It feels like it was a long time ago that both Greater Western Sydney and Brisbane were sitting 15th and 16th respectively with the win-loss record sitting at 1-3 after four rounds and pundits were starting to think that both sides were going to be also-rans as opposed to finals contenders.

That was only seven weeks ago.

Since then, much has changed. Brisbane have been on a winning tear – six wins on the trot, including big wins over Essendon, Port Adelaide, Gold Coast and claiming a massive scalp last week in the reigning premiers in Richmond.

The form of GWS over the past month has been quite impressive, in their own right. A big win over Adelaide in South Australia, they should’ve had Richmond on toast, but ultimately lost it in the dying moments, and the past two weeks have seen them hang on against Essendon and beating West Coast last Sunday, propelling them into the top eight for the first time this year.

However, looking at this game, it looks like they’ll be bumped back out of the eight by the end of the round, as Brisbane continued their merry way, destroying the Giants at the fortress that is the Gabba. They were ten from ten there last year up until the Preliminary Final, and since their round one defeat to the Swans up there, they’ve looked back to business, making it their fifth consecutive win at home, here.

It was a comprehensive beat down, the Lions putting on the first 40 points of the match and basically had the result stitched up by quarter time – as always, let’s try and break this review down as best we can.

 

HERE’S TO YOU MITCH ROBINSON

When was the last time you read the stats sheet or watched a game live and asked yourself the question about Mitch Robinson dominating a football game?

That’s not to say Mitch has been average by any means. In fact, I remember his first year at Brisbane after being a discard from Carlton and being one of four Lions to win the club’s best and fairest. The man can play – we always knew he could play.

But I can’t recall a game he’s played – here or at Carlton where he’s genuinely picked apart a team over four quarters. He’s had games at Brisbane – particularly on the wing, where he’s been stationed the past  – where he’s sliced up opposition with both his hardness around the contest, and then his ability to be such an effective user of the footy around the play.

He only had the three contested possessions in this one, but a winger’s job isn’t to get the contested ball, I like to think that the job for players on the wing is to be an outlet and then find a way to contribute in some capacity to the scoreboard – largely it’s them setting up the forwards, but when you kick four goals yourself, then you’re having a day out!

Out of his 30 disposals, a third of those were score involvements in addition to the bag of four goals. He also took 12 marks, recorded a massive 689 metres gained, nine inside 50s and eight intercepts. Just felt like he was doing everything a wingman should be doing – taking notes Bradley Hill?

It was only at the conclusion of round two that questions were being asked whether or not Mitch Robinson was past it after two pretty paltry individual performances, but it turns out we got an emphatic answer to that.

 

ANOTHER CAPTAIN’S GAME

At what point do we start to say Dayne Zorko is in career-best form? Is it too early? Or am I on the money? Because, much like his running buddy Jarryd Lyons, the Brisbane skipper has found another gear in his game and as a good midfield leader does, he drives how the rest of the side should be playing.

It was more of an offensive-minded game from Zorko, leading all players on the ground for disposals with 35 for the game, but he also recorded 12 score involvements, six clearances, six marks and seven inside 50s for the game.

His work rate around the stoppages in conjunction with his ability to push forward to the next contest is outstanding. He recorded 15 contested possessions, not only leading the club this week in contested ball, but this makes it the fourth consecutive week and seven of the last eight weeks that he’s put in double figures in contested possessions.

Furthermore, a lot of talk has been made of his smarts in traffic. His vision in the contest is brilliant and as his goal exemplified in the first quarter, it’s his quick thinking that plays such a massive part in his game. But in the absence of Lachie Neale, he’s stepping up in the blue-collared stuff as much as anyone else in the side.

 

A COUPLE OF DEFENSIVE GIANTS

Before we go into this, it’s important to recognize that Brisbane had 13 different goalkickers, sometimes it’s really good to note how potent a side is that they can find so many different avenues to goal. But between the keys of Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood, they only contributed for just two of Brisbane’s 19 goals, add Dan McStay to that then it’s four.

You can spin this one of two ways, or both if you’re feeling like you want to buck the trend. The first way is you can say that Brisbane don’t need to rely on either man to kick a bag to get the job done. Charlie Cameron only kicked one, but he gave off about four or five others – he could’ve easily had a bag of goals himself.

The other way is praise the work of some key Giants who haven’t had a great deal of exposure until the start of this season. Jack Buckley was a guy who I was pretty impressed with in a game against Melbourne late last season, but I thought against both Eric Hipwood and Joe Daniher inside 50, I wish I could bring up numbers in terms of one-on-one contests, because I reckon he was a player that could hold his own.

Connor Idun is the other guy I want to mention, In the previous two years, he only played a grand total of three games, but at 191cm, he was stationed at times on Daniher in particular, but the one thing that has him playing games a lot more this year is his effort. He won’t die wondering on a contest and his strength for someone playing as an undersized key is incredible.

Nick Haynes was… solid. He wasn’t spectacular, but he wasn’t dreadful either, came up with some big intercept grabs and tried to go about as Nick Haynes often does. But the bottom line is that he is missing both Phil Davis and Sam Taylor – both men very capable of playing the lock-down roles and peeling off their direct opponents to provide coverage and the spoil.

 

YOUNG LIONS

Some names here aside from Lachie Neale not playing for Brisbane that are in the current 22 are Jarrod Berry, Ryan Lester, Darcy Gardiner and Cam Rayner. You may not agree with some, but these five have been mainstays in the side for the past two years, so you may argue your case later.

All five bring something to the table and are important to a degree, but something as equally as important is depth. Depth is what separates the competition elites to the could’ve beens. And right now, the injuries to those above have created opportunities to a few of the younger, more inexperienced Lions to get that taste of senior footy. There’s a couple of them that I want to highlight here as players who I think will feature for this team permanently down the track.

Deven Robertson was a guy who I had enormous wraps on heading into the 2019 AFL Draft, but for some unknown bloody reason, he was bypassed as a first-round pick and was snapped up by Brisbane as an early second-round pick. I hope the Lions keep him on in the future, because his work around the contest, his willingness to absorb contact just as he gives it off, it helps open out the play and  it helps generate a scoring chance – 19 disposals, six score involvements and four tackles in a strong game.

Jaxon Prior’s run with the footy was good, I quite enjoyed how he was willing to take the game on at every chance – he finished with 16 disposals, 373 metres gained, was gifted a goal basically, but still, that’s a six-pointer and I’m busting my knee just to get a kick on the weekend. He also had five score involvements as well, sort of floating between the arcs.

I think the one I most impressed with was Keidean Coleman though. I know the kid got a bit of exposure last season, even played in a final for the Lions, but this kid looks as if he wants to lock down a spot in this 22. I thought his pressure was outstanding from start to finish, looked a real threat as the small crumbing forward-type – 1.1 and five score involvements from 13 disposals, three tackles and five marks, including a nice one he took in the second term.

I will also say that at times, James Madden looked unfazed anytime the Giants went forward, doesn’t feature on the stats sheet prominently, but was pretty confident in backing his abilities anytime the ball was sailing in his direction and came up with a couple of nice moments in game two – I’ll be watching him a little more over the coming weeks.

 

GIANTS’ FORWARDS OR BRISBANE’S BACKS – WHAT STOOD OUT MORE?

I’ll skip the self-praise of the question and get to it, because I’ve been pacing around the house all night in lockdown trying to figure it out.

It’s important to understand that Jesse Hogan and Toby Greene were not out there and as it currently stands, they are the Giants’ two best forwards at the moment, seemingly capable of kicking three, four or five goals anytime they cross the white line. Also Brent Daniels wasn’t playing either and I think a lot of people sell him a bit short – pardon the pun.

But you can only do with what you got – the Giants had Jeremy Finlayson, who spent more time finger-pointing to his teammates than he actually did get his hands on the footy. I don’t know what Leon Cameron was doing playing Harry Himmelberg as the sort of floating man – one moment he’s at full-forward and five minutes later, he’s pushed all the way down to full back trying to stop the Lions from putting another one in.

Daniel Lloyd looked threatening at times, but for about 75-80 percent of the game, he wasn’t looking likely to kick a goal. Jake Ricciardi – a little similar to Himmelberg, playing sometimes as a forward, sometimes as a defender. I don’t know where he stands with Leon Cameron’s plans and poor Matt Flynn – you know he’s going to try his heart out, but he was largely against one of the best key backs in the league in Harris Andrews and playing the pinch-hitting ruck to Shane Mumford.

What also doesn’t help the Giants’ forwards is the ball-use. Overall, it was just dysfunctional, and the defenders such as Andrews and Marcus Adams, who I thought played a very strong game in this one as well, were able to take intercept marks at will – Andrews had the four, Adams the two. Madden, Grant Birchall and Brandon Starcevich all had a pair of intercept marks each too.

I also thought Daniel Rich was allowed to run riot with the footy off half back – kicked 1.2 but it could’ve just as easily have been three as no Giant opted to give him any respect as the Lions surged forward.

And just before I conclude this, some numbers on the Giants’ midfield brigade. Yes I thought a number of them won their fair share of contested ball and clearances, but these kicking efficiency numbers left a lot to be desired:

Tim Taranto – Just over 30 percent
Tom Green – 37.5 percent
Josh Kelly – just over 54 percent
Jacob Hopper – 61 percent.

For some of your prime movers of the footy, it’s not good enough, could go with a few others that I think shouldn’t be in this team, but the review is long enough as it is and I’m sure you all know who I’ll possibly be talking about.

 

THE MEDI-SUB DEBATE

I’m sure you’ve read it before, and it probably won’t be the last time you read it here or anywhere else. But there should be a law preventing coaches to debut players and then proceed to name him as the medical sub.

Everyone talked about Hawthorn’s Connor Downie in round one, but this time it’s the young Irishman Callum Brown’s turn. Imagine being his family in Ireland, being excited to hear that this young lad is going to make his debut…. Only for him to not play at all. In Ireland it would probably be the crack of dawn, meaning that there would’ve been a few people over there who would’ve got up early for literally no reason, because he didn’t end up being used.

Gerard Healy went on a rant on Fox Footy, and when I find myself agreeing with him word for word, there’s a big issue here. It’s absolutely rubbish, we know the rule was brought in to give an extra player the possibility for an opportunity, and I don’t mind that, but every kid’s dream is to actually run onto the ground in their first game, not stuck in the back-row of the bench while seeing Shane Mumford eat up your playing minutes.

It’s utter crap and the league needs to have a look at amending this rule.

 

OTHER BITS

Callan Ward and Lachie Whitfield were GWS’ best players on the day – Ward’s endeavour in the middle, and Whitfield’s class with the ball on the outside were two things I think Leon Cameron would genuinely be happy with. Ward had 32 disposals, five clearances, eight marks and kicked two goals, whilst Whitfield had the 30 disposals, 11 marks, six score involvements and 459 metres gained.

Another Giant that I thought worked hard was Isaac Cumming. Genuinely had no idea who this player was at the start of the year, but not only has he broken out in this side, but he is holding down a post on the half-back line – 28 disposals, 12 marks, 508 metres gained and four intercept marks.

I was paying a close eye on who Brandon Starcevich was playing on this week, given all this talk he’s in All-Australian consideration. Spent a lot of time on both Jeremy Finlayson and Zach Sproule, both of which are a little taller and just a tad heavier. Was also on Josh Kelly at times, and I think he may have been on Daniel Lloyd as well. Thought he did have some nice moments, but I’ll keep my eye on him in the next few weeks, because his performance in this one did leave me a little wanting.

I can’t go a Brisbane review without talking about one of my favourites in Zac Bailey – how did he do? Well in truth, he was a little quieter than he has been in recent weeks, but still managed to clock up 18 disposals and one goal, he also had three clearances and nine score involvements, so he was solid.

Even though I’ve crapped on his kicking efficiency, it is also wise to point out Tim Taranto’s work in the stoppages, had five clearances and 16 of his 36 disposals were contested. He also laid six tackles as well. Thought he worked hard, just that his kicking was the biggest disappointment.

For someone who called himself a ‘barometer’ Rhys Mathieson was a bit of a non-factor in this one. Had 11 contested possessions, but nothing genuinely stood out. I can see this bloke feeling the ire of everyone real quick.

Whilst not as big as he has been over the past month, I thought Jarryd Lyons stood up today when required – 25 disposals, 12 of those contested, six clearances and six score involvements a good performance, not great, but good.

Oscar McInerney could’ve challenged as the best man on the ground if he was a lot straighter for goal. I thought his ruck work and then his follow-up work was outstanding in comparison to what GWS were running with in the ruck – 30 hitouts, 20 disposals, nine score involvements and four clearances, but kicking 1.2 was the only disappointing factor in his game.

A shoutout to Lachie Ash, who was another Giant who didn’t stop working to repel multiple inside 50 entries that Brisbane were handing out. Kicking was a little sketchy at times, going at just under 79 percent, but his efforts to rebound and defend I thought were very good – finished with 26 disposals, five rebound 50s, eight marks, four tackles and five intercepts.

We’ve seen the Fitzroy colours worn from time to time whenever Brisbane come down to Melbourne, but is there any chance the old Fitzroy logo can make a return a little more often as well? Thought it was pretty cool seeing the Brisbane boys run around like it was Fitzroy of old. Props to the former premiership Lion Chris Johnson who designed the jumper, probably one of my favourites of Sir Doug Nicholls Round(s).

And on that note, that’s about all I’ve got to say about this game. Another steamrolling victory by the Lions, who are travelling along quite nicely with seven wins in a row. Providing the fixture doesn’t get changed around given all the uncertainty going on in Victoria at the moment, the Lions will face Melbourne next week in what will be a bloody cracking game of footy – Melbourne are on a roll themselves, having taken care of the Dogs pretty easily on Friday night, taking top of the ladder once again.

As for the Giants, disappointing yes, but not the end of the world. They are missing a lot of players in their best 22, but they have still managed to find themselves in games, even winning some more often than not since the start of the year. They do have the week off, meaning everyone will be fresh and rested ahead of their round 13 clash against North Melbourne in Tasmania. It’s a chance for a big win, but North in Tassie could prove to be a little more difficult than you think.

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