles inside 50 from him. Fail.

 

WHY CAN’T BRIAN TAYLOR LEARN SAM MENEGOLA’S NAME?

So, I like to keep myself amused, and after last week’s abysmal performance by the Channel Seven commentators where both Brian Taylor both butchered the pronunciation of Sam Menegola’s surname by adding an extra ‘n’ into the mix, I was keen to see whether we got a repeat performance.

We did… kind of.

The final tally for the evening was nine mispronunciations, with BT leading the way, with five Menengolas, but the big surprise was that Bruce McAvaney actually took note, went away and had a good, hard think about it, returning this week to get Sam’s name right every single time.

Kudos to Bruce – he is a pro regardless of what haters say.

But wait, there was a new contender to the Menengola throne this week, with the lovable Richo making a stirring challenge during the three-quarter time break. Not content with listening to BT slaughtering the name, Richo went on a rampage, highlighting Menegola and subsequently getting his name wrong four times inside twenty seconds to make a charge at the lead. He actually hit the front at that stage, but a couple more to BT in the last quarter gave him the lead in the 2020 Preliminary Final Ignorance Cup.

Congrats BT – let’s see if you can top five cock ups next week.

And Richo… nice try, but you’ve got to be truly terrible to beat Brian.

For the record, Menegola was good again in this one, clocking in at 19 touches and notching ten score involvements to lead all players.

Any support for calling BT “Brinan Taynlor” until he starts getting Menegola’s name right and… you know, doing his job properly and stuff? Or how about we call him BnT?

 

IS MITCH ROBINSON… COOKED?

I think there are plenty amongst us who love the way Robbo attacks the contest, but in 12 months we have seen him go from 21+ disposals for two straight seasons down to just 13.7 touches per game.

I know that Robbo adds a heap of toughness around the contest and with the ball in dispute, but did you see him actually hit a target in this game? Or was everything he did rushed and involved throwing the ball on his boot as quickly as possible? At 31, and with Zac Bailey the heir apparent to the spot on the wing, what the future holds for Robinson and his role within this Lions team will be interesting.

Has he been carrying an injury? Focusing more on the defensive aspects of playing on the wing? Or has the game just caught up with him after years of throwing his body in like a madman? Just six of his 12 touches were deemed effective in this pone, and he had four turnovers. Maybe a big pre-season will fix an aspect of his game and enable him to recapture some of his 2018/19 form, because another season of footy like this may see him out of the side as much as he is in it.

 

WERE THE UMPIRES THAT BAD IN THE FIRST HALF?

Look, the free kick count was 10-2 at half time and I had Geelong fans ready to… well, wet themselves for all I know. A few of our Mongrel writers are cats fans and they were bleeding about the lopsided free kick count, but aside from the horrendous free kick against Gary Ablett for “pushing” Dayne Zorko in the back, there wasn’t too much that was blatantly missed.

Of course, they were pretty quiet after half time when Danger managed to throw a beautiful “handball” to Ablett for a goal. That, right there, more than made up for any free kick discrepancy in the first half as it led directly to a goal.

The final tally ended up 13-7, with the hardly any deliberate out of bounds free kicks being paid, which was a direct contrast to the free-kick happy decisions of the previous prelim final.

 

WAS THIS THE GEELONG VERSION OF THE MALACHI CRUNCH?

What’s that? You don’t know what the Malachi Crunch is? Shame on you or not getting a pop culture reference from like 40 years ago.

How about you go watch some Happy Days and get to the episode where The Fonz and Pinky Tuscedero are in some sort of Demolition Derby and Pinky gets stuck between the dreaded Malachi Brothers and they’re about to execute their infamous Malachi Crunch, when the Fonz makes the save!

Righto, we all know what the Malachi Crunch is now?

Well, the Cats had their own version early in the game as both Joel Selwood and Cam Guthrie applied defensive pressure on Lachie Neale at stoppages to limit his impact.

Whilst Neale would go onto rally and collect a game-high 24 touches, the pressure applied by the Geelong Malachi Brothers gave him no room to move in the first quarter and restricted him to just three touches.

With the Brownlow 24 hours away, it was a challenge Lachie Neale needed to overcome, and just like The Fonz, Neale was able to start extricating himself from the clutches of these nefarious Geelong marauders.

In many ways, the damage had already been done. The Cats were murdering the Lions at stoppages (15-4 clearances in the first quarter) and really should have put the Lions to the sword early. Brisbane really dodged a bullet by not being out of the game by the end of the first. And had the Cats converted a little better, it would have been thanks to the Selwood-Guthrie-Malachi Crunch.

 

WHO WON THE HAWKINS V ANDREWS CLASH?

I really think the absence of Darcy Gardiner hurt the Lions in more ways than we know, forcing Andrews to play a complete one-on-one role against Hawkins whilst their second best interceptor, Gardiner, watched from the stands.

But sadly, that was the situation that Brisbane had to deal with, and Harris Andrews was always going to have his hands full with the Tomahawk.

I thought the Lions did a good job early of forcing Hawkins wide, and a return of 2.3 is probably indicative of that. In terms of pure contests between the two, Hawkins got some lace out delivery at points, but the key stats that emphasises how good Andrews is comes in the form of zero contested grabs for Hawkins.

Not that I think Andrews “won” the contest, but he certainly broke even with the Coleman Medallist. Sadly for the Lions, that meant that his dominating presence in other contests where he could fly in and kill it with his fist were limited.

Such is the nature of playing on Hawkins that your entire focus has to be on containing him. Andrews was admirable, yet Hawkins still ended up with nine score involvements. I don’t think Hawkins got the better of the All-Australian full back, yet I don’t think Andrews would be claiming victory here, either.

In the words of the Black Knight, let’s call it a draw.

 

IS DANGER V DUSTY THE GRAND FINAL CLASH WE NEEDED?

This is just wild speculative stuff, but for a long time, we have had these two at the top of the mid/forward tree. Danger and Dusty… Dusty and Danger. 2016 and 2017 Brownlow Medallists and along with Nat Fyfe, perhaps they are each other’s only true peers in the league.

No, we get to see them perhaps go head to head in the biggest game of the season. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t already looking forward to this as a possibility.

The one thing Danger has been unable to do is find the ultimate success. Eight AA selections, AA captain… and there’s Dusty with his two premiership medals and two Norm Smiths. The hunger and determination Danger must be feeling right now with the opportunity to right the only wrong of his stellar career must be all-encompassing.

I, like you, am hoping for a head-to-head clash between two of the best power mids of their generation, and after this clash, we may have to either accept that one got the better of the other and that one is perhaps the better player.

Bring on the Grand Final!

 

ANY QUICK BITS, MONGREL?

Hmmm, just a couple.

I thought Stef Martin looked absolutely done. This team is now the Big O’s when it comes to the ruck.

Cam Ellis-Yolmen… I don’t know what is goinjg on with him, but despite playing on a successful team, he has been a real let down for the Lions.

Mitch Duncan was just doing the regular Mitch Duncan things. I am 19/20ths through the review and this is the first time I’ve mentioned him. Solid as always.

Tom Stewart continued his great run of form, whilst I really enjoy the way Zach Tuohy has the tank and the guts to continue to push forward late in games. he could be a game-breaker next week.

Finally, a big tip of the hat to Ryan Lester, who played an exceptional game in limiting Dangerfield up forward. These Lions left too much heavy lifting to too few in this game, but one guy who was busting his backside for the team was Lester. if we’re looking at the game in its entirety, I would give him the points over Dangerfield when the cats star was stationed inside 50. he can hold his head high.

 

And that may just do me. The Cats are into the Grand Final, the Lions squandered their opportunity and we have a gigantic match-up in the biggest game of the season in just seven days.

 

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