You get a lot of hyperbole associated with footy.
So-and-so made a statement! Such-and-such sent a message. On any given week, you will read a newspaper or a website and there those lines will be. They’re part of the commentary around the game and for the most part, they’re completely meaningless.
And then sometimes, there’s a bit more to them.
Sometimes, there is a definite feeling when watching a contest that one team is announcing itself as a contender at the expense of another, and that is what we got in the Brisbane Lions’ victory over Geelong. For 15 of their past 17 encounters, Geelong had walked away victorious. It was the Cats ending the Brisbane dream in 2020 and bundling the Lions out of the finals in the penultimate game, and you could tell it stung this Lions team.
They hit the first quarter with a purpose, completely blanketing a normally-potent Geelong team, establishing a five-goal lead, and never relenting.
In the end, it was the Lions by 44 points in a performance that did send a message, did make a statement, and no… that’s not just hyperbole.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly
CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
I admit it – I have been pretty harsh on Dayne Zorko over the last 12 months. As the leader of the club, I expect him to set the example for others to follow, and when that example includes staging for free kicks, giving away 50m penalties and basically, being a jackass, I reckon I have every right to be scathing.
And then he comes out and does this, like some type of wonderful Jekyll and Hyde character, without the Hyde-part. When he concentrates, applies himself to task at hand and plays football first and funny buggers second, there is no more accomplished ball winner in the game than Dayne Zorko. If there is a contested footy to be won, you are simply not getting your mitts on it without a fight.
And if you do manage to grab possession of the footy, just try to break loose of the vice-like tackle that will soon follow. It’s a hiding to nothing when you play against a Dayne Zorko in this mood.
He laid a game-high 12 tackles to go with his 24 touches and ten marks in a near quadruple-double (18 kicks, 6 handballs, ten marks, 12 tackles… close!) as he threw himself into contest after contest, aiding his team in establishing their match-winning lead.
Zorko’s best work came in the first half, where he picked up 16 touches and six tackles (five in the first quarter) to set the tone for his team. Rhys Mathieson might call himself the barometer of this team, but Dayne Zorko is the pulse. When he is in control, everything around him flows beautifully, and the team seems very, very healthy. When he is erratic and loses control, the team goes into cardiac arrest, and unless someone is able to shock him back into a normal rhythm, the Lions soon flatline.
Teams know they can get to Zorko. They have tried before and succeeded. With September football well and truly on the horizon for the Lions, a composed Dayne Zorko may be the difference between another solid campaign and one that ends in glory. All he has to do is concentrate. As a leader… it’s not that hard to do.
LYONS TAMES THE TOP CAT
It wasn’t mentioned a lot through the broadcast, but I loved the duel between the two respective hard nuts in the middle – Jarryd Lyons and Joel Selwood.
Lyons has continued to grow his reputation in 2021, and he did himself no disservice here, with a very solid outing against the Geelong captain.
With most of the focus on the Lachie Neale v Mark O’Connor rematch from earlier in the season, the Lyons-Selwood clash was like the semi-main event, but it kind of stole the show. Lyons battled his heart out against the Geelong champ, and took the chocolates quite handily in the end. He finished with 24 touches and five clearances to get the better of Selwood, who had just 13 touches for the game.
When you can go head-to-head with a champion of the game and emerge victorious, you know you’re doing something very, very right, and Jarryd Lyons has hardly put a foot wrong since he commenced with the Lyons last season.
He was huge in the absence of Lachie Neale earlier in the season, and is now adjusting to life as the number two option in the midfield again. It is just a bonus that he is still playing like he is the number one man.
THE BIG O
Can you imagine how well Oscar McInerney would go if he opted to take front spot at throw ins? He gives it up way too readily.
Really, that would be the only criticism I have of him in this game. He did everything else just about perfectly. Oscar was the dominant big man on the park, picking up 18 touches and six marks to go along with his monster return of nine individual clearances.
McInerney relished playing against the undersized Mark Blicavs, who battled on well in the air, yet failed to capitalise on his superior running ability. He had the opportunity to really stretch Oscar and make him work for his touches, but he just did not seem to be able to manufacture situations where it worked for him.
In contrast. McInerney dropped into the hole at half back repeatedly, and handled the one-two punch of Blicavs and Ratugolea (who Luke Hodge hilariously called “Ratagolouie” in the early stages of the broadcast) handily.
Whilst I am not sure that Oscar is the ruckman the Lions would love to have going into September if they had the choice of the league’s best, I am fairly certain that if they find themselves matched up against the Cats in September, they’d be more than pleased to have him as their number one man if the Cats are looking at playing this combination again. Ratugolea simply has no tank.
THE OTHER THREE-HEADED MONSTER
For the last little while, there has been a heap of press around the three-pronged attack of the Cats. Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron and Gary Rohan have combined to provide a fantastic one-two-three punch up forward that has been used to devastating effect.
But the Lions were well and truly up to the challenge in this one.
Whilst many point to the presence of Jeremy Cameron as the largest factor in the Cats’ ascension to close to flag favouritism before this weekend, it has been the work of Gary Rohan that has surprised many. Drawing the third-best defender, Rohan has continually managed to slip under the guard of opposition teams and contribute to the potency of the Geelong forward line.
But they were impotent in this one.
And a lot of the credit should go to Jack Payne, who was a late call up to replace the ill Grant Birchall, and he more than rewarded the Lions’ faith in him. He completely shut Rohan down, restricting him to just five touches through the first three quarters, and holding him goalless until that point.
With the game safely in hand, Rohan was able to get away a little in the last, collecting six touches and kicking a goal, but as they say in the classics, that was junk time, son! The real damage was done in the first 90 minutes of footy, and in that period, Rohan was a ghost and Jack Payne was Peter Venkman.
Jeremy Cameron ended up without a goal for the game, well-held by Harris Andrews and forced to travel far and wide to earn his touches. He had 13 of them, but just four contributed to an eventual scoring opportunity. Andrews, meanwhile, had the customary ten one-percenters as he took great delight in killing contests.
But the biggest job was handed to Marcus Adams, and man… did he deliver!
I’ve seen big forwards get hold of Adams before. I saw Franklin make him look outsized and slow one day, but sometimes things just go right. Today was one of those days for Marcus. He had 13 touches and ten intercepts as he read the flight of the ball well to limit the opportunities available for Tom Hawkins, holding the big man to just one goal and three score involvements. Hawkins is usually so damaging in the way he brings others into the game, but Adams gave him no room to operate. Closing down the space and getting away with really subtle holds here and there. Some would call it illegal, but I am very much of the Jesse Ventura school of bending the rules – it ain’t cheating unless you get caught.
This was possibly the best all-round defensive game of Adams’ career, and whilst there are a few others deserving of votes in this one, it is pretty difficult to keep Adams out of the top few on the park.
THAT MAD IRISHMAN
Yeah, look… I have a bit of Irish blood. If I want to call Zach Tuohy a bit of a mad Irishman, I’m allowed. Because he is.
His ability to run forward and lose his man in the flow of the game is fast becoming one of the Cats’ best weapons. The nature of the Geelong defence saw him switch up on Lincoln McCarthy, Keidean Coleman and even Zac Bailey points, but it was his willingness to dart off, leave them in his wake and sneak forward to snag goals that made him so valuable, and has made him valuable all season.
It is telling that the Cats’ leading goal kickers in this game did not play in the front half. Tuohy spent the majority of the game across half back and drifting deep inside defensive fifty, whilst Isaac Smith patrolled the wing. Given how well-held the Geelong forward line was, it was left to those runners to convert on the scoreboard. They did what they could, but it was never going to be enough.
The Cats have quite a few contenders in the 2021 best and fairest award already, but the form of Tuohy this season should see him poll really well. Often playing the role of Mr Fix-It, he does what is necessary to aid this team so often. It’s just a pity his efforts were not matched by several around him in this one.
NEXT UP ON THE SPRINGBOARD…
Look, I get that forwards will get away with the occasional dive. We’ve all seen it happen.
That doesn’t mean we have to like it, does it?
The Geelong defenders were pretty pissed off with the ease in which Joe Daniher went to grass in the second quarter, earning himself a charity goal and plenty of attention from the Cats defenders in the moments following.
In a game that was bubbling, Daniher’s anaemic effort to hold his ground, and his exaggerated flop forward were a bit of a lowlight on the night. In a clash that was being contested in a ferocious fashion, to see him lurch forward after some very minimal contact from Lachie Henderson elicited a groan from lovers of good, hard footy everywhere. And for the umpire to fall for his antics, hook, line and sinker was an indictment on the official’s ability to discern what is real and what is acting.
In the end, Brisbane fans would be pleased that Joe was up and about, finishing with four goals for his team, but to have one of them gifted to him in that manner… it just doesn’t sit right with me.
FROM THE PENTHOUSE…
… right to the outhouse.
At three quarter time of this game, I mentioned to my fellow Mongrels that Tom Stewart was close to the worst player on the ground.
It was bound to happen, right? Just over 24 hours after he was named the number one player in our most recent Mongrel 50, he came out and was soundly beaten by Charlie Cameron, sucked into retaliating/overreacting and gave away a 50 metre penalty, and had just one intercept possession to that point of the game.
Credit where it’s due – Brisbane and their coach, Chris Fagan, did a masterful job of nullifying the man who last week took a record-equalling ten intercept marks, but the way Stewart was thrown off his game should be a concern for Geelong fans.
He has always seemed so composed and calm when the footy headed in his direction, but the combination of Charlie Cameron up for the fight, and a Brisbane team that afforded him no space or opportunity to zone off and pick off errant kicks seemed to quickly get under Stewart’s skin.
He finished the game with 17 disposals, ten of which came in the dead rubber last quarter, and five intercepts. If you’re a stat-watcher, you may look at that and think he has a decent game – do not be fooled. He was obliterated by the Brisbane forwards to the point where he was completely ineffective.
Teams will have watched the way Brisbane operated against Stewart. He has been a thorn in the side of so many for so long, and the Lions may have just laid out a blueprint for others to follow. With the Bombers next week, I wonder who gets the job in making his accountable and trying to take him away from his game?
LET THEM PLAY!
There is the perception that Aussie Rules is a tough sport. A rough sport, where elite athletes hurl their bodies into the fray with reckless abandon to win the ball.
It is a perception that has been developed over dozens of years as the game found ways to market itself as one of the most exciting, physical and courageous sports you could play. Or maybe that WAS the perception at one stage, because now, whenever there seems to be any danger of someone losing their temper a little bit and a contest getting a little physical, the umpires start blowing their whistle like they’re trying to attract a mate.
Things got a little heated in the second quarter, with both sides wanting to take a stand and not back down when it came to physical clashes. Sensing the unrest, the umpires went to work. Free kick after free kick was paid to both sides that saw every 50-50 contest judged as an infraction, and every opportunity to pay a free kick and take control of the game taken.
It got to the point where James Brayshaw on commentary announced that the umpires were “all over it”.
And that is kind of the problem, isn’t it?
No one was doing anything too untoward. No one was throwing punches or hitting anyone in the head. No one was getting injured, but the umpires… they kind of felt it was their duty to ensure that nobody even thought of taking things that route. I have to ask… is that their job?
Should they be there to control a game, or respond to the actions of those playing it?
Some of the decisions paid in rapid fire succession struck me as pre-emptive strikes against players who were getting a little willing in their actions. They were attempting to stop things before they started and you know what? They bloody did it!
54 free kicks were paid in this game. 37 of them were paid in the first half!
The umpires took control of a game because they felt they had to, and I am not sure this is right. I might have a little too much neanderthal in me (Mrs Mongrel and I did some National Geographic test at one stage and it turns out I had a slightly higher percentage of neanderthal than her… it was a sad day) but I enjoy when players show how much a game, contest or moment means to them. I want them to be invested. I want them to be giving their all, and I want them cracking in as hard as they can.
And I don’t want the umpire’s whistle to be blowing every 15 seconds because they’re a little worried that things could get out of hand. Pay the free kicks that are there, stop jumping at shadows every time two players clash bodies and umpire what you see, not what you feel.
And let the boys play.
WHO WON THE NEALE V O’CONNOR CLASH?
Well, Neale was wounded and carrying an arm that you’d reckon was at about 60% for the majority of the game. That made O’Connor’s job a bit easier, but kudos to Neale for sucking it up, getting back out on the park and taking two or three more late tackles or hits over the duration of the game.
The Cats targeted Neale, and though he was banged up, he responded very well. Well enough to take the chocolates against O’Connor? Hmmmm, maybe not – we can only assess O’Connor on what he did, irrespective of Neale’s health, and prior to junk time starting in the last quarter, the 2020 Brownlow Medallist had just 14 touches of the footy. Ten in the last makes it look a lot better, but O’Connor gets the nod here – just.
HOW IMPRESSIVE IS DEV ROBERTSON?
I really like this kid – runs hard and in straight lines at the footy. It is far too common for players in general – not just young ones – to stick their arm out and go half-heartedly at a footy in dispute.
Not Dev Robertson.
It’s as though one-on-one contests with Mitch Robinson at training have conditioned him to know that there is nothing on the field that can hurt more than Robbo crashing into you on the training track. Robertson attacks the contest without fear, and a couple of his hard ball wins were exceptionally good in this game.
Some kids have that innate ability to take the game on, commit their body and walk away to tell the tale – Dev Robertson looks as though he will be one of those players.
IS THIS THE VERSION OF CHARLIE CAMERON THAT THE LIONS NEED IN 2021?
The thing I loved most about Cameron in this game is that he did not lose his feet. Whilst others around him, including his direct opponent, went to ground, he was on his bike looking for the footy as they scrambled to regain their footing.
Even in instances where he did get bowled over, Charlie’s recovery was lightning fast. There was no posturing or playing for free kicks. He was all business, and really could have ended the evening with five goals to his name. 3.3 is nothing to sneeze at, but you get the feeling Charlie could have something special for us before the season is done and dusted.
DOES LUKE DAHLHAUS NEED TO WORRY ABOUT HIS PLACE IN THIS GEELONG TEAM?
Yep, in a nutshell. He sure does.
He had a great 2020, and was a critical component of the forward structure of the Cats, but I am not so sure he is critical this season. He looks tentative, fumbles or double-grabs a little too much for my liking, and is not having the defensive presence you’d like for the Cats.
With Gryan Miers not too far away, and Quinton Narkle sitting on the pine as the sub, maybe a week or two to “freshen up” could do the trick for Dahlhaus?
Did I ignore Cam Guthrie in this review? Not really. He had the most touches on the park, with 34 for the game, but I really felt as though he didn’t hurt with those touches. I notice that all bar one were on the defensive side of centre half forward, which indicates he was getting a lot of link-up touches.
How good is Daniel Rich’s kicking? My goodness, he was doing the type of things some of the other “elite” kicks in the league would only dream of doing. No wonder the Lions love the footy in his hands so much.
I’m still not convinced on Shaun Higgins. He was incredibly fumbly and unsure of himself early in the game, but did get a lot better as the contest wore on. There may come a time this season where there are questions asked as to whether he is in the Cats’ best 22.
And I am not sure he’ll like the answer.
Dangerfield… another “almost” game from him. Taking a while to work back into form, and some of that kicking… ugh!
Next week, the Cats get the Bombers. I am secretly hoping for an Essendon win over Melbourne to make this clash a really big one.
The Lions are supposed to get the Crows… somewhere. Geez, I long for the days when things were “normal”. Remember them? Don’t forget them – we can have them back, you know?
And I’m out – great win by the Lions. I don’t know whether this was an off-day for Geelong compounded by a pumped up Lions team, or maybe Brisbane are just that damn good when things start clicking. It has certainly made the top four race a little more interesting.
Massive thanks to our members, as always – HB