Ah the Qclash on 4:35 on a Saturday evening, much like sticking the Western Derby on at 4:40 on a Sunday, the AFL like sticking these state rivalry games in basically the graveyard time slots. Does the bloke running the fixturing even care?

I guess, unlike the Derby, the Qclash is a rivalry that’s fizzled in recent years – WA-folk get gee’d up for their game every time – do Queenslanders get up for this game? I am not sure – I like to think they do, but they don’t get the hype that rivalries like the Showdown and the Derby do – maybe it’s just that it’s still fresh in comparison.

The last time the Suns won a game against Brisbane, we have to go back to early 2018, when the Gold Coast pipped Brisbane in a nail-biting finish. If we are talking all time though, Brisbane have won 13 of 19 encounters since the inaugural Qclash and the 20th clash delivered more of the same in recent years. Brisbane exerting dominance over a Suns side that looked hapless.

Hapless might sound a tad harsh and perhaps way too critical considering who’s missing from the side, but when your head coach says in the post-game presser that this performance may have lost respect from the competition, then it’s probably a fair whack and play on.

This review may get very Brisbane heavy or may get very anti-Suns considering the performance, I’ll do my best to level the field in this week’s review.

 

Why You Be Lyon?

I know Gold Coast supporters – and possibly everyone else – is getting tired of the story of Jarryd Lyons’ career, but it remains relevant to this review and potentially other Qclash reviews down this beaten track.

How the Suns let him walk to the cross-town rivals for literally nothing remains one of football’s biggest mysteries. Actually, how Stewie Dew neglected to play him in the senior side and let him play in the NEAFL most weeks is actually a bigger mystery.

Because since crossing over, Lyons has been vital cog in Brisbane’s engine room – even more so now with the absence of the injured Lachie Neale. He’ll never be the quickest player in the side, but he doesn’t need to be. What he offers is blue-collared, hard-nosed contested work and it’s that sort of work that got him the best on ground medal in this one.

Of his 37 disposals, 15 of them were contested and was also strong with the clearance work, recording nine of them, four of those coming from centre bounces. He wasn’t as direct with the footy, recording just over 300 metres gained, but he’s the bloke who’s extracting it from the source, he doesn’t need big metres gained to have an impact. Defensively too, he was superb, laying nine tackles – a career-high.

As a Bulldogs’ supporter, it sort of reminds me of the work that Tom Liberatore does – nothing flashy, just gets it out to his teammates, the ones who are more prominent in delivering it forward. That’s not to say he’s no good himself, but as the next player I’ll highlight, he is a player that just oozes the class and you want the ball in his hands going forward.

 

Leading By Example

Dayne Zorko, Brisbane captain.

He’s been a little through the ringer this year. I can recall fellow mongrel and expert on the Queensland sides Brett Hodgson ripping him one in a Brisbane review earlier in the year. I think he’s always had a slight issue with his consistency. His best is great to watch but then has games where he does nowhere near enough and it can prove costly if he doesn’t get a run on.

It might prove to be clutching at the straws a little because of shortened quarters, but he had games last year where he had possession counts between 10-14 and the Lions lost, the Prelim defeat is a big example. The point I’m trying to make is, when he gets the ball in his hands, good things often happen within the side.

I’d say this is easily the best game he’s played so far this year and the stats column next to his name looks absolutely stuffed to brim. 34 disposals, nine marks, 12 contested possessions, seven clearances, eight inside 50s, 14 score involvements, 708 metres gained, 1.2 and going at a very nice 76.5 percent disposal efficiency.

He needed to have a big game like this, because I have found in Brisbane games this year, Zorko’s influence on contests has kind of left me wanting a little. Those that don’t believe in Zorko will complain it was against paltry opposition, you can only play against what’s in front of you, and last time I checked, the Gold Coast Suns still had 22 bodies out on the park. Doesn’t matter who you come against, as long as you pick up some form along the way.

 

Gold Coast’s ‘Premiership Quarter’

Alright, there lots of little moments throughout the first half that saw the Suns break down and allow Brisbane to have multiple shots on goal. To the Suns’ credit, they were just a goal down five minutes into the second term after giving away the first three goals of the match in a relatively comfortable fashion.

Brisbane did kick away to a five-goal half time lead, but it felt like the Suns were still competitive in patches. What happened in the third quarter was just absolutely appalling.

Let’s look at some numbers here from just the third quarter alone – Brisbane were +20 in contested ball +61 in overall disposal count, +14 in the inside 50 count and +5 in the clearances. They were harder and showed more desire in the contest, they worked equally as hard on the spread and they were getting their inside 50s and some reward for effort – 8.2 from their 23 inside 50s. Could it have been more? Easily, but eight goals in a quarter in the modern game is a fair effort.

But the damning thing here is that Brisbane laid four more tackles in that third quarter. It’s one thing for the opposition to have the ball 60 more times than you, but to only lay eight tackles in response is utterly disgusting footy. And I think this is what Stewie was referring to in the post-game presser when he said that the competition has ‘lost trust’ in the Suns. They were trailing around their opposition like they wanted nothing to do with them.

Just some individual players I want to highlight here from the third quarter.

Oleg Markov – had 12 disposals up to half time and is often prominent with his run and getting hands on the footy – just the four touches.
Rory Atkins – kicked a marvellous goal in the first quarter and maybe a tad unfair given that it’s his first game as a Sun and coming back from injury, but he’s one of the more senior heads in the side – just one disposal.
Brandon Ellis – been terrific all season and was great last season too – two disposals.
Izak Rankine – Honeymoon period is well and truly over, we know what he can bring to the table but he’s not doing it nearly enough this year – one tackle and no disposals, completely smothered by Brandon Starcevich.
Ben Ainsworth – top draft pick from five years ago, three disposals
Jack Bowes – Usually pretty good and pretty clean, struggled to introduce himself to the footy all night before being medically subbed out – had three touches in the third term

Those first three are more concerning for Suns’ fans as they should be at least carrying some of the load, especially under duress and I promise I will get to some of those Suns that can hold their head high later down the piece, but there’s going to be a lot of soul-searching at the club this week from the coaching department.

 

The Spread

The more we go into the season, the more we’re going to find out about Brisbane and right now, I’m learning that their forward line is going to cause so many problems at the tail-end of the season.

We know Joe Daniher was brought in to bring some heat off of Eric Hipwood, but one uncertain matter was how Daniel McStay was going to be brought into this team – can three tall forwards work? Will there be another role for him?

Well as it turns out, he can co-exist with both Daniher and Hipwood in the forward line. What I do like about this is that Daniher can play as the second-ruck and allow the other two – who have been working in tandem for some time, to continue to work together as key forwards. Between the three of them, they kicked eight between them and that’s not so bad. Daniher and Hipwood each kicked 2.2 – could’ve been more, but you’d be pleased with how it’s all going.

For McStay, after a few weeks of easing back into things due to a lengthy injury spell, he looks like he’s finally got a groove in his game – 4.0 and plenty of strong leading patterns and equally strong contested marking against a key defender that I highly regard in Sam Collins. At times, the placement of the footy for the Brisbane forwards to lead on to – no defender can spoil it.

Add both Lincoln McCarthy and Charlie Cameron, that’s 13 of Brisbane’s 19 goals. I actually thought Charlie Cameron was held for most parts by Sean Lemmens, a player who I think goes around undetected, but the number of times the ball was coming forward meant that it was always going to be hard for Cameron to have some kind of say. McCarthy was good too – took a nice ride in the second quarter, was quite damaging with the ball in hand and his pressure acts are what you should expect in your small forwards.

 

Who Can Hold Their Head High For The Gold Coast?

There are probably three players in Gold Coast colours that I think played a strong, consistent four quarter effort.

The first is their captain, David Swallow. Genuinely have nothing but admiration and respect for this man. Could’ve easily left the Suns like most of the others and taken up a midfield spot in a better team, but has otherwise said that he’ll answer the call and help get the Suns off the ground – 29 disposals, five clearances, four tackles, five inside 50s and five intercept possessions.

The next is Hugh Greenwood. He’s just one of those players that you know what you’ll get every time you see him cross the white line and that’s just hard and fair footy. He had 20 disposals, 13 of them contested, but also recorded seven clearances, six score involvements and a goal. Only the three tackles, but I thought his pressure was still very prominent.

The other is Noah Anderson. Yes, I will point out he gave away a very undisciplined 50 metre penalty in the third term, but his effort across the board was there an effort I couldn’t fault. He had 26 disposals, five marks, three clearances all coming from centre bounces and 11 contested possessions.

 

Other Bits

I’ll start by touching on one of my personal favourites in Zac Bailey. Just always seems to be at the right place at the right time and was very good again, kicking two goals, whilst notching up 19 disposals, four clearances and six score involvements – doing everything playing that half-forward role.

I think he was beaten soundly by key forwards, but I don’t think Charlie Ballard stopped trying all night – second only to Markov in intercept possessions for the Suns, recording seven, but also took a couple of strong grabs – six in total.

On the wings for the Lions: Hugh McCluggage had 24 disposals, eight marks, six tackles, three clearances, four inside 50s, one goal and five intercepts. Mitch Robinson had 27 disposals, nine score involvements, seven intercepts, seven inside 50s and eight marks – extraordinary games by both chaps.

Won’t be too critical of the debut of Malcolm Rosas, he got through his debut game unscathed, got a few touches and I hope he can build on that.

The Battle between Ben King and Harris Andrews was fun to watch. I’d say on first glance, Harris won out and took some good intercept grabs at numerous points in the game, but I don’t think King lost any admirers in this one – he finished with 2.3 from eight disposals and five marks – three of those contested.

Grant Birchall’s performance was outstanding, played like bloke who has been in the competition for so long – 26 disposals, 13 marks, 436 metres gained and 17 of his 19 kicks were effective. Just a very composed figure in defence for Brisbane – they do have a few down there, but the experience he brings is so valuable.

Looking at the kids for Brisbane in this one. Both Keidean Coleman and Jaxon Prior had some moments in this one and I think they have a place in the side going forward. Not sure if they’re best 22 right now though. Dev Robertson was another one I looked at closely. Had 18 disposals, five marks and seven score involvements – thought he was solid without playing a starring role and that’s all he needs to do right now.

I haven’t been his biggest fan, but I felt so bad for Ryan Lester doing his hamstring in the opening quarter for his 150th game. You hate seeing injuries happen to anyone at the best of times let alone in a milestone match.

Whilst on the injury update, it was also sad seeing Darcy Gardiner go down with a shoulder injury. Did make me smile when he was being helped off and the ball (Don’t know how it was still playing around him) was going towards him and the trainers and just lazily tried to stick his foot out hoping for something as the Gold Coast player picked the footy up.

And on that amusing note, it’s time to put an end to what was a bit of a miserable QClash.

But it’s good news for Brisbane fans, who have won five games in a row and they’re in the top four!!! The next couple of weeks could well determine their fate within the top six of the competition, with home games against Richmond and the GWS Giants to come. Brisbane, Geelong, Port Adelaide and Sydney are all locked in with six wins for the year and occupying positions 3-6 on the ladder – and the Eagles and Richmond are bearing down as well.

As for the Suns, it may get a little worse before it gets better. They’ll get Touk Miller back in the side next weekend, which is great for their midfield stocks, but they have to travel to Geelong, where the Cats are clicking into good form right now and could smell blood in the water for another massive win.

 

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