Ahh yes… The fabled Q Clash.
The Lions and the Suns locked horns at the Gabba in pristine conditions, in what could only be described as “a game of two halves”
Gold Coast jumped out of the blocks in the first half, taking the pressure right up to the Lions, making the Brisbane team unsure of themselves. The writing was on the wall however they led inside 50’s by 12, also were on top in clearances and a number of other KPI’s. The second half was one way traffic, as Brisbane completely shut down the Suns forward of centre and put on an absolute clinic, kicking 13 goals, running away with a 49 point win, in the process claiming their sixth consecutive victory against their rivals
Let’s take a look at how this one played out.
The Big O
First and foremost let me start by saying…
… the Lions ruck was completely robbed of the Marcus Ashcroft medal in my humble opinion.
McInerney put on an absolute clinic against battler Chris Burgess. The Gold Coast utility never gave in, however, he was completely over-matched. McInerney was an absolutely dominant force for the four quarters, and a massive reason the Lions midfield was able to trample the Suns in the second half once Burgess started to fatigue. McInerney registered 18 disposals to compliment 40 hitouts and a whopping 12 clearances in a best on ground performance. Whether McInerney chose to engage Burgess physically, or stay grounded to work at ground level, he was absolutely brilliant. One fatal flaw though, was that Burgess often conceded front position at throw ins to get a jump from the back, however that did not work, as the Lions mids attacked the boundary side of the contest and swooped in numbers.
Joe’s Day Out
Is there a more frustratingly brilliant key forward than Joe Daniher?
In this game he managed to slam a set shot into a goal post from 15m straight in front, following that he managed to kick a goal over his head while in a tackle. In the last quarter, he broke a tackle and tried a running banana from 45m out on a tight angle, absolutely burning a wide-open Lincoln McCarthy, moments later managed to almost butcher a three-on-one run into goal by handballing into the back of Charlie Cameron. Throw in a mid air volley minutes after getting spoiled on a wide-open mark attempt after double grabbing and that pretty sums up a typical day at the office for Joe. He kicked 3.4 for the day, and caused Gold Coast a lot of headaches and could have kicked a massive bag. 16 disposals, six marks and the scoreboard impact, indicating a clear win on opponent Sam Collins.
Early on, when the Suns were flying it was talisman Touk Miller leading the charge. Once again with his unrivalled gut-running, Miller led, and his cohorts followed. 18 disposals at the long break spelled disaster for the Lions. However Brisbane managed to do the unthinkable, they slowed Miller down.
In the pivotal third quarter, Miller was restricted to two kicks and five handballs, often double teamed at stoppages allowing Braydon Fiorini a whopping 28 second half disposals, however, the damage was a lot less impactful as Miller, as Brisbane chose limiting quality over quantity. Fiorini has grasped his second chance with both hands so far. Miller added another seven touches in the last quarter, however, had four turnovers.
Fiorini had a game-high 41 disposals, making the most once again of his return to AFL level.
In the first quarter, Sam Flanders had the assignment on Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale and was doing pretty well, until a head clash with Mitch Robinson (surprise surprise) sidelined the young Sun for a portion of the last quarter. His bodywork was handy around the stoppages, however didn’t offer too much on the attack. Neale had eight touches in the first quarter, though mostly while Flanders was off him, Neale would add only eight more for the game, with Flanders and Miller for company.
The move that turned the game was Chris Fagan throwing wingman Hugh McCluggage into the stoppages. His run from the inside absolutely tore the Suns to ribbons in the second half. Stewart Dew opted to go with medical sub, Will Brodie on McCluggage, which from the word “go” was a monumental disaster and made zero sense. He switched often with Noah Anderson, and the duo had zero answer for the ability of the star wingman. In the last quarter he put the Suns to the sword with 12 disposals, four inside 50s, a goal assist and two behinds
Heart And Soul
David Swallow did all he could to get his team over the line in this game.
Forced to play half back due to Oleg Markov pinging a hamstring in the very first quarter, the co-captain tried his heart out. He collected 24 disposals, seven marks and nine intercept possessions. Gold Coast could have gone down by a lot more without his attack on the ball, he set up a goal at half forward getting off a slick handball while getting held, setting up Ben King at one end, while at the other he crashed into Callum Ah Chee twice on dangerous forays forward from Brisbane. His 58% disposal is highly reflective of the heat the Lions forwards bought to the table in the game. Another string to the bow for the leader of the Suns.
Lions Forwards vs Suns Defence
Charlie Cameron was dangerous all night for Brisbane, with Sean Lemmens for company. Cameron unusually was at his most devastating in the air, taking away the upper body strength of Lemmens. In the first quarter he showed off his high leap twice taking marks on the lead however he was unable to capitalise. Later in the game he became much more deadly, especially at ground level. One such highlight was crumbing a loose ball just outside 50m, shimmying past Lemmens on the boundary line and setting in a beautiful squared up ball to the hot spot that Mitch Robinson goaled after the Suns failed to clear. 3.2 from 12 disposals and six marks for Cameron, who is possibly re-entering the fray in the All-Australian conversation.
His partner in crime Lincoln McCarthy also provided a very steady head throughout, kicking a game high 4.2 from 14 touches. The former Geelong Cat often slips under the radar, with his no frills, no fuss attitude and approach to the game. With Hipwood gone for the year I personally feel that McCarthy is the unspoken leader of this forward line, he is the cog that makes everything move.
Without the efforts of the rapidly improving Will Powell, the Suns could have been staring down the barrel of a 100 point loss. I might be exaggerating, but maybe I’m not… The youngster from WA was absolutely brilliant in defence, and while he was opposed often to chief goal kicker McCarthy he often had to step in to give his other defenders a chop out at ground level. 22 disposals at an almost perfect 96% efficiency, adding six intercepts and eight rebound 50’s.
In the second half, the Lions defence really roared into action. Led by Harris Andrews, the Brisbane unit dominated, keeping Gold Coast to 1.3 after half time. Early on, Gold Coast gave the Lions a few troubles, with Ben King frustrating Andrews, Josh Corbett getting on the move against Jack Payne, 150 gamer Alex Sexton snapping a trademark goal, Ben Ainsworth keeping a body on Daniel Rich and Izak Rankine forcing Brandon Starcevich into two turnovers with his first two disposals and goading him into giving away a free kick after a jumper punch, however that would be short-lived. The momentum of the Brisbane unit shifted gears after Rankine gave away an off ball free kick against Starcevich with the ball inside Suns defensive 50, the shot missed, and a few minutes later Rankine slammed Starcevich to the ground in a heavy tackle outside the boundary line. That act seemed to inspire the Lions. All of a sudden, Andrews marked everything, Payne was painful to pass and Daniel Rich got let off the chain. Andrews had a massive game with 15 disposals, 12 intercept possessions, nine marks (five contested) and 10 one percenters.
In regard to Ainsworth, he tried hard all night for the Suns. His field kicking was sublime at times, none more impressive than his centimetre perfect pass to Jeremy Sharp, who left McCluggage in his dust. Ainsworth finished with 15 disposals at a much improved 87% efficiency. The most pleasing thing to his game was that he stayed involved, accruing nine score involvements while only accounting for two scores himself. Ben King booted 3.3 from 12 touches and four marks, however he had only three touches and two behinds in the entire second half, as Brisbane took over
Feather In The Cap
Jeremy Sharp was again a shining light for the Suns midfield. He backed up his 30 disposal game (and well deserved rising star nomination) with a new career-high 31 touches on his wing. He didn’t look out of place while opposed to star wing, McCluggage, and actually appeared to cause the Lion some issues in the open field. While McCluggage is a pure power runner, he struggled with the pace off the mark of Sharp. For the Suns to get this production from the wing with Brandon Ellis sidelined is a massive coup for Gold Coast. In the third quarter when Brisbane tightened the screws, Sharp increased his work rate behind the midfield to support the under siege defence.
Brett’s Blast: Ben King
The key forward was fighting a losing battle once the Lions defence kicked into high gear – this is not a knock on his performance overall in this game. However, I feel no defensive unit will fear the big forward as he has zero physical presence in aerial contests. Even if it costs a 50m penalty or something like that, he has to impose some fear into any defender willing to stand in front of him. At the moment (to paraphrase) he “floats like a butterfly” however he stings like a butterfly too. The perfect example was in the second quarter Daniel Rich was running back on a misdirected forward 50 entry and Ben King was coming the other way, he was half a step away from the point where Rich took the mark. This is the same Daniel Rich that was chastised last weekend for appearing to pull out of a marking contest that many believe he could have attacked..
In that context it was Tim Membrey he was criticised for not flying against, however, this was just a general ground level mark, zero elevation required. I believe Rich knew that King was there, and chose to go, as King instils fear in intercept defenders like the red teletubby does for youngsters. All it takes is one big physical contest for players to have that thought in the back of their mind that there is an element of danger in going back on the ball. If that was a noted physical player like Cam Zurhaar, does Rich take that mark? I’ll go back to the Fox Footy series of The Recruit and the immortal words uttered by Ben Dixon to timid ruck man Bradie Foster “ I want Stretch to put his knee in his F**king throat.” One contest is all that’s needed, then that intercept defender goes away.
Brett’s Blast 2.0 Rory Atkins
Yes… I had to do it. Atkins on paper looked like a handy signing to alleviate the battle-worn legs of champion defender Jarrod Harbrow. However the four-year deal the Suns signed him to looks abysmal in the very early stages. “Rat” looks devoid of confidence and, like Harbrow did, has often forced himself into bad situations trying to be too evasive. The whole of Australia knows that his right foot is as deadly as a staffy puppy. He spent some time at half forward in this game, but if he is not playing his natural half back-wing role, then he is arguably a waste of a spot in the 22.
During the broadcast I heard an (I assume) Lions fan shout “You are a diver Rowell” after the Sun got dumped in a “dangerous tackle” by Jarrod Berry. I saw somebody online say that maybe we have seen the best of Rowell already. I want to highlight the toughness and desire of the kid. He has played 13 games and has had two surgeries already at 20 years of age. In the second half, although Rowell looked very limited on the stat sheet with 16 touches, he looked unafraid as the Brisbane midfield clicked into gear. He was never able to find any space to work with, but despite that, he rode every bump, took every tackle and willed himself from contest to contest. The Suns desperately need an enforcer type back in the lineup to make teams think twice about targeting him.
Despite Marcus Ashcroft Medallist, Jarrod Lyons being Brisbane’s leading disposal winner with 33, I found his impact negligible. His defensive game was very good, as he chimed in with six tackles and a game high 18 contested possessions, however, that was accompanied by seven clangers, six turnovers and a 46% possession efficiency.
Suns fans were delighted to see Will Brodie back in the lineup. But admittedly I was always sceptical of what he could provide. He is a very solid inside midfielder. That’s it. Unfortunately, he has no second gear, and while he started well, with an intercept mark and winning a free kick, leading to a shot on goal, he faded fast. He is extremely match up dependant as he has no pace burst. I don’t know whether the midfield group have the power to change match ups on the fly (we do it at country footy level) so I assume that’s just a show of being proactive. Anyway, Brodie for some explicable reason was situated on McCluggage in the centre square a few times… There is zero reasoning ANYBODY has for defending that match up, especially on a dry track. He had 20 disposals, however, had only six kicks. If Gold Coast (or any team for that matter) are using one-dimensional players, then need to be put in a spot to do what they do.
Early on, the field kicking of Jack Lukosius was absolutely exemplary, including a beautiful inside out kick to set up Josh Corbett for a goal. Our chief Writer HB asked me about Lukosius’ kicking, stating that anything over 40m he is absolute gold, however inside that distance he suddenly can’t hit anything. My view was that, as your target is closer you narrow your vision. Watching him in this one I have noticed a trend, that when he is wide open he always looks for the home run shot, but under pressure, he looks to the short option, however, sometimes the long ball is the best way to go, irrespective of where it ends up, just to clear danger and reset the defence.
During the second quarter, I thought Grant Birchall should hang them up, as he had five clangers from six disposals, however, he bounced back in the second half to be a valuable link option from defence. Brisbane may run into problems with him against very good teams, but he can still provide something if they cover for him.
Gold Coast need to work on another avenue to goal when things aren’t going there way. An idea from left field could be to isolate a resting midfielder like Sam Flanders from full forward. When the chips are down they get way too predictable in their attack.
Not much to say about Zorko and Robinson, they played really well in close and also punished the Suns when afforded space. Robinson let Lukosius off the hook early forward of centre, however, he managed to work back off him when the game opened up.