Melbourne v Brisbane – The Big Questions

If there were doubters remaining about Melbourne in 2022, I reckon they may have been converted to believers after this game.

It was all over by halftime, the Demons establishing a close-to-insurmountable 66-point lead with the type of ruthless aggression and attack on the footy that made the Lions look more like pussy cats.

Usually, I will sit and jot down notes over the course of the game – the notebook went away at halftime this week, such was the dominance of the visitors and so complete was their destruction of a fellow contender. Just about everything worth noting occurred in the first 60 minutes of clinical football from the reigning premiers (except one thing that probably should not overshadow the result or the brutal efficiency of the Melbourne Football Club).

If anything does overshadow the Dees, it should possibly be the overall ineptitude of the Lions when the heat was applied.

But more on that as we progress through the review.

Let’s jump on into The Mongrel’s Big Questions.

 

 

WHO SAW THE SWERVE COMING?

When James Harmes was named as a starter in the team, I, along with most people, thought we’d seen the opponent for Lachie Neale flagged by Simon Goodwin.

You can picture Goody having a little smile as Harmes went out to the wing at the first bounce and Angus Brayshaw went and stood shoulder to shoulder with Neale.

And that smile would have been a little wider as the players engaged in a dogfight in the middle.

We got to halftime, and stat watchers would have thought “oh, Neale has had his 15 touches – he must be doing okay.” But they’d be wrong – Neale was hacking at the footy, consistently under pressure from Brayshaw whenever he touched the ball, and forced to dump-kick the ball forward way too often.

On the flip side, Brayshaw wasn’t exactly covering himself in glory with his disposal efficiency, either. Angus went at just 44% for the game as he felt the heat, as well.

I suppose the upshot here is that Brayshaw is nice to have in the middle. He is a fantastic player in there for the Dees, but if we were ranking their best onballers, he would probably be in either third or fourth, behind or level with Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, and Jack Viney. If he is a bit off and is focused on Neale, it matters less, because he has the backup.

What backup does Neale have?

Hugh McCluggage? If there were a contested footy to be won and you matched him against any of the Dees’ top four mids, he might win once out of ten.

Rhys Mathieson? Too easily beaten around the ground. Has a lot of grunt but lacks the polish.

Jarryd Lyons? A warrior, but this was not his best outing.

By breaking even with Neale, the Dees actually won. Their midfield is streets ahead of the Lions, and when you take Neale’s effectiveness out of the equation, the Lions are left with very little else to hurt you with.

Great coaching.

 

DO THE LIONS KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PHYSICAL AGGRESSION AND BEING AGGRESSIVE AT THE FOOTY?

Melbourne does. The Lions… well, not so much.

I just rewatched the first quarter as I was writing this – the Lions really tried to bring the heat in the first quarter. They were well and truly up for the fight.

However, there are always two parts to the equation of footy where aggression is involved. Here is the simple formula.

Aggression + control = wins

The Lions formula was a fair way out of whack. It went a little something like this.

Aggression + lack of football = disaster.

The good teams are able to combine their attack on the man with an attack on the footy that is just as impressive. Their physical pressure translates to winning the footy and winning the game. The Lions appeared to have a bit of Bill Murray about them – completely lost in translation.

Brisbane had blokes like Eric Hipwood attempting to be tough guys by falling into the back of his opponent after a mark, giving away fifty metres, and having a goal kicked against him due to this misguided belief that he can play aggressive footy. He can’t. He looks like he belongs on a Paris catwalk wearing chaps and a feather boa or something. Don’t pretend to be something you’re clearly not – particularly when all you can do is this pissy little fall into Jake Lever’s back.

It was pathetic.

Meanwhile, Lever was doing things like backing up with the flight of the footy to take marks and putting his body on the line.

Hipwood, the Brisbane hard man, apparently, finished with six touches for the game. He failed to translate his aggression into anything of note, which probably made him feel quite at home as part of this Brisbane team.

 

HOW MUCH CREDIT DO THE DEMON HALF-BACKS DESERVE?

They’ll get glossed over in the wash up, but if you happen to watch this game back, pay attention to the number of times players like Jayden Hunt, Jake Bowey, Tom Sparrow, and Trent Rivers are the first ones back in frame when there is a long kick inside 50.

I don’t know what their opponents were doing, but there were several instances where any two r three of these blokes, in a 6-6-6 situation, had turned, sprinted away from their direct opponents, and got back help either kill a contest inside 50, or mop up the work of the key defenders.

With Michael Hibberd dominating Charlie Cameron, Steven May making Joe Daniher redundant, Harrison Perry taking out Daniel McStay, and Jake Lever all over Eric Hipwood, the Melbourne defence was at the top of its game in the first half, restricting the sputtering Lions defence to just two goals int eh half. Yep, the number one ranked offence in the game was completely closed down.

Whilst we will give the blokes who played on the big names the plaudits they deserve, the actions – repeated actions – of the lesser-known defenders are worthy of your attention as well. Premiership teams have every player performing their role at a high level, and if this had been a Grand Final, I reckon Simon Goodwin would have made sure that these unsung heroes got the praise they deserved.

 

WHERE DID THE LIONS’ GET-OUT-OF-JAIL MARKERS GO?

Following on from above, a couple of weeks back, I saw signs of the “Big Three” Brisbane forwards gelling during a game. It was Daniel McStay leading up to the wings, taking big marks to relieve the pressure on the defence and open the game up. Then it was Hipwood on the receiving end of the McStay kick at half forward. And finally, it was Daniher deep inside 50 getting out and marking.

It caused me to raise an eyebrow, as if this team could put it together like that on a consistent basis, they could really trouble teams.

However, only some teams.

The “Big Three” was comprehensively beaten by the Demon defence, with none of them doing anything outstanding for almost the entire game.

Of the three, I want to point out Daniher, here. He is a one-and-done player when it comes to effort. Unless the ball is delivered to his direct advantage, even his first effort is pretty questionable. He tried to leap at marks where he is clearly going to get beaten, when bringing it to ground should be his priority, he does not chase, and when the Lions need someone to stand up, he goes completely missing.

He kicked two goals in this one, but he also had seven turnovers in what is fast becoming a regular type of game for him when he is confronted with genuine opposition. If there is one player at Brisbane who needs a big finals series, it’s him. However, given he will be playing against settled defences, it looks like it may be another season wasted from Joe. He is 28 now, yet plays like he is 20. Might be time to grow the hell up.

 

SHOULD KYSAIAH PICKETT REQUEST MORE MELBOURNE GAMES BE PLAYED ON THE ROAD?

He’s having a party on the road this season, isn’t he?

His last three games have seen him total 13 goals, as he has feasted on his opponents outside of Melbourne in what is looking like a great entree for the main course of September.

Last year, I heard some people criticise Pickett’s Grand Final performance. Ladies and Gentlemen… those people really don’t know footy. When Pickett is not directly involved in the play, watch his actions, his body work, his team-first attitude. He does the little things that make a difference every week, but when he is able to get off the chain like he did in this one – that is when people sit up and take notice.

He kicked four goals in the first half as the Dees put Brisbane to the sword and did it whilst opposed to one of the better small/mid defenders in the game, Brandon Starcevich. The ease with which Pickett lost Starcevich was startling at times, as he worked to the right spots as his opponent was either drawn to the contest, or got lost in traffic.

As stated at the outset, what happened after the main break was of little consequence, and given that, it is difficult to go past Pickett in terms of impact.

 

WAS THE CRITICISM OF HARRIS ANDREWS A LITTLE OVER THE TOP?

More than a little.

Look, he has some severe limitations on him at the moment and appears to be a lot less mobile than he was a couple of years back – at 25 years of age, that is a huge concern – but what people were not factoring in was the way the ball was coming into the Demons’  forward 50 during this game. The contrast between the way the two teams attacked was incredible.

Melbourne used precise ball movement and often went kick-mark all the way up the field before getting deep entries. The Lions seemed content to get the ball inside 50 any which way and it came out just as quickly, as a result.

Andrews had ten spoils at halftime and was one of the only blokes from the Lions making an effort to kill contests. The Demons were all over them and with Gawn playing forward for long periods, Andrews was forced to be everything to everyone. Missing Marcus Adams, a slower Andrews struggled once the ball hit the deck (as he has all season – he really does look like he is on rails) and he was made to pay on several occasions.

I have heard and read comments from several people after the loss stating that he had a mare and one bloke said he was “a disgrace”. You know who you are.

That is all over the top – he is trying to hold a brittle defence together and it just didn’t work for him at all in this one.

 

HOW WAS THE CONTESTED BEAST IN THIS ONE?

Am I talking about Clayton Oliver?

No, not this time – I am talking about Ed ‘The Beast’ Langdon, mate! Check out his first quarter to see just how good he can be in the contest. It was his ripping tackle on Dayne Zorko that sent the message that the Dees were channelling their aggression in the right way. This came minutes after he took a contested mark and kicked a goal at the other end.

When we think of Langdon, it is always his running… his relentless running, but in this one, he demonstrated a bit more of a hard edge when the Dees needed him, and everyone else to. He had four disposals in the first quarter – three of them were contested.

Remember this day – something like it may never occur again.

 

SO, WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE ZORKO/PETTY SITUATION?

Well, at the time of writing, the details of what genuinely happened are sketchy.

Harrison Petty was visibly upset at three-quarter time after he thought he heard a comment about a member of his family. See what I did there? That is how they’re terming things in the AFL Media at the moment – “thought he heard” something.

This gives Zorko a way out, as he can claim whatever was said was misconstrued, or it was misheard by Petty.

Still, I reckon Petty knows exactly what was said, and so do the other people speaking in the media about it. The AFL will get involved, Zorko will say one thing, Petty might do what old-school players have done for years (and kind of stopped in the last five years) and say he may have misheard what was said, and the boys will sort it out amongst themselves, as seemed to happen at the end of the game.

The AFL does have a code of conduct that prevents players from making comments about family members. I can safely say that no league I played in ever had anything like that – I lost count of the times opposition players would make comment about my girlfriend… even when I didn’t have one at the time.

Anyway, if what Zorko said can be proven, or if there is a consensus on what he said from others, then he’ll get a whack. If not, it is difficult to see how they can punish him for what he may have, but might not have said.

I suppose this is another moment where you sit back and realise that Dayne Zorko is the leader of the Brisbane Lions.

Let that sink in.

For years, he has done foolish things that bookend brilliant things. I suppose you could argue that you know what you’re getting with him, but if that is the case, how he is the captain of this club amazes me. Even in this game, his persistent little niggles to the opposition – lingering tackles that slipped high, holding on in the contest after the whistle has blown… it seems like there is constantly a 15-year-old boy struggling to get out of his 33-year-old body every time he plays footy.

I reckon he’d fart in team meetings a lot, and giggle as he blames Chris Fagan.

In his defence, he was one of the few to have a real crack in the first quarter when the ball was there to be won. He was probably Brisbane’s best at a point where the game wasn’t completely gone. He just strikes me as a bit of a boofhead.

 

WHAT ARE WE WITNESSING WITH CLAYTON OLIVER?

Pay attention, people – this is one of the all-time great midfield careers playing out before your eyes.

This year, with the Dees looking as though they will play AT LEAST two finals, Clayton Oliver sits at 372 contested possessions for the year. A quick bit of maths indicates that he requires 28 more to top 400 contested possessions for the third time in his career.

No one has achieved that feat more.

Only three players have ever reached 400 contested touches in a season. Josh Kennedy did it three times in Sydney. Patrick Dangerfield has done it twice for the Cats and Crows, and now we have Clayton Oliver looking as though he will do it for the third time, as well.

He is still just 25 years old and has four or so seasons at his peak level before any hint of decline.. Factoring in injury, suspension, and seasons called off because of the new virus I’m working on -MongrelPox- I reckon he could have five 400-contested possession seasons under his best by the time all is said and done.

He is an absolute freak.

 

ARE THE LIONS COOKED?

Two weeks is a long time in footy, so to draw a line through Brisbane after this loss would be a little premature.

A  finals win and suddenly, the Round 23 disaster becomes nothing more than a distasteful memory as all eyes start to look forward and wonder what’s next. That said, they looked a long way off the pace in this one and were handled with a little too much ease by the reigning premier to dismiss it as just a bad day.

Let’s see where things sit after this week, who the Lions line up against, and ponder what they could do differently.

Finals previews for members will answer a lot of questions, and maybe raise a few more.

 

And that might just do me.

With the loss, Brisbane must rely on Carlton beating Collingwood, and GWS beating Freo in order to retain their top-four position, whereas the Dees are now assured of playing Sydney in the first week. The venue will likely be decided this Sunday evening, depending on how much the Swans beat the Saints by.

Of course, should St Kilda grow a pair and actually win, and the Pies beat the Blues, an MCG clash with Collingwood could be on the cards.

I’m not sure how the Lions rebound from this – it was a footy lesson. They’ve got two weeks to work things out.

 

As always, massive thanks to our members. If you’re not a member and liked this review, please consider becoming one – this time of year, a lot of people jump off because their teams are falling out of contention, then they jump on when they realise they like the finals, trade, and draft coverage without the BS. So, it’s best to jump on and stay on – take it from me… completely unbiased, of course.

 

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