Every game of the AFL finals sees a pair of our Mongrel writers award player ratings. These will feed into our Mongrel Player of the Finals award for 2021.

JB Eddy and The Slugger, Nick Sluggett have you covered for the Dees and Lions


Qualifying Final 2: Melbourne vs Brisbane


Melbourne – (JB Eddy)


I’ve got a soft spot for Melbourne. Partially because of the underdog mentality, which is odd considering their heritage, longevity and status. But for all their reputation as the side that decides how Hotham’s ski season and range rover sales go, I’m yet to meet a Melbourne fan that jolted me with their obnoxiousness. Maybe it’s the recent history of near misses and almost successes that has kept them from getting too far ahead of themselves, or perhaps the 17 match streak North had over them until recently, but to a person they’ve been by far the least problematic whenever I’ve attended a game where they were playing.

Despite my round 1 prediction of a Port flag, I would not begrudge Melbourne a chance to add to their trophy cabinet that hasn’t seen an addition since the First Nations peoples of this land were allowed to vote.


[24] Trent Rivers – 6


Rivers had a decent game, but some unforced mistakes were costly, especially gifting Charlie Cameron the ball when he had an open paddock to run into for a goal.

He may find himself worrying a bit at the selection table, as with a very healthy list and some talent in the sheds, he could be one of the magnets that the coaches argue about whether he goes on the board or not for the prelim.


[1] Steven May – 7

May had some early troubles with Daniher, but soon managed to settle down his defensive line and play the team game required.

Daniher tried to take him away from the play whenever Cameron was in space, but May soon wised up and managed to make smart decisions on when to leave his man to help out, and when to stick tight. A few awkward moments, but overall a positive game.


[35] Harrison Petty – 5

Petty had his moments, but didn’t have a lot of impact on the game. He held down his spot and had a few intercepts, but didn’t really take the game on as he could have. He did bring the ball to ground at the contest, and farmed the ball out well, more often than not. As a key backman, he did well enough without being great.


[17] Jake Bowey – 5

Bowey struggled early on in the game, making some poor choices on when to take on his opponent, and when to dish off quickly. He managed to clean up his game in the fourth quarter, but by then the game was largely decided. He also gave away a couple of frees that resulted in goals, which is the curse of the backman—a good game means you hardly get noticed, but two bad plays and you can expect a spray.


[8] Jake Lever – 7

Lever was handy for most of the night, and barring a couple of costly mistakes, stood up well in the Melbourne back line. He gave away a goal when Daniher sucked him into giving away a 50m penalty, but his 15 intercepts went a long way to halting any offence that Brisbane tried to mount, as he read the ball better than just about anyone all evening.


[3] Christian Salem – 7

Salem spent a bit of time on Charlie Cameron whenever he strung together a couple of goals, and managed to keep his impact limited in those moments. His distribution from the pack was clever without being predictable or chaotic, while his run out of the back gave the Dees the ability to catch Brisbane on transition.


[10] Angus Brayshaw – 9

Melbourne’s structure isn’t complicated—they keep their wings wide to lead back into the corridor when it’s open, or down the line into space when it’s not. Brayshaw adds an ability to run up to the contest and double back with alarming agility, as he did so often in this match. His link-up plays were clinical in their execution. He’d run to an open zone, collect the ball and sprint to pressure the Lions defence to either come towards him and leave them open on the overlap, or hang back until the Dee forward line was able to open a leading lane.


[5] Christian Petracca – 9

A monster game from Petracca. A sweet pair of goals put the game to bed, but his work in traffic gave Brisbane a conniption all evening. So often he stepped around players as if they were just training cones. His eight inside 50s and 10 score involvements put him right up there for a Best On Ground performance, and his deft taps to moving teammates looked superb.


[15] Ed Langdon – 8

As with Brayshaw, Langdon played his part in the game plan to perfection. He also made sure his teammates knew where he was headed so they could put the ball to where he was going to be, rather than where he was standing at the time. He didn’t quite get as much of the ball as he may have liked, but he was smart enough to stick with the game plan rather than chase cheap kicks.


[9] Charlie Spargo – 6

Spargo showed his enthusiasm for the game early on, with a great tackle to earn himself a goal. He drifted out of the game after that, but while he didn’t rack up great numbers, he didn’t do much wrong either. He won’t be afraid of the Monday review, but he may not feature in it too much either.


[25] Tom McDonald – 3

A very quiet night from McDonald. He did a couple of good things, but had little impact. His work rate seemed a bit off, but in fairness, the Brisbane defence is one of the most physical in the league. He and Brown still seem to be struggling to work in a way that complements each other, but you would think Melbourne will expect this to have been a blip rather than anything that needs too much thought. He’ll play in the prelim I expect.


[7] Jack Viney – 8

Very busy all day, his ability to break the link-up chains of a potent Brisbane midfield was on display, as well as his dangerous acceleration out of a pack. His forward 50 delivery was excellent, and a big reason why Melbourne  were so hard to defend.


[30] Alex Neal-Bullen – 8

Neal-Bullen played a very mobile game for a pocket, coming up the ground to match the structure of Brayshaw and Langdon on the wings and present as a marking option or to drop front and square if he wasn’t in the contest. His forward pressure was excellent all night, and his hunger for the ball kept an enormous amount of pressure on the Brisbane defence.


[50] Ben Brown – 7

Benny Brown got on the scoreboard early, and did some great things throughout the night, including some nice marks just outside the arc and hitting up teammates in space, as well as bringing the ball down to the hotspot when he couldn’t snaffle one. On the other hand, he did drop some easy marks, and once again struggled to find open space in range. His nine marks were a decent return for his efforts, and showed how well he has adapted to his role in this side, but it still looks like he can give a bit more, and may need to as the Dees progress into September.


[31] Bayley Fritsch – 9

Seemed to have a limitless tank tonight. Kept himself extremely busy and constantly put himself in places where he was a marking option or set himself up to take any ground balls that came his way. His four goals from seven disposals show just how efficient he was.


[11] Max Gawn – 8

I thought Gawn gave up a lot at the stoppages to McInerny, particularly in the first half, but as always his work around the ground as an intercept or link-up in transition was excellent. He also managed to put his body into the contest pretty often, getting 7 tackles and 5 clearances, while limiting the Brisbane big man’s impact after half time.


[13] Clayton Oliver – 9

Oliver kept running into dangerous spots for the Brisbane defence, and managed to find open teammates in the forward 50 with monotonous regularity. His hard running confounded his opponents, and any time he seemed to move away from the ball, Petracca was right there to bust through the pack. With a 1-2 punch like that, and finding form in the finals, Oliver looks to be a player that will determine the fate of this team.


[36] Kysaiah Pickett – 7

Players like Kozzy don’t tend to get a lot of the ball, but they can be the difference at this time of the year. He’s a moment-maker, and his exciting snap shots showed how he doesn’t need to rack up 40 touches to hurt you. His work at the contest was good too, but despite his impact, he would want a bit more of the ball in the next game.


[4] James Harmes – 7

Harmes had a decent night, earning a lot of his own ball with 11 contested possessions. He also managed to play his role as a mobile forward well to spread the Lions defence, while also coming into contests to collect the loose ball. He earned himself a couple of clearances and tackles inside 50 as well, to complete a decent evening for a role-player such as himself.


[6] Luke Jackson – 7

Jackson had a great game by a rookie standard, but none of that matters now. By the standard expected of a premiership-aspirant he was… OK. He had two gettable shots that both went wide, but a spectacular mark that showed his talent. He was also charged with relief ruck duties, which he did well enough when Gawn needed a breather. He did manage to lose his false tooth again, but didn’t seem particularly worried.


[44] Joel Smith – 4

Smith was given the unenviable task of manning a red hot Charlie Cameron at a ground he knows so well. He worked hard all evening, but Cameron kicked four of his five goals while Smith was standing him. It may seem unfair to judge him too harshly for not limiting a player of Cameron’s ability, but in finals footy, he’s got to be willing to do whatever it takes to stop a player such as him.


[32] Tom Sparrow -7

Sparrow’s field kicking was excellent, spotting up open teammates and switching the play at intelligent moments. He knew when to play on in the direction of the play or to baulk and switch to the corridor. His outside work to link up with Brayshaw showed great maturity, and handled the pressure of finals well.


MEDI SUB [23] James Jordon – 10*

Did everything perfectly all night, and had the best seat in the house. Thought he might have had a run when Jackson lost a tooth, but turns out that’s just Jackson’s way of getting a breather. He’s in an odd spot, as Melbourne’s injury list is very short, and it looks hard to replace anyone that took the field tonight.


Brisbane – (Nicholas Sluggett)


[27] Darcy Gardiner – 2

I’ll be saying this a lot in these player ratings. This wasn’t his night. He had a good effort in the first quarter to not let Fritsch get away from him, but it was all downhill from there as he sometimes struggled to even get body contact on his opponent. Looked unconvincing with the footy. Looked even worse once the ball hit the deck and Demons players just waltzed around him.


[31] Harris Andrews – 7

An absolute one-man wall in defence early in the game. Got nervous a few times, but you expect that when your fellow defenders haven’t got their men covered and you’re expecting them to come flying in over the top. Probably ended up trying to do everything, like he has all year. Kept Ben Brown fairly quiet when matched up on him and was one of the few players who could actually bring the ball to ground in a marking contest with Gawn. Needs better support and to be able to trust his teammates.


[37] Brandon Starcevich – 4

At least he took Jackson off the field for a period of time when he accidentally kicked one of his teeth out. There wasn’t much else to take out of Starcevich’s performance. Melbournes small forwards ran rampant in this game and he has to wear his fair share of that responsibility. Especially since he gave the Lions no attacking energy at all.


[21] Tom Fullarton – 0

A horror game for the young Fullarton. Just six disposals for the match with three turnovers. Couple that with a solitary hitout and zero marks. Fullarton wasn’t doing much out there other than taking up space. Hopefully it’s a good learning curve for him and he can regroup and put all his energy into next week. With McStay going down Chris Fagan is likely going to need Fullarton to step up.


[24] Marcus Adams – 6

Adams was so determined to spoil everything that came his way that he was even spoiling his own teammates. He copped a dirty look or two for it, but when you’re up against the likes of Max Gawn, I wouldn’t be taking any chances. Struggled at times when the ball was on the ground, but it seems a lot of the Brisbane defenders did.


[10] Daniel Rich – 8

One of the few Lions to hold his head up high. Rich played his role in this game. Used as a distributor and attacking weapon off half back, Rich did what he could to drive the Lions forward and clear their defensive zone. Recognised in the All-Australian team for playing exactly this type of game. Rich came and delivered what he said he would, where were most of his team mates?


[6] Hugh McCluggage – 5

Struggled hard in the first half. Was easily beaten out on the wing and also when he went inside. There was nowhere to hide for McCluggage in this game. He would finish with a respectable 24 disposals and a goal, but that goal would be his solitary score involvement for the match. For a player playing through the middle and having the majority of his disposals uncontested, to only have one score involvement for the match is a harrowing sign.


[33] Zac Bailey – 5

Started well in the first quarter, but faded badly after that. One of a few Lions players I will get to, who probably needs to reflect on his inability to provide support to Lachie Neale through the midfield. Bailey is one of the young Lions who would have been thrown the challenge this week by Chris Fagan. Having now failed that challenge, will Bailey respond with fervor next week?


[5] Mitch Robinson – 5

Absolutely burnt by Langdon in the first half. The one thing you can count on with Robinson, though, is effort. He took the lessons from that first half and definitely adjusted his game as he was far more prominent in the second. He was a battering ram. We know he doesn’t have the cleanest disposal, and he has a habit of throwing the ball on his boot without looking, but these aren’t surprising. Overall I thought he definitely responded to be one of the few to try and go with Lachie Neale.


[11] Lincoln McCarthy – 4

He had a hot start. He was working up the ground and also set-up Charlie Cameron’s first goal. There were not a lot of highlights after that. You could say he applied some good pressure but the Lions needed more from him with the ball. Really struggled to keep Lever honest when matched up on him as well, but he definitely wasn’t alone on that island either.


[25] Daniel McStay – 1

Can’t really rate a bloke who gets knocked out in the first 10 minutes of a game. Although, I’d still rate him higher than Fullarton. Losing McStay for next week is a nightmare for the Lions. With Hipwood and Rayner both gone for the year, Chris Fagan will be reaching deep into the “beyond” to pluck a player out, to support Daniher and Cameron.


[15] Dayne Zorko – 5

Not a memorable game for Zorko by any stretch. It’s definitely not what he was envisaging during this week. Only 20 disposals and no real impact on the contest. He was completely outmatched by his Melbourne opponents, as the entire Lions midfield unit was (Outside of Lachie Neale). The Demons have to be lauded for their effort in not letting the Lions midfield get any sort of meaningful space or attacking momentum away from the stoppage. It’s one of the main reasons Zorko was so effectively blanketed.


[18] Keidan Coleman – 7

I thought it was a very solid game from Coleman. He looked like one of the few Lions who was actually settled in defence and provided continuous run off half-back. He shares some responsibility for the Melbourne smalls running wild, which brings his score down, but he still stands as the clear third best defender for the Lions in this game.


[3] Joe Daniher – 3

It was a real “almost” night for Daniher. So many times things just didn’t go his way in the most awkward way. His early couple of snaps didn’t score goals, which probably should’ve been the first indication things were a little off. He kept his effort up though, and worked really hard to not get out marked when he was in the contest. Didn’t get rewarded for a great rundown tackle in the third quarter on Bowey. Had some horrible moments in the second half, where you would usually expect him to hurt the opposition.


[23] Charlie Cameron – 9

The only attacking weapon for the Lions that fired. Cameron looked the only real threat in the Lions attacking 50, as the ball was coming in. With McStay off, Daniher wayward and McCarthy struggling to get involved in the game, it was all up to Cameron to kick the Lions a winning score. Unfortunately he couldn’t do it on his own. Probably could’ve had another couple as well, when you rewatch his game.


[46] Oscar McInerney – 7

When you’re up against the All Australian ruckman and the official Rising Star of the competition, you’d be forgiven for just wanting to half the contest. McInerney wasn’t settling for halving the contest; he wanted to win it. He had a really good start as well. Six disposals and four clearances in the first quarter. Not letting Gawn take control of the air and really asserting himself on Jackson. But it couldn’t last as the tandem duo eventually wore the Big ‘O down. Particularly since he was playing a lone hand as Fullarton never turned up to support him.


[17] Jarryd Lyons – 7

Lyons was a mixed bag. He had a very quiet first three quarters. Maybe Lachie Neale got to him at three-quarter-time and just said “All you have to do is copy me”? Because in the last quarter Lyons found form in a huge way. He was in everything. It was just too late for the Lions team.


[9] Lachie Neale – 10

The Ultimate Warrior. When the Lions looked down, it was Neale who picked them up and carried them forward to try and close the Melbourne lead. You’d forgive Neale for looking around at some of his fellow mid-fielders at three-quarter-time and saying “So it’s just me? I’m going to go one versus three at ground level against Viney, Petracca and Oliver for an entire game?” as this is exactly how the first three quarters had played out. I do not know what more Neale could’ve done to try and get his team back into the contest.


[7] Jarrod Berry – 4

This was definitely not one for the memory books for Berry. Gifted a goal from a 50-metre penalty, which was probably his only highlight. Played some tough defensive footy, but couldn’t get any sort of rhythm in attack, which is what the Lions were so desperately lacking.


[12] Nakia Cockatoo – 0

Really took his time at Geelong seriously and brought some genuine Geelong form into this game. I have a high opinion of Cockatoo and want nothing but good things for him at the Lions, but he was just nowhere in this game. He was being run-off by the Melbourne defense and not offering anything in terms of attack for the Lions. Add to that, the fact he knocked out McStay early in the first quarter and he almost could’ve been given a negative score, as he likely had a net-negative return in this game.


[20] Jaxon Prior – 2

Looked out of his depth in this game. Couldn’t find the footy and couldn’t make any sort of meaningful impact on this game. He had a single disposal in the first half. Prior is another player that the Lions will be hopeful can quickly move on to next week.


[14] Grant Birchall – 6

His experience really started to show in the second half. A lot was made of his time on the bench early in the third which was apparently the result of a knock, but Birchall demonstrated that you just can’t beat experience. In a quirk of the statistical anomalies Birchall supposedly ran at a 93% disposas efficiency, but had six turnovers from his 15 disposals. Go figure.


Medi Sub [36] Rhys Mathieson [The Barometer] – 7

Came on early and really made it count. I actually enjoyed Matheisons game, from a Lions perspective. He will cop scrutiny for some of his untoward actions, such as hits on Pickett and Gawn, and also for some of his disposal. However, much like with Robsinson, at least Lions fans know what they’re going to get from Mathieson and that is 100% effort. While McClugage and Lyons and others were getting obliterated by the Demons midfield, Matheison looked the only one willing to try and support Lachie Neale playing a one-man show in defiance of the onslaught.


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