The Brisbane fortress where the Lions truly become the kings of jungle plays host to the Lions and the Bombers. Brisbane seems to turn up the intensity at home and look a completely different side than when they travel. The Bombers have had moments in 2023 as they look to forge their identity under Brad Scott. Would the Bombers be able to cause an unlikely upset, or would the Lions remain the pride of Brisbane town? Here’s how things went down.
Charlie Cameron is probably the premier small forward in the game at the moment, and is hard to curtail. Andrew McGrath has spent time in the midfield throughout the year, but Brad Scott spun the magnets and sent McGrath behind the ball to do a job on Charlie.
And do the job, he did. Charlie had just the nine disposals and one behind for the night. One of his greatest weapons is his leg speed, and his ability to run onto the loose footy. McGrath wore him like a glove and limited the space Charlie had to work in. Charlie may be quicker than McGrath, but he blocked space, cut off leading lanes, and made Charlie work for everything.
Charlie found some space a few times in the final term, however, the heat had gone from the game, and the result was already set. On a night where the Lions spent a lot of time up forward, the job Andrew McGrath did on Cameron shines like a beacon for the Bombers and emphasises his value in defense – in locking down his opponent, but also in winning his own ball and counter-attacking.
Big Joe Delivers
While many may have expected big things from the aforementioned Charlie Cameron, it was Joe Daniher who delivered for his club tonight. The much-maligned forward kicked Brisbane’s first four goals of the game across the opening two and half quarters, and finished with a game-high six goals. Before tonight, he had only ever managed two goals against his former side.
He was up and about early – both the good (a great contested mark) and the bad (shanking his kick out on the full). From then on though, it was a good night for Joe. He found space, he finished well, and he was the main reason Brisbane stayed in touch with the Bombers, and then ran away with the game.
On nights like these, we see the full potential of Joe. We see how damaging he can be and how significantly he can impact a game in many facets – including as back up ruck, and goaling from forward 50 stoppages.
Going into half-time, there was a sense that an upset was on the cards. The Lions weren’t converting their opportunities and the Bombers were in control around the ground. People often say that the third term is the Premiership quarter and, well, the Lions pulled off an almighty flex in the Premiership quarter tonight.
Brisbane dominated both field position and the scoreboard and Essendon just couldn’t find a way through. The Lions spent 74% of the term in their front half, and had 22-5 I50’s Lions which resulted in 5.4 to 1.2. They also took over around the ball, being +12 in contested possessions for the quarter alone. This quarter changed the trajectory of the game and ensured that the Lions end up with a comfortable win.
The Lions showed their credentials by responding to the upstart Bombers and shifting control of the game after the main break. There was little the Bombers could do to get any run or spend sufficient time in their own forward half – a testament to the full team buy in from the Lions.
From the Viewing Gallery
Former Lions skipper Dayne Zorko set the tone early for his side, laying a strong tackle and winning a free kick in the opening seconds. On return from injury, this was big for Zorko and set the tone for the eventual runaway the Lions had.
Zorko started it, and even into the last quarter, that intensity remained. Conor McKenna got his fingertips to an Archie Perkins shot at goal that would have been the perfect start to the final term for the Bombers. Footy really can be a game of millimetres sometimes.
With Daniher getting off the leash early, Andrew Phillips took one for the team and played a role he wouldn’t normally – he went behind the ball to play on Joe Daniher allowing a spare defender to intercept. This worked well for the first half, but the Lions were able to get more control in the second half.
Kyle Langford continues his career resurgence. He has played roles at both ends of the ground so far in 2023, and had some key moments in the forward half tonight. He is building quite a good season.
Oscar McInerney had a big night. He had to combat both Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips, and while the Bombers rucks won the hit-out battle, clearances were almost even and the Lions had the dominance in contested possessions. While he didn’t have a huge number of disposals, McInerney was immense around the ground, bringing the ball to ground, and running all day – even through a knee to the ribs from Draper.
Mason Redman was again immense for the Bombers. With a team-high 30 disposals, he was their go to on the overlap and was vital to their forward thrusts. Like Langford, Redman is building a really strong season and is vital to the fortunes of the Bombers.
The crowd were great – they were invested from the start (even with a low-scoring first half) and stayed engaged in the game. Obviously, the Lions running away with the game helped.
The Lions were too strong and eventually blew the Bombers away in a second half blitz. They provisionally sit second on the ladder and look ahead to a Sir Doug Nicholls Round Q Clash at the GABBA, while the Bombers face a resurgent Tigers outfit who may get some troops back for Dreamtime at the ‘G on Saturday night. The Lions are building nicely and the Dons are finding moments in matches, but are not yet stringing four quarters together consistently.
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