Could you have scripted it better if you tried?

Last weekend, Zac Bailey was robbed of a moment that could have pinched the game. It was his tackle on Mark Blicavs that had the Brisbane fans, and fans of footy in general, up in arms as the umpire put the whistle away and robbed the Brisbane Lions of a chance to win.

It turns out, he just had to wait a week to be the hero.

With seconds remaining, the Lions had Ryan Lester pick off a rushed Steele Sidebottom kick at half back and he knew he had to move the ball quickly. A handball to Grant Birchall saw him hack it to a contest, but Harris Andrews was able to feed a handball off to Dev Robertson. He went with an over-the-head number to Brandon Starcevich, who bit off the riskiest kick possible into the middle.

It worked.

It found Mitch Robinson, who handed off to the running Daniel Rich. And he simply doesn’t miss targets. He laced it out to Zac Bailey who lined up as the siren went and calmly slotted the goal to give the Lions a one-point win and breathed new life into the Brisbane season in the process.

It was sweet redemption for the Lions and Bailey, whilst the Pies will be licking their wounds and wondering how the hell they managed to let this one slip.

Here’s Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

 

THE GOOD

 

HUGE MCCLUGGAGE

This was a gutsy performance by McCluggage, who looked as though he was flat out refusing to allow his side to lose in the last quarter.

With 11 final term touches, McCluggage worked tirelessly… actually no – he looked pretty bloody tired. So, he worked tire-fully? Yeah, that’s not a word. He worked bloody hard, up and back in a pulsating final stanza to get to contest after contest for the Lions and played a critical role in their win.

Playing in his natural role on the wing, McCluggage was able to win his own footy, as well as get on the end of chains to propel the Lions inside 50. His relentless pursuit of the footy as the game wound down was matched on the other team by Steele Sidebottom, but McCluggage just hammered his side forward at every opportunity.

Slotting a goal in the third quarter to draw the Lions closer, the wingman continually kept the Lions close enough to strike, and both to their credit, and the dismay of Collingwood supporters, at the final change we had just an eight-point margin.

The scene was set, and McCluggage dialed up the effort as everyone else fatigued.

This is the reason that 20-minute quarters are great. An AFL game is both a sprint and a marathon combined. Yes, it can be a frenetic, up-and-back clash where speed kills teams, but at the end of the game, those who have the endurance become vitally important, as well. And that’s what McCluggage was in this one. Though his disposal efficiency was lower than usual, his continued efforts whilst those around him stood with their hands on their hips emphasised his value to this Brisbane Lions team.

I am sure he has had games with bigger numbers and more impressive highlights, but in terms of importance to his team, this was the best I have seen him play under intense pressure.

 

THE OLD BRODIE GRUNDY, WAS IT?

I have to preface this by stating that he did not have much to beat, on paper, at least.

Tom Fullarton has only played as a forward in the time I have watched him, whilst Connor Ballenden really looked like he did not belong at this level… and Grundy seemed to sense it.

He monstered both young men in the ruck, conjuring images of his dominant 2019 form as he went for 54 hit outs to go with 28 disposals and six tackles. Grundy was a man possessed in the ruck contests, repeatedly setting up his mids for first use of the footy and his renowned second efforts seemed to be back, after showing glimpses last week.

With the Pies loving the work of their big man at the stoppages, you’d think they would have had a resounding majority in the clearance stats, but the Brisbane mids were up for the fight, and actually only lost the count by five, whilst winning the battle for centre clearances as they started to coordinate better to shark Grundy’s taps.

So, when that becomes apparent, the question shifts a little – did the Pies do enough to capitalise on the significant advantage Grundy gave them?

The answer is no.

Grundy may have had 28 touches, but this kid, Fullarton, had 17, himself. Grundy collected five clearances – Fullarton matched him. Maybe this was not as clear cut as it seemed while I was watching…

To the naked eye, Grundy had a ball out there, but in terms of impact, he allowed Fullarton as much space as he was afforded himself. And as the gap closed on the scoreboard, he really didn’t pay the youngster much respect.

Fullarton had four touches in the last quarter to Grundy’s six, but in terms of effective disposals, they were at three apiece. Yes, you would give the nod to Grundy here, and really, it’d be by a substantial margin. That said, despite being outgunned, the continued efforts of Fullarton around the ground should not be easily dismissed.

 

ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE MIDDLE

I love Scott Pendlebury, and when I saw him go to Lachie Neale at the start of the game, I was pretty pleased that we would see these two stars of the game go head-to-head… although we kind of didn’t. Yes, they would line up against each other at stoppages, with Neale getting the better of the Collingwood captain, but there was a definite swing in the second half.

Pendles started tightening the screws, and in playing accountable footy, he was able to limit the influence of the Brownlow Medallist considerably.

It was an intriguing match-up to watch, as both men were pretty cognizant of the other at the stoppage, given the damage each could inflict.

Neale struggled in the second half, picking up just five touches, as Pendlebury was able to create the perfect balance between slowing Neale at stoppages, and finding space of his own to work into the game. Pendles went on to finish with 30 touches, including 14 in the second half, as his ability to run to the right spots at the right time threw Neale off his game and had him chasing tail a lot more than he would have liked.

But the Lions had others to step in…

 

THE BRISBANE LYONS

Remember when the Gold Coast Suns allowed Jarryd Lyons to walk to the Brisbane Lions for nothing prior to the 2019 season?

Pepperidge Farm remembers…

… and so does Lyons.

At the time, I wondered what was up with him. I mean, why would a team that was struggling for talent not at least get something in return for a player with his ability? Maybe there were factors that weren’t made public? Maybe Lyons was a bit of a loose canon?

I kind of sat back and watched with interest as Lyons found his way with Brisbane, wary that something may come to the surface and shed some light on the situation.

But nothing came out.

As a matter of fact, he became a model player with his third team, and set a lot of the tone with his midfield unit.

He plays every game now as though he has a point to prove, and he does it in such a manner that I simply cannot believe that a guy this talented was allowed to just… leave.

He led this game in tackles, with ten, as he continually had his tackles stick. Others were able to shrug people off, or ride the tackle and dispose of the footy – not when Lyons was doing the tackling. He set the tone early in the game and came home with a wet sail in the last, joining Hugh McCluggage as the Lions refused to concede the game.

The name of Jarryd Lyons is not one you think of when you’re asked about the upper-echelon of AFL mids, but his work as the backup to Lachie Neale has been exemplary since he got to the club. I always wondered a little what went wrong, first at Adelaide and then Gold Coast – was it him that was wrong? Should I be wary of this bloke?

But on the field, he has been a total professional, and his hardness in close has been a highlight of this Brisbane team over the last couple of seasons.

 

DANIHER V MOORE

Well, it wasn’t quite at the level of their 2019 clash, but in this highly-anticipated rematch, you’d have to give the chocolates with Daniher. Not Haigh’s chocolates – more like a box of Cadbury Favourites, but still… who doesn’t like Cadbury Favourites? I won’t have chocolate snobs on this site, damn it! Not even you, Mrs Mongrel, with your expensive taste in snacks!

Anyway… Daniher looked dangerous early, and with a couple of contested grabs and three goals to his name, it is hard to look past him in terms of the most potent forward on the park. Really, he should have finished with five, after missing two very gettable shots in the first and third quarters, and he found a little more space than I would have liked if I were Nathan Buckley.

But I guess that’s the thing about Darcy Moore – he is always going to give you the chance to beat him… if you’re good enough.

Moore does not play shoulder-to-shoulder with his opponent. He is not bound to him like a clingy partner and he doesn’t concern himself with his opponent’s whereabouts at all times. He reads the play and moves to the positions he deems the most dangerous as the ball enters defensive 50. It cost him a couple of times in this game, with Daniher able to sneak into space to mark, or collect the loose footy.

It took until the third quarter for Moore to make any decisive play on the game, darting away from defensive 50 to help set up a goal for Brody Mihocek, but in order to give Moore the points, particularly when his direct opponent has goals next to his name, you need more of those dashes from him.

An interesting contest without being the focal point of the game, Daniher gets the nod over Moore. 18 touches and eight marks from your key forward… that’s a good night at the office.

 

ANSWERING THE CRITICS

I have to tip my hat to Mitch Robinson here – he had some very important moments in this game and really lifted his workrate when the Lions needed senior players to step up.

Mitch has looked very shaky over the last 12 or so months. Whilst you could never, ever question his endeavour, Robinson has simply not performed to the level we’ve become accustomed to seeing from him. He had a blistering 2019 and in the covid-impacted 2021 season, he simply went right off the boil.

After the first two weeks of the season, there was a distinct feeling that this may have been the kind of year that saw Robbo play himself out of a team that was contending, but he turned it around in this one.

There are some things you simply cannot teach. You cannot teach a slow horse to run faster, but you can get a fast horse to slow down now again. Mitch is a fast horse – he runs as hard as he can in a straight line and attacks the contest with everything he’s got and in this game, that is exactly what the Lions required.

After quarter time, Robinson collected 15 contested touches, putting his head over the footy at every opportunity. He was influential deep in defence as he got back to stop the bleeding and ran hard forward. It was the kind of performance that screamed “come with me!” to his teammates.

And they did.

Earlier this week, Robinson lamented what staying in Melbourne meant to him and his family – missing his son’s birthday was obviously something no father wants to do, but Mitch sucked this one up, took one for the team, and I reckon there would be a very happy and proud little boy back in Brisbane watching the way his Dad contributed to this win.

 

LESTER AND THE ROUGH

Just a quick one here to acknowledge two players that continually fly under the radar.

Jordan Roughead was a tower of strength for the Pies, getting the better of Eric Hipwood in the air, time and time again. He started the game brilliantly, holding Hipwood to no touches in the first quarter, which I am sure had Lions fans wondering whether we’d see another of the games where Hipwood went missing – he is becoming notorious for them.

However, Hipwood worked further up the ground to collect his touches and stay involved. Sadly, for him at least,. whenever he ventured inside 50, it seemed as though Roughead was just too strong in marking contests.

“How many marks did you take, Roughy?”

“Oh, just the lazy 17… ”

Wow…

The other player is one you basically never hear of unless you’re a Lions fan. It’s Ryan Lester.

Whilst I don’t think we’ll ever see Lester’s name up in lights, particularly when you consider who he plays alongside, he is the type of player that is given a job and simply goes out there and does it. There are no bells, no whistles, no gimmicks – just a tough competitor who is hellbent on beating his man.

It was great to see the play that iced the game for the Lions start with a Lester intercept mark. It’s not often the unsung defenders are afforded credit, but this week, these two were more than deserving of it.

 

 

THE BAD

 

ONE WAY PLAYER?

There will be a tonne written about Jordan de Goey in 2021, and whilst there will be negative stuff in many publications, we’re going to stick primarily to footy. We’re kind of okay at it.

Sadly, for de Goey, there are two main aspects to footy. What you do when your team has the footy, and what you do when your team does not have the footy. Watching some of de Goey’s defensive efforts in this game, it looks as though he is only really interested in the offensive side of the game.

And that presents a real problem.

Though the game is now more free-flowing, pressure can still create scoring opportunities. The Collingwood forward, however, does not seem too interested in that component of the game. If you go back and watch this contest, I reckon you’d be lucky to find three instances where de Goey ran hard when his team did not have possession. He either ambled along the outside of the play, or looked to sneak away forward to cheat, really, and get on the end of any possible turnover.

When he makes a contest, he is a complete bull, and will attack the footy with venom, but if he has to make some ground to get himself involved, you may as well forget about getting any defensive pressure from him.

He walks away from this game with 18 touches and a goal, and I am sure those who love what de Goey brings will look to those numbers and justify his game based on them. I prefer another set of numbers that are just as indicative in terms of his effort – maybe more so.

Zero tackles – that’s what the Collingwood Football Club received from de Goey in this one. And if you jump on the AFL app and have a look at his pressure acts, the dial hardly even bloody moves. Some players have 20+ pressure acts in a game – several in this game did just that, but de Goey, despite managing to clock up some midfield time, managed just four.

Only Mason Cox had less.

For a man that gets afforded the ‘superstar’ tag, this is simply just not good enough.

 

 

THE UGLY

 

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT WHE

Oh yes… and it won’t be a pleasant chat.

Two weeks ago, Will Hoskin-Elliott turned in an insipid performance in the season-opener against the Dogs. Looking lost and playing the role of a witches hat, he ran around the field without any real sense of purpose. If he was a decoy forward, you could understand, but the purpose of a decoy forward is to draw defenders away from the other forwards in the vicinity.

Right now, Hoskin-Elliott could not draw flies if he was covered in… honey. Thought I was gonna say something else, didn’t ya?

But as poor as he was in the opener, he topped it in this game, playing the role of an invisible man as he collected six disposals and laid one tackle.

I can remember this bloke at GWS – he looked like a natural footballer – like Lachie Whitfield with an overhead marking component to his game. He ran like a greyhound… and now he more resembles a scolded dog, cowering when there is a contest to be won.

Hoskin-Elliott has been given a free ride long enough. His production is now at the point where his presence is detrimental to his fellow forwards – simply put, he is not worth considering if you are the opposition defensive coach. You’d put your fifth or sixth defender on him and go into the contest with a high degree of confidence that, even if the team gets beaten, you’re going to get one win for the evening.

With one touch in each of the first three quarters, WHE was the worst contributor in the Collingwood team and if he fronts up again to play in Round Four, then I’m sorry, but Collingwood are not serious about 2021. They need to stop gifting him games and start making him earn them.

 

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

DOES THIS KICKSTART THE LIONS’ SEASON?

They head down the highway to face the Western Bulldogs in that God-forsaken heckhole known as Ballarat next week, where we’re bound to get cold and horrible conditions.

Look, they needed this one, and they got it, but one win does not a season make. The Lions need to string together a few wins now in order to re-establish themselves as a legitimate top four contender. Sitting around the bottom half of the eight, or just outside it… that is for teams that can’t win a couple in a row, and really, the Lions are too good to be in that territory at any stage of the season.

 

IS THERE ANYONE YOU WOULD HAVE PREFERRED WITH THE FOOTY IN HAND THAN DANIEL RICH AS HE RAN THROUGH THE MIDDLE?

He kicked the gorgeous running goal in the second quarter to light a fire under the Lions, and when you saw Mitch Robinson hand off to him, you just knew he was either going to lower the eyes and hit someone on the chest, or run his full measure and unleash a bomb to win the game.

So, no… there are a few players with penetrating boots, but none that come close to that which Rich can produce. I feel as though if we had an isolation camera on Nathan Buckley, you could see the moment his heart breaks, ala Ralph Wiggum, in this game.

And that moment would be as soon as he realised that Rich was going to receive the footy, unimpeded, running through the guts, with an open forward line in front of him.

 

WOULD ISAAC QUAYNOR GET A VOTE IN THIS GAME?

He’d have to go close.

I loved his work on Charlie Cameron and for the most part it appeared as though he just wanted the footy more. He was always the first to read the play and get to the right position, and it was only when Cameron got out on a mismatch that he looked like scoring.

And he did score.

Quaynor’s 24 touches saw just one fail to hit the mark and with his nine intercepts and seven rebound fifties, he was a very valuable contributor to the Pies.

 

DID THE PIES BLOW THIS ONE?

Yep, they sure did, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

AT half time, I was yapping with a couple of Mongrels and stated that I couldn’t believe this was just an eight-point game. It felt like a Collingwood game waiting to be won. They were in control, looked like a better side, and were moving the ball well whilst their defence was on top. What else could you want?

The answer was about three extra goals the difference.

The Lions are too good to give a sniff to. If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, and they did in this one. The Pies should have been in a position to ice this game at half time, but they really did not make the most of the amount of general play they had.

 

 

OTHER BITS

 

It’s surprising me to write this, but Mason Cox had some really good moments match up on Harris Andrews.

The Lions full back had a huge 15 intercept possessions for the night, but Cox’s bodywork was not bad at all in this one.

Nice second game for Dev Robertson. With 17 touches and seven tackles, he more than earned his place in the team. Plus, his involvement in the play to pinch the game would have him walking tall at the moment.

There is a lot less free-wheeling in defence from Brayden Maynard this season. I’m not sure whether he has been assigned more a purely defensive role, but I reckon the Pies miss his run and carry from defence. He was almost AA-calibre last season with the role he played. I don’t think he will be troubling selectors with the role he’s playing this season.

Two blokes I would not trust with the footy in their hands after watching them in this game – Jack Madgen and Jack Payne. In a game where errors can be the difference between winning and losing, you’d almost try to manufacture either of them as the loose player kicking the ball out of defensive fifty if you could.

And that may just do, people.

Thanks to all those who have jumped on as Mongrel Members, and to those who haven’t… I’m not your friend anymore.

 

 

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