The Brisbane Lions notched their second successive win over Richmond and their sixth win in a row in this AFL season, cementing themselves as a top four contender and raising some serious questions about the undermanned Tiger outfit in the process.
In a physical, and sometimes spiteful contest, the Lions were able to put a break on the Tigers in the third quarter and never looked back.
Four goals each from Zac Bailey and Eric Hipwood, a blistering first half from Hugh McCluggage, and some aggression from Mitch Robinson and Rhys Mathieson were just a few of the highlights from a great Brisbane win.
Let’s jump into The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly… or something a little like it.
You know, each week I trundle on off after games, and take my seat at my desk. I have notes and prompts about what fits into a certain category and how I am going to structure a review. However, tonight I just started watching the game and didn’t take as many notes. I ebbed and flowed with the rhythm of the contest and allowed myself to fall into the contest, itself.
So, given I broke with tradition once, I might just do it again.
Below are ten things I loved about the Brisbane win over the Tigers, and at the conclusion of that, there might be a few things I really did not like. Let’s see how this plays out.
… THE MONGREL
Some do not like this aspect of the game, or a player, and I can understand why. They want a game where the onus is placed solely on the athleticism and skill of the players. They don’t like when things get a little willing and there is a bit of chirping amongst the boys.
I do not count myself as one of those supporters – I love when there is a bit of aggro, a bit of spite and a bit of mongrel in the game.
This is not just about Rhys Mathieson and what he adds to the Brisbane team – there is also Mitch Robinson throwing himself at contests like Joe Ganino throwing himself at whatever’s left at 3am tomorrow morning in a Coffs Harbour over 40s club.
You just cannot teach this type of thing – players either have it, or they don’t, and despite Mathieson struggling to find a regular place in this Brisbane team, he did himself no damage whatsoever with his efforts in this one.
Whether he was going head-to-head with Dustin Martin in the middle, or making himself dangerous around half forward, Mathieson’s ability to make opponents look over their shoulder just to see where he is, is the kind of thing that puts players off their game. Even just a little bit… sometimes, that’s all it takes.
When you add in the ferocious attack on the body from Mitch Robinson, you have a pair that may not have a heap of sizzle, but man they have plenty of steak!
It was only around 12 months ago I was openly questioning what Mitch Robinson brought to the wing role that someone like Zac Bailey couldn’t replicate – THIS! Performances like this, complete with hard-hitting tackles and a love of the contest are what he brings, and as long as he is playing good footy, he remains the heart and soul player that adds more to the team than just kicks and tackles.
The Lions have a one-two punch with these two that will not take a backwards step, and who are more than happy to make a stand when some physicality needs to be introduced to the play.
Good teams have at least one player with a fair bit of mongrel in them. These Lions have two.
… THE UNSUNG HERO
A lot of people will be raving about the efforts of Hugh McCluggage in the first half, and how the young Lions would be looking at another possible three-vote game.
Yeah, he was good, but I loved the game of Jarryd Lyons, and given he has operated in the shadow of Lachie Neale for a while now, I reckon it’s time he gets the recognition he deserves.
Lyons was huge in this game. He picked up 26 touches and added eight clearances as he was the best in-and-under worker on the park. He did it all, running hard forward to create, and slot a goal of his own, and he worked just as hard defensively, laying six tackles.
You don’t want to beat a story to death, but he is one of the best third-chance players the league has ever seen. How good would he be at Adelaide right now? At Gold Coast? We don’t have to worry about that, because he is an absolute star for the Lions and his reputation continues to grow as he puts the midfield on his back in the absence of Lachie Neale.
Make no mistake – this has been a Herculean effort from Lyons over the last month, and with their Brownlow Medallist still a month or so away, Brisbane will continue to ask for more from Lyons. Right now, you’d say he is well and truly up for the challenge.
… HARRIS ANDREWS V TOM LYNCH
This was a marquee match-up, with Lynch looking great early, fading out for two and a half quarters, before realising he’d better pull his finger out to have a respectable stat-line.
In the interim, Harris Andrews had some fun, recording his ninth career defensive double-double (13 spoils, ten intercepts) as he owned the air in Brisbane’s defensive 50. This moved Andrews into equal third all-time for this defensive stat with Daniel Talia. For more on this, our Defensive Player of the Year weekly column covers it in detail.
Andrews was allowed a clean run at the footy from half way through the first quarter onwards, with the Tigers’ bigs not doing their work to put a body on him to impact his run at the contest. The delivery inside 50 went from being kicks to advantage the leading forward to slow, high entries that almost invited Andrews to come in over the top and destroy the contest.
That said, after Lynch got out for a couple of early marks, Andrews tightened the screws, as did Marcus Adams on Jack Riewoldt.
With three goals in the first quarter, it looked as though it may have been a big night brewing for Jack Riewoldt. Marcus Adams looked very nervous as the former three-time Coleman Medallist eyed a big day. However, Chris Fagan back Adams to turn things around in the second quarter.
And that’s what he did.
Adams appeared way more desperate to impact the contest after the first stanza, running past Riewoldt at one point to take a grab in the back pocket. It was a very solid turnaround from the Brisbane defensive unit as they looked a little vulnerable in the first quarter.
… BRANDON STARCEVICH TAKING ON DUSTY
We’ve been singing the praises of Brandon Starcevich at The Mongrel for a while now, and it looks as though everyone is starting to catch up. Of course, Brisbane fans have been on his bandwagon for ages – they know they’ve got a good one.
His clashes with Dustin Martin were enthralling in this game, with Starcevich given the unenviable task of slowing down the triple Norm Smith Medallist whenever he ventured inside 50.
Starcevich was well and truly up for the job!
Whilst Dusty did manage to dish off a couple of direct goal assists, the scoring column remained empty for him, with the young Lion notching a couple of great, desperation spoils on his highly-decorated teammate.
By halfway through the last quarter, Martin had put the cue in the rack, and Starcevich was declared the winner of their duel. His star continues to rise – just this week he was named as part of Matt Oman’s Rolling All-Australian Team at The Mongrel, so his efforts are being noticed all over the country – not just at Brisbane.
… PLAYERS SMACKING AWAY THE “DON’T ARGUE”
Tell me this didn’t get you going!
Firstly, it was Mitch Robinson, almost leaping over Dustin Martin’s attempted fend off to drag him down and win a holding the ball decision.
Next, it was Jarryd Lyons’ turn as he smacked the attempted fend off away and did the same, winning a free kick for his footy smarts.
You cannot tell me that Brisbane haven’t really gone to work on this aspect of the game. It was a couple of seasons ago I watched Charlie Cameron attack the Dusty fend off and drag him down during the pre-season. This type of thing becomes a team mindset, and when you get several players doing it, it renders what is usually a potent offensive weapon as impotent.
It was not Martin’s night in this one, and the intelligent and well-drilled efforts of the team to prevent Martin from using his favourite tactic caused two turnovers. Not only that, they planted a seed of doubt in his mind whenever he got the footy.
A great miniature win on that front for Brisbane.
… THE YOUNG BRISBANE TALENT
Now, this Brisbane team isn’t just in a premiership window because they have good veterans. No, no, no… their kids are starting to really show what they can do.
Keidean Coleman looked steady, balanced and composed with the footy in hand. Quiet in the first half, the 21-year-old stepped up in the second half and demonstrated clean hands with the slippery footy.
Dev Roberston’s 16 touches and six tackles were enough to make me sit up and take notice, and his full chested attack on the footy at half back at times made his efforts really stand out.
And people forget this – Zac Bailey is just 21-years-old.
You read that correctly. It seems like he has been around for years and years, doesn’t it? He is only now coming into his own, and will one day be a star of the league. With a career-high four goals in this game, the future sure looks bright.
Not to be outdone, the man who’d make a great catwalk model, Eric Hipwood, is only 23, himself. He snagged four goals against high calibre opposition (Broad) and actually took a couple of nice contested grabs in the process.
… TOBY NANKERVIS
I loved his game. His big-bodied attack on the ruck contests, the way he’d drift back into defensive 50 to save the day…
Nank may have lost the hit-outs, but I could not help feel he was winning everywhere else. He consistently made Oscar McInerney play from behind at stoppages, and Nank’s five clearances indicate that he was far more adept at reading the ball and taking clean possession than his counterpart.
Nankervis has always been seen as a bit of a battler, but what is, is blue-collar. If you needed someone to help bury a body, I reckon Nank would be a great choice – nothing fazes him, and without him, the Tigers would have been up the proverbial creek in this one.
… A GLIMPSE
There was one passage of play that made anyone who looks further than the current day think “Oooooh, the Tigers have something here.”
Riley Collier-Dawkins’ run out of the guts in the second quarter, as he feigned handballs and kept running inside 50 gave a strong indication that Richmond may have struck gold.
He dished to Patrick Naish (who I almost just called Chris) and he handballed over his head to Jack Ross for not just an excellent team goal, but a goal that displayed that these Tiger cubs can play.
RCD… one to keep an eye on.
Really busted a gut for Richmond in this one, on a day when the rest of his small forwards decided that finding the footy was a little too tough for them.
Aarts got to the right spots at the fall of the ball several times, and his two goals from 17 touches were almost enough to cover for the ineptitude of Daniel Rioli and Jason Castagna.
I actually didn’t know Castagna was playing until the third quarter.
ANOTHER GOOD CAPTAIN’S PERFORMANCE
At 32, it’s about time Dayne Zorko showed the kind of maturity and leadership he has over the past couple of weeks.
Earlier this season, it seemed as though he’d fallen back into the habit of acting like a knob and trying to get rewarded for being one. Staging for free kicks, trying to draw 50m penalties, and h=giving away 50s of his own… Zorko was close to embarrassing himself.
He was very good again in this one, collecting a game-high 28 touches, six clearances and a monster 11 inside 50 deliveries. This was the game of a captain – he has turned things around from early in the year, and in a funny way, I am proud of him… kind of like most fathers are when their sons stop acting like idiots*.
*I am not his father, I swear.
I DIDN’T LOVE
… EVERYONE ACTING LIKE MARLION PICKETT COMMITTED A CAPITAL OFFENCE
Yeah, there was a bit of feeling in the game at the point where Marlion Pickett ran at Brandon Starcevich and dropped him with a hard, relatively high tackle in the last quarter.
Guys, I know everyone likes to sensationalise things when reporting on our game, but was there really that much in this one?
Was it worth a free kick?
Yeah, it was. But was it worth a report?
My hope is that this report gets thrown out rather quickly. And furthermore, had the umpire, who was so quick on the trigger to report Pickett, actually paid the too high free kick to him just moments before, perhaps Pickett would not have been so pissed off that he felt he needed to take matters into his own hands, to begin with.
The umpire missed a blatant too high free kick in the preceding contest leading to the Pickett-Starcevich clash, and his decision not to make that call indirectly (hell, maybe directly ) led to the follow up.
… OSCAR MCINERNEY ALLOWING NANKERVIS FRONT SPOT AT THROW INS
I really feel like Oscar McInerney could be a very good ruckman in this league. Some may already think he is, and that’s fair enough, but at boundary throw ins in this game, he looked about four steps too slow on way too many occasions.
The Big O constantly gave up front spot at stoppages, allowing Toby Nankervis to do as he pleased. Nank’s 21 hit outs were dwarfed by McInerney’s 35, however, around the ground, Nank was all over the Big O., and it often left the Brisbane giant to tackle as he could not work his way to the footy.
Oscar may lack a bit of the physical power in the contests, but he has to make up for that with footy smarts. Being five metres behind the opposition at stoppages when the throw ins were dropping short all night – that does not demonstrate footy smarts at all.
… PLAYERS LEADING WITH THEIR HEAD AND GAINING FREE KICKS
I really felt for Liam Baker early in the game.
Twice, he had a Brisbane player running right at him, half fall into him and get a free kick for their troubles. Baker’s crime? Being there.
This has been a bit of a bugbear for me for a while. Players often slip or dive into an oncoming opponent and whenever there is contact made, it seems as though the umps are so jumpy around anything head-high that the whistle blows and a free kick is awarded.
Baker was basically just standing his ground on a couple of occasions and didn’t even attempt to tackle – his only recourse to avoid his opponent crashing into his chest of midriff with their head was to move completely out of the way. That’s not what I want to see players doing.
It wasn’t a big deal, but players in general are as shifty as Shifty Jim Shifterton… the shiftiest man in town, and they know that by awkwardly falling toward a stationary opponent, they’re basically going to be rewarded. I’d like to see a bit of that let go, particularly when the “offending” player isn’t actually initiating the contact.
… DAMIEN HARDWICK NOT GIVING HUGH MCCLUGGAGE THE RESPECT HE DESERVES…
… until it was too late.
McCluggage came into this game on fire, and he started out matched up on Marlion Pickett, but the two played wide of each other for the entire first half.
What a mistake.
The logical thing to do was the have a word in Kamdyn McIntosh’s ear and have him play a defensive wing role on the in-form McCluggage. Hardwick opted not to do this, obviously believing McIntosh’s seven first half touches (one in the first quarter) would be more than enough to offset the damage being done by the young Brisbane star.
For those who didn’t watch the game, or read the above section on McCluggage… it was nowhere near enough. Liam Baker started picking up the slack in the second half, but that really felt like closing the barn door after the horse had bolted.
Was this a case of arrogance on Hardwick’s behalf? Or was he backing his guys in to do the job? I’m not too sure, but what we ended up with was McCluggage having 18 touches in the first half and Pickett and McIntosh combined for 13.
A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS TO FINISH OFF
WAS THE FREE KICK DISCREPANCY SOMETHING OF NOTE?
I suppose that depends on who you barrack for, right?
Me… I’m neutral and thought there were some glaring misses both ways. The Lions were +12 in free kicks, so I am sure a few Richmond supporters will be none-too-enthused about the regularity of the whistle for Brisbane, however, the two non-calls for holding the ball against Pickett and Naish early in the last quarter were the two that jumped out at me as amongst the worst for the night.
WHO DO YOU DROP IF YOU’RE THE TIGERS?
Daniel Rioli had one of his all-too-frequent disappearing act games. His seven touches included four in the last quarter. Not sure what the hell he was doing in the first three quarters, but the only way Hardwick could be pleased with his output is if he instructed him to stay as far away from the footy as he could.
He was awesome at that.
The Tigers could get 3-4 players back next week, so some of the kids will probably make way, as well.
I know Richmond have a culture of sticking by their players, but Rioli must be so frustrating to put your faith in.
WHAT’S UP WITH BACHAR?
The stats look fine – 27 touches at 82% efficiency are the type of stats any defender would take, but in watching Houli, I just got the feeling he was a little less sure of himself than we’ve been used to.
Maybe he is not completely right after that ongoing calf issue stemming from last season, but he just looked a little out of sorts and unconvincing with the footy in hand in this game. I reckon it’s worth keeping an eye on him.
And that’ll do me. My guess is that most prefer the Good, Bad and Ugly format, but sometimes… I just need to change things up for my own sanity, guys. Hope you don’t mind too much.