CONTROVERSY!!!

It looked like a case of Geelong controlling the game early, with the Brisbane Lions struggling to get going, but as the second half kicked into gear, Geelong started to play conservative footy, and the Lions came home hard.

Many will focus on the late non-decision by the umpire. He chose not to reward Zac Bailey for a perfect tackle that caused Mark Blicavs to incorrectly dispose of the footy, and those people definitely have every right to focus on it, but there were mistakes aplenty throughout this game, and the Lions will be lamenting their slow start, as well

It was a contest that sat on a knife’s edge at points, with tempers boiling over, words exchanged and some behind the play action leaving Lachie Neale face down on the ground.

There is HEAPS to get through with this one – it’s going to be a loooong night for the Mongrel writing about it all. Here is our good, bad and ugly.

 

 

THE GOOD

 

MARK O’BLANKET

Who saw this coming?

Whilst a lot of credit should go to the entire team defence played by the Cats to shut down Lachie Neale, the bulk of the responsibility at stoppages went to Mark O’Connor, and he looked to relish the opportunity to take on the challenge.

Wearing Neale like a glove in the first half, O’Connor and his cohort of belligerent, harassing marauders, pummeled the Brownlow Medallist en route to holding him to just three touches for the first half.

Whilst O’Connor’s offensive stats are not all that impressive (15 touches), his seven tackles caused chaos at stoppages, and he went after Neale with a real touch of mongrel about him. You know we like that, here.

Every week, I produce the Defensive Player of the Year Rankings, feeding into our annual award, and there is a component included to assess how effective a tagger has been. With O’Connor likely to pick up votes from both our own judges as well as the coaches votes, I would imagine that he will be ranked pretty highly when Monday/Tuesday roll around.

Neale fought hard to pick up eight touches in the last quarter as the Lions made their move, but the work of O’Connor through the first three quarters was incredible in it’s potency. Lachie Neale was largely viewed as untaggable by the AFL community due to his in-and-under style – perhaps it is time to reassess this perception, and with clubs looking for any advantage they can find, perhaps the blueprint to halt Neale has been created by the Cats and O’Connor.

As a man who loves a great defensive midfield performances, he’d be hard to go past for the top votes.

 

ON A WING AND A PRAYER

After the game, Zach Tuohy revealed that he started cramping in the third quarter, which was never a good sign.

Yet, as the game wore on, Tuohy willed himself to contest after contest to record 27 touches and seven big inside fifty deliveries.

Last season, I had a few people scoff at me – not because of my grotesque appearance or poor hygiene, but because I had Tuohy listed as a wingman in several games.

“He is a defender,” they stated, clearly not having paid attention to where Tuohy was lining up. In truth, he flittered between half back, the wing and half forward last season, but in this game, he was all about the wing, baby, and matched up on the inexperienced Harry Sharp… it was a bit of a case of man vs boy.

Tuohy had his way on his wing, as Sharp was restricted to just four touches for the game. It made me question why Chris Fagan would leave the kid out there in isolation, when both Zac Bailey and Mitch Robinson – both far better equipped to deal with the strength and running power of Tuohy, were deployed in different roles. Given I would have Tuohy well and truly in the votes this game, I believe this was an error from Chris Fagan.

The Cats are spoiled for choice at the position, with Jordan Clark (mostly occupying the other wing), Shaun Higgins and Isaac Smith all highly capable wingmen, with the legs to run all day, and Sam Menegola on the sidelines. Still, they went with Tuohy, and you cannot blame them.

His long kicking and proven ability to win one-on-one contests made him one of the most valuable players on the park.

 

OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN…

There is a section below that’ll touch on the indiscretion from Selwood that could have been ugly for Tom Berry, but I am treating that as a standalone issue.

In this section, I’d like to once again sing the praises of one of the best captains I have seen since I started following football. In the modern game, I am not sure, as an adult male, there is anyone I would prefer to follow into battle than Joel Selwood. He would throw himself on a grenade for you, and it’d compel you to do the same for him.

Whilst we have been treated to years and years of games where the Geelong skipper has placed the value of winning the footy over the value of his own safety, it could be that this game is just thrown on the pile with other great Selwood performances, but it felt like there was something a little special about this one.

Remember when he was moved to the wing a couple of years back? It appeared as though he was on a downward spiral, and that all those knocks, bumps and hard hits were taking a toll on him. Then you find a game like this evening, where the Cats were depleted in the midfield – Patrick Dangerfield was suspended, whilst Mitch Duncan and Sam Menegola were sidelined with injury.

Someone had to step up.

Not just anyone – the captain had to step up.

Joel Selwood once again rose to the occasion, leading the game in contested touches (17), whilst slotting two vital goals to lead his side home. He had seven clearances and six intercepts as he continually put himself in the right spots and hurt the Lions with his use of the ball, particularly by hand (even if one was a clear throw).

Long time readers know how much I admire this bloke – he is a modern day gladiator and when all is said and done, he could go down as the greatest captain this club has ever seen. I am sure that Geelong fans don’t get too many compliments from Hawthorn supporters, but over the last twenty years, with the plethora of stars that have graced the AFL, if there were one player I could poach and have on my team, it would be Selwood by the length of the Flemington straight.

 

THE LAST GASP MCCLUGGAGE EFFORTS

At the conclusion of the 2020 season, many Brisbane fans, and plenty who weren’t, were talking about how wingmen do not get the recognition they deserve in the modern game. This was evidenced by the omission of any genuine wings in the All-Australian team.

Whilst I thought Sam Menegola was the obvious exclusion, plenty thought Hugh McCluggage should have been given some serious consideration. His efforts in the last quarter were probably why so many thought that.

Six touches does not sound like a lot – let’s be honest, it’s not. Last week Tom Mitchell had 17 in a quarter as the Hawks stormed back against the Bombers, but it was the combative nature of McCluggage as the game wound down that caught my eye.

One particular moment saw him roll out of a contest, fend off and dish the ball to a running Zac Bailey. That contested win got the Lions rolling forward in a wave and ended with Joe Daniher running into an open goal to snatch the lead.

In this league you have great outside runners that can go all day, and whilst we would rate McCluggage amongst them, it was great to see the contested side of his game come to the fore when the Lions needed it most.

 

CLASH OF THE TITANS

I love a good one-on-one matchup. You don’t get to see it as often as you’d like in the AFL< with team defence, zones and rotations, but once in a while, you get a genuine full forward v full back clash, and when it happens it captures my imagination.

We got it in this one, with Tom Hawkins and Harris Andrews going head-to-head all game.

It was an enthralling duel, with both men having significant moments, however, if I am to pluck a winner out from the contest, it has to be Hawkins. Sadly, the parts of the contest that made him such a winner in his role were out of Andrews’ hands – I’ll explore this a little later.

Hawkins finished with three goals, but his 12 score involvements led all players. He took two lovely contested marks, picked up a few vintage Hawkins goal assists and gave the hand off to Isaac Smith for the go-ahead goal deep in the last quarter.

On the flipside, Andrews was able to control parts of the game and made a significant impact on the aerial duels inside 50, with Hawkins taking one contested mark against him and another when Andrews opted to play ten metres in front of the contest and not accounting for the booming boot of Gary Rohan to carry over the back.

In the pseudo-preview I did during the week, it was mentioned that the winner of this battle would go a long way to dictating the winner of the game. Hawkins won on points – the Cats won by a point.

 

THE BAD

 

ZORKO… IDIOT

This may only be considered a small one in the grand scheme of things, but with the Lions pressing, and pressing hard, their captain gave away the sort of 50 metre penalty that would have you tearing your hair out if you coached this team.

In a game where every minute detail is analysed, Zorko’s undisciplined indiscretion will most likely be forgotten, but what he did was enable the Cats to get a clear path out of defence at a point where Brisbane just had to hold the footy in there and play the territory game.

Want to know what happened next? Surely you remember?

It cost the Lions the lead.

The Cats went down the other end, there was a stoppage, Hawkins took the ball out of the ruck contest for about the thirtieth time, handballed to Isaac Smith and he slammed through what turned out to be the game winner.

Now, it is unfair to put this on Zorko… nah, screw it – it was his stupidity, when the Lions had the momentum and the ball trapped deep in their attacking zone that allowed Geelong free passage forward. He once again tried to play this tough man character and gave Selwood one when he was on the deck, got caught and his team paid for it.

Brisbane fans, this is your captain – the leader of this club, and whilst I like the aggression, his decision-making is right up there with Steve Irwin wanting to get closer to that stingray, or a member of the royal family talking about skintones.

Many will look at the Blicavs potential free kicks and several others, but Zorko will most likely not be held accountable for his decision, and he should be. And he should be by Brisbane fans. It was abject stupidity.

 

A BIT MUCH…

The Selwood tackle on Tom Berry after the whistle had blown twice led to the Geelong captain giving away a fifty metre penalty and adding to what was brewing as a bit of a spicy clash, but in the grand scheme of things, Selwood’s actions were reckless and stupid, and at the point when he slung Berry to the ground, the young player was an absolute sitting duck.

Berry had pulled up after a free kick was called. Trying to prevent the opportunity to take the advantage, Selwood wrapped him up. Berry made no move to continue play, but as the whistle sounded the second time to let players know there was definitely no advantage, the Geelong captain slung Berry into the ground.

Now… this is going to test the AFL. Are they punishing the action, or the outcome? The outcome is that Berry’s head didn’t smash into the ground, but he was defenceless at that point, and Selwood slung him to the ground, anyway. The action “could have” resulted in something pretty nasty, but it didn’t, and for that, we’re lucky, but after so long in the game, I’m not sure the actions of Selwood in this instance, anyway, were a good look for footy.

 

THE UGLY

 

INCONSISTENCY

Right, no matter what I write here, I will piss off one set of supporters, so why try to sugar coat it?

That last decision… or non-decision, as it were, from the umpire was – in short – a disgrace. There we go, that’s it in a nutshell.

As Mark Blicavs was slung in the tackle by Zac Bailey and appeared to drop the footy, the umpire called played on and Isaac Smith managed to get the ball over the line boundary. It was a complete disaster. Nothing I write can fix it, and nothing you respond with can justify the decision, either. It was a panicky, scared non-decision at a point where the game was at it’s hottest.

However, there was a decision, or a pair of them, actually, minutes earlier that made the no-call on Blicavs seem even worse.

At the other end of the ground, Zac Bailey attacked the footy hard at half back and took it cleanly. He was immediately wrapped up by a charging Jed Bews with no prior opportunity and carried forward into the Cats’ forward fifty – and we are talking a split second between taking possession of the ball and being tackled. He was dragged to the ground with the ball pinned under him. As he struggled to get an arm free, he was pinged for holding the ball and Bews received a shot at goal.

A short time later, Shaun Higgins, in almost an identical position in Geelong’s forward half, attacked the footy and was dragged to the ground immediately by Lincoln McCarthy, who rolled him over and pinned the footy under him. Again, taking possession and being tackled happened so fast, yet given the decision moments before, consistency dictated that holding the ball be paid the other way, right?

Ohhhh, inexperienced you are in the ways of AFL umpiring, it seems.

The decision to bounce the footy after Higgins was dragged down, despite being incredibly similar to the previous instance, was mind-boggling.

But wait… there’s more.

Gryan Miers was pinged for something similar after being immediately tackled, whilst Cam Guthrie was allowed to be swung around, fight through a tackle, and illegally hand the ball to Joel Selwood – not handball – for a goal.

 

However, it was the late-game non-decision that people will remember most. It cost Brisbane their shot at pinching their first win at Kardinia Park since 2003 and in the process created a furore as AFL fans in general, not just Lions supporters, threw their hands up in disbelief at the non-call. For all the line-ball decisions that went both ways over the course of the contest, this was the most obvious. However, whether the umpire had a severe case of stage fright or simply cocked up, there was no whistle, and really, the AFL would have to be embarrassed by it.

When you get current and former players jumping online to vent their spleen about what they’ve just witnessed, you get a bit of an indication that what transpired was wrong, and there was no shortage of people who were as annoyed and concerned that the free kick was not paid to Bailey. It stuck out like the proverbial…

As a result, the Lions fall to 0-2, with a tantalising Friday Night Footy encounter with the Magpies looming. It’s make or break time in Round Three, and if they fall over in that one, they may well look back on the late game decisions in Round Two as the point that broke them in 2021.

 

Make no mistake, this was a huge error from the umpire. It was a deer-in-the-headlights moment that has the potential to derail the Lions’ season whilst saving Geelong’s.

Do you think that is a little melodramatic? Go and check the records of teams that have started 0-2 in recent years and come back to me. That is now what this Lions team faces – an uphill battle made all the more difficult by a poor late-game decision. Lions fans… you have every right to be absolutely pissed off. This was garbage.

 

SNIPER ROHAN

It wasn’t a great night for Lachie Neale, but depending on how the match review officer sees things over the next 24-or-so hours, it may not be a good couple of weeks for Gary Rohan.

In a behind the play incident, Rohan threw the equivalent to what is now known as a ‘coward punch’ from behind Neale. Okay, okay… it was more like a coward forearm, but the contact, which was initially to the shoulder and chest seemed to slip up and make contact with the chin of the Brownlow Medallist.

In the aftermath, a sore Neale, holding his jaw held up three fingers to Rohan, perhaps indicating the amount of weeks he thought the blow was worth… or maybe counting the number of touches Neale collected for the first half.

The way I look at this is that we had two teams playing on the edge in this game. They were pushing the boundaries and walking a very fine line in terms of what was legal and what was illegal. Rohan’s actions were completely unnecessary, way off the footy and if there was any contact at all with Neale’s face, should warrant a suspension. I love good, hard footy, am a fan of the bump and I hate the fact that good tackles get called dangerous, but I have never, ever been a fan of someone whacking another bloke behind the play.

Whether it slipped high, whether it was unintentional, or whether it was a glancing blow that Neale milked a little is not my concern. My concern is that we had a bloke that thought it was completely fine to swing an arm at an opponent with his back turned. It was gutless, and I hope it costs him a couple of weeks.

 

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

DOES ANY TEAM WANT TO TACKLE TOM HAWKINS IMMEDIATELY AFTER FOWARD 50 STOPPAGES?

Surely this was on the Brisbane Lions whiteboard? Surely Chris Fagan and his band of not-so-merry men had to be aware that at stoppages inside forward 50, Hawkins loves to outbody an opponent and take the footy cleanly from the contest?

I mean, he did it all last year to devastating effect, right? You saw it. I saw it. What did the Brisbane Lions see? Didn’t they have Fox Footy in the hub?

Tom Hawkins molested the Lions in ruck contests in the forward fifty and NONE of the Lions actually thought to stay close to him and immediately wrap him up in a tackle as soon as he took possession? No one even whispered it to a teammate? “Hey Mitch… as soon as he grabs it, tackle the bastard as hard as you can!”

The Lions have some string fellas down there in defence. Andrews, Lester, Rich… you think one of them could have worked out what was going on by…. oh I don’t know, the fourth or fifth time it happened?

Nope – they didn’t, and when the game was there to be won, who was it taking the footy out of the ruck and handing off to Isaac Smith for the goal?

Learn your damn lessons.

 

HOW BIG A LOSS WAS THE BIG O?

Huge.

His mobility was clearly hampered by the ankle injury that ultimately saw him unable to finish the contest, but to his credit, he fought through three and a bit quarters whilst hobbling around like someone with one leg shorter than the other.

With Stef Martin now in Bulldogs colours, McInerney was one player the Lions did not want to lose and they will be desperate to get him back before they line up against a Collingwood side with Brodie Grundy determined to prove he is far from a spent force.

 

AND HOW MUCH DID RHYS STANLEY RELISH THE FREEDOM?

The Geelong ruckman looked like he was having a bit of a picnic out there in this game, collecting 22 disposals to go along with his 24 hit outs. Though the athletic Stanley failed to hit the scoreboard, finishing with 0.2, his continued efforts to make position and be part of the Geelong chain were impressive.

Matched up against the inexperienced Tom Fullarton, Stanley was the best big man on the park.

 

JOE DANIHER – PASS MARK, OR FAIL?

Hmmmm, interesting one.

Started poorly, although a free kick to Hipwood could have easily resulted in the mark being paid to Daniher five metres closer. He kicked the goal to put the Lions in front, capping off some great McCluggage work up the ground, and took a couple of big clunks late in the game…

… however, he wasn’t involved enough for the four quarters to say it was a pass mark. Not that this was an epic fail by any stretch – Daniher showed some signs, but signs are what you look for in a 22 year old. He’s 27, and his time is now.

 

SHOULD THE LIONS BLAME THE UMPIRES, OR BLAME THEMSELVES?

Oh, look at me getting all philosophical…

There are a couple of ways to look at it – the last decision is always going to be the one that sticks out, and to cry foul on it has a bit of merit. Right then, that moment had the potential to change the outcome.

However, all the misses and poor decisions early on gave Geelong a lead they then attempted to sit on. I don’t think the Cats would have slowed the game down, or attempted to, had the Lions matched it with them early. We would have had an entirely different set of circumstances to deal with as a result.

In the end, they got themselves back into a spot to contend, only to see an umpire freeze up. I know it’s not accepted to point the finger and blame someone, but in this case, they definitely have the right to be pissed.

 

WERE THE HIPWOOD FREE KICKS THERE?

Had some Geelong supporters letting me know all about what a great ride the Lions and Hipwood got early in the game.

Yes, he received three free kicks in the first quarter, and two were entirely justified 0 the one against Tom Stewart was the only one I’d consider iffy. Hipwood was solid in this one, obviously enjoying the company inside fifty of Joe Daniher, but his wayward kicking, finishing with 4.3 for the evening, saw him make the easy look difficult and the difficult look like a piece of cake.

So yes… don’t be sad. Two out of three ain’t bad.

 

OTHER BITS

A very nice outing for Isaac Smith. Not only did he slot the winner, but he ran back hard into the defensive 50 to help out his back six on multiple occasions.

Tom Stewart started like he’d been shot out of a canon, with nine touches across half back as he did what he pleased. His influence waned after quarter time, but he was still able to bob up with some timely chop outs, and he remains the Cats’ preferred method of exiting defensive fifty.

I’m not sure what role Mitch Robinson has in the Brisbane team anymore. Was thrown into the guts late in the piece and had a couple of important clearances – I wonder whether his attack on the contest could be used a little bit more in the middle for short periods.

Cam Guthrie had another in a pretty decent line of good performances. His rundown tackle on Zac Bailey in the second quarter was a beauty, and he finished with the game-high for disposals, in 28 touches.

Charlie Cameron – blanketed early by Jed Bews, looked proppy on his ankle in the last quarter and returned to almost pull down a contender for the mark of the year. A couple of goals to his name, but I reckon he was one more away from getting the points against Bews. His output basically matched Freddie Evans at the other end.

Any disappointments? Yep – Gary Rohan was poor… he must have thought it was a final. That said, it is pretty unlucky to mark in the goal square, turn to play on and have the siren sound in the second it takes you to kick the footy.

I was not a great wrap for Jordan Clark in this one, despite a nice running goal. Mitch Robinson, Linc McCarthy and Luke Dahlhaus were all below their best as well.

 

And that will well and truly do me. It wasn’t a great game by any stretch, and you had the feeling it may kick off at some stage, but the dramatic end made it seem like a great contest. The Cats get the four points and head to Easter Monday against the Hawks, whilst the Lions have a date with the Pies to avoid going 0-3.

 

 

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