Each week during a finals series, heroes are made. Whether it is a standout performance, a brilliant coaching move, or hell… sometimes even a commentator says something that elevates them above their peers.
However, for every piece of brilliance, there is a an equally poor outcome to match it. They may not always be even – one week we may have a dozen heroes and four zeroes, but over time, they balance out.
This weekend saw just two games, as the Dees had their premiership defence ended at the hands of the Lions, and the Pies sent the Dockers packing, ending the Flagmantle dream and keeping the fires of the Flagpies burning.
Who were the heroes and zeroes of these two contests?
Well, that’s why I am here. Let’s find out.
As I wrote in the review, this bloke doesn’t need 30+ disposals to torch a team. Not with the way he runs the footy.
Crisp made a difference when he got the footy. Other players go backwards and sideways, but with the imprimatur of Craig McRae, he took the game on whenever he had the chance, and no one, not even the lightning-quick Michael Frederick, could catch him.
Crisp contributed two goals as his hard work powered the Magpie midfield all game, and his runs sent waves of panic through the Freo defence for good reason. His seven inside 50 disposals kept the Freo defenders off balance and opened up avenues for the Pies to hit the scoreboard.
Alleged eye gouge aside, Berry played the type of second half you dream of as a kid.
Chris Fagan called his number and threw him onto the most prolific contested footy winner in the game, Clayton Oliver, and Berry got to work.
Oliver had 12 touches and six clearances in the first half, but Berry put a stop to all that, restricting him to just nine second-half touches, and importantly, just three clearances.
Things got heated between the two and we are yet to know the result of Berry and the Lions’ appeal of the one-week suspension (a load of garbage, that suspension, if you ask me. If someone is on top of you with their forward pressing on your neck, you fight to get away!), but Berry has long been touted as a star and we saw exactly why as his team rid themselves, and the finals, of the Demons.
The last time Dayne Zorko met the Lions, the AFL Media jumped the gun and proclaimed him public enemy number one.
And then they realised that this sledging thing was going both ways, with pretty hefty insults being hurled at family members from both sides, and they stopped talking about it because they no longer had a scapegoat.
So, how Zorko responded in this game was always going to be interesting. I half expected him to come out and go for the jugular, but instead, he played a composed, damaging game for his team in what can only be termed as a captain’s knock.
You may not like Zorko. You may think he is a petulant dick, and at times I have thought that about him, but when he puts his head down, wins the footy, and concentrates on leading this club well, he deserves credit for what he can produce.
Joe Daniher off watching his baby being brought into the world? No problem – the Hippie was there to save the Lions.
Continuing t round into form following his return from an ACL injury, Hipwood reminded everyone that he was on the fast track to stardom when his body betrayed him. With increased responsibility, he relished the role as the go-to guy inside fifty and delivered four goals in a match-winning effort.
This is an interesting dynamic at Brisbane, with Hipwood flourishing without Daniher in his space. How will they go when they get the band back together against the Cats this weekend? My thoughts are that both the big guys need to win their positions in order for the Cats’ defence to start feeling the heat. If they can do that, a little bloke who kicked three goals, himself, could just impose himself on the contest.
There have been some pretty significant concerns around the form of Harris Andrews in 2022, but there were a lot less following his destruction of every Ben Brown marking attempt inside 50 in this game.
Andrews was a wrecking ball, conjuring images of the dual All-Australian’s best form as he crashed into pack after pack, obliterating the footy in the process.
Andrews had 18 spoils in this one, controlling defensive fifty and refusing to give his opponent any quarter. Ben Brown is the perfect type of opponent for Andrews – a little slower and iffy when he has to run and jump at the footy, Andrews was able to close the ground and make the spoil so often, he will need treatment on his fist this week to get up for the Prelim.
Of course, the hack kicks, and the high and long delivery from the Melbourne midfield gave him quite a few kills on a platter. Hope he sends them a Christmas card.
Did you hear him getting booed?
A bit harsh, I thought… I mean, all he did was cry like a bab… okay, I am not the greatest fan of a bloke tearing up over words, but Petty really didn’t do anything to get booed, did he?
He played like a man with a point to prove in this game, standing up in defence and doing all he could to stop the increasingly frantic inside 50 deliveries from the Lions. Sometimes, he was beaten – yes, that is true, but body-to-body, he performed admirably all game and could count himself as one of the best for the Dees on a day when things did not go right for them.
JORDAN DE GOEY
The bad boys are really getting the plaudits this week. First Dayne Zorko and now Jordan de Goey… hell, all we needed was for Toby Greene to come out wearing a mask and kick someone in the face and we could have had a three-man team ready to line up and get medals.
De Goey has seemingly shed any baggage stemming from the Bali “incident”… and what a crock of shit that was, and is playing his best footy at the right time of the year. His midfield combination with perpetual hero, Scott Pendlebury, and Jack Crisp gave the Magpies enormous drive out of the guts.
He had six clearances, 12 score involvements (including two direct goal assists) and a goal of his own in the second-straight impressive outing this finals.
There were points in this game where the only time Freo looked like scoring was when Caleb Serong grabbed the footy from the middle, tucked it under his arm and took the game on.
Sadly, players don’t get the opportunity to do that every time, no matter how much their team needs them to. However, the fact that Serong, at 21, is able to do what he does and is committed to the Dockers, bodes well for the future. If I were able to pick one player 21 or under to have in a midfield, and build around, it’d be him.
I rewatched the last quarter last night, just to get a good play-by-play breakdown of where the Dees went wrong.
Admittedly, there were plenty of areas that would have left Simon Goodwin shaking his head, but the lack of footy smarts demonstrated by Jake Lever beggared belief. This is a guy who is viewed as a future captain, but he was getting his ass handed to him in multiple contests. And when he wasn’t being beaten, he was making extraordinarily uncharacteristic mistakes.
His final act of the game shut the gate on the Dees, giving away 50 metres to Dan McStay despite several warnings from the umpire to give the footy back.
Look, truthfully, the game may have been out of reach when Lever handed McStay the goal, but any faint hope was snuffed out as Lever’s brain farted inside 5 and stunk the place up.
The role of Darcy was something I viewed as a huge positive for Freo prior to the game. With his size and skill, I expected him to overpower either of Mason Cox or Darcy Cameron whenever he had the chance.
He tried. He just failed. Miserably.
Darcy could not get himself into the right spots to capitalise on his strength advantage, and when he finally did manage to do so, his resultant disposals looked like he was an Auskicker. He ran out 31% efficiency from his 13 disposals on the day – that’s three effective disposals in total.
Luckily, the bloke playing in the other semi, who many believe will take his spot, eventually, also had a mare.
Amazing that both the big man at Freo, and the guy who is mooted (great word) to move to Freo both completely stunk it up in finals, huh?
Imagine the stench when they team up to waft over the competition?
If we’re being completely honest here, Luke Jackson played like a bloke who had one foot out the door against the Lion. He failed to impact the contest in any meaningful way, and his role of backup ruck and sometimes forward saw him fall over on both fronts.
He returned nine disposals, one mark, and nine hit outs matched up against Darcy Fort.
And this bloke is worth a million bucks per year. Wave him goodbye, Dees fans… and maybe start thinking how you dodged a bullet with this bloke.
Cards on the table, I hate the way Lobb plays when he gets spooked. When he is on, he looks like he could take on the world and win, but a bit of pressure, and someone talking in his ear, he quickly goes from the blonde-haired Ivan Drago lookalike to the George McFly character, which is more likely closer to his true persona.
Seeing him fly one-handed for a contested mark in the first quarter did not bode well for the rest of the game. Sure, he took the grab (and missed the goal from 25 metres out), but it was as though it gave him licence to half-arse contests all day.
Freo were busting a gut in the second quarter to make a contest of it, but it was Lobb and his anti-marking that once again stepped in to deal the Dockers a cruel fate. This time it was in defence. Looking as though he expected contact, Lobb dropped a mark, allowing Jack Ginnivan to swoop on the crumb and kick a goal. At that point right there, you knew that Freo were toast.
And Rory Lobb was a big contributor in ensuring they were burnt.
His best may be fantastic, but there is a mile-wide gulf between that and his regular form. If the Dockers can navigate a good deal for him, they will be the winners of the trade via subtraction.
Salem was a monster in the Dees’ premiership season, averaging over 25 touches per game as part of the elite Melbourne defence. His intercept and rebounding work were keys to the Melbourne structure, and a big reason why the Dees were just so damn hard to score against.
He has been a shadow of his former self this season, managing to average 17.4 touches )-7.9 on 2021 numbers) and missing nine games along the way. He has not had a presence and is too easily taken out of the game.
Last week, Ryan Clarke restricted Salem to just three touches after quarter time. This week, he didn’t even have a tight tag and still managed only 11 disposals.
Something is obviously up with him. He needs to go away now and get himself right to hit 2023 with a vengeance, because the version we saw of Salem in 2022 is barely good enough to crack the Dees’ best 22.
I had a bit of a smile when some North Melbourne supporters used Brown’s performance in this game to suggest that they may have won the trade.
As covered in the section on Harris Andrews, Brown’s style played directly into the hands of the Lions’ defence, and the idea to kick long to a contest over and over inside 50 did not help Brown’s cause at all. Time and time again, he had to stop and stand under the long ball and wait for the Brisbane defenders to crash into his back and spoil to the footy.
In true Brown style, he didn’t whine and complain, but with Bayley Fritsch well held and Brown unable to get near it in a position to launch at goal, the Dees’ dysfunctional forward line was at its worst.
AND A FEW QUICKIES
ZERO – BLAKE ACRES
Turned in one of his best games for the season – it should make him a hero, right?
Yeah, usually…. but he is unsigned for next season and all reports have him heading to Carlton, so it was almost as though this was a tease.
HERO – MASON COX
Took four towering “get out of jail” marks to relieve the pressure on the Pies. When you consider Sean Darcy had zero marks (hence his appearance in the zeroes), Cox had him covered around the ground. Easily, too.
HERO – DARCY GARDINER
Gave Bayley Fritsch a nice old touch up. The Melbourne forward managed to snag two goals, but Gardiner was all over him like a cheap suit most of the game.
HERO – HAYDEN YOUNG
Getting better all the time, and will become a force in the league over the next two seasons. Eight intercepts as he continually put himself in the right spot.
HERO – DAVID MUNDY
If you need a reason for this, I won’t be able to help you. Thanks, David.
Got any I’ve missed? As always, I am all ears… or in this case, all eyes.