Gold Coast v Brisbane – The Mongrel Review

The build-up

And here we are. The twenty-fifth episode of the Q-clash. The Mango Tango. The Toad-Off. The AFL match-up most anticipated by every born-and-bred, Bundy-drinking, Southerner-hating, plugger-wearing KWEENZLANDAAAAH in the nation.

In the maroon corner, we have the current finals-bound third-place sitter, the followers of Faganism, the team of the 2000s, the roaring Brisbane Lions!

And in the other maroon corner, we have the youngest club in the league, the ever mercurial, collector of talented youth, the bombastic Gold Coast Suns!

With Brisbane practically assured of a finals appearance, most of the hype surrounding the match was around how well they could use this to tune up their tactics in preparation for September, while Gold Coast have absolutely dominated the VFL competition in 2023, but struggled to find consistency in the top league.

A win for Brisbane would keep them in the hunt for a top-two finish, while an upset for Gold Coast keeps their slim finals hopes alive.


Ins and outs

Gold Coast are in the enviable position of having a very short injury list. Only Lachie Weller is on the sidelines for the rest of the season, while Uwland is expected to return from a hamstring issue shortly, and Joel Jeffrey’s foot likely to take another couple of weeks.

After upsetting St Kilda, then losing heavily to GWS, the Suns omitted Ben Long and Hewago Oea to bring in Mal Rosas and Sean Lemmens.

Brisbane have a fairly clean injury list as well, though they will be quite distressed with news coming this week that Ashcroft has done his ACL and will miss a significant amount of time. As one of the most exciting youngsters of his draft, Brisbane will miss not just his impact, but how it’ll affect his medium-term development.

James Tunstill comes in to fill that spot, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s not exactly a like-for-like replacement.

Overall, it’s a near-full strength side for both teams with just a couple of outs that they’d wish to have.


The game itself

I love a good match-up in the middle. Sure, having the big boys in key positions jostle is fun to watch, but it’s an absolute joy to see when top-level midfielders just take each other on and just dare their opponent to keep up with them. So when Touk Miller stood right on the toes of Lachie Neale at the first bounce, you knew this was going to be a match where the Suns weren’t trying to contain Brisbane, they were trying to match them and see who would flinch first.

It’s an approach that we didn’t see all that much under Dew, preferring to have his younger players use skill and speed rather than raw power, but Steven King seems to be willing to let a little bit of mongrel out in the players. Some hard tackling and no small amount of aggression around the ball was a good look for the suns. Whether it’s just a way to vent their frustrations over the Dew sacking or if it’ll be a more long-term strategy remains to be seen, but with the success in this match, I’d be surprised if they didn’t lean into it a bit.

There is something to be said for the simple approach as well. Gold Coast weren’t afraid to use the corridor regularly, which gave their forwards many shots from good angles. Sometimes it’s really that simple—move the ball forward quickly to ‘the spot’ and then trust the forward to kick the easy 30 metre goal.

Brisbane on the other hand had trouble using the corridor, getting intercepted regularly as Gold Coast cut off the passing lanes.

Despite all that, a tight first half saw Brisbane with plenty of the ball, but not quite able to make Gold Coast pay on the scoreboard.

The second half is where Brisbane kind of fell apart. Their forward movement was regularly intercepted around centre-half forward, so they tried to use some width. Unfortunately, that also proved problematic, as epitomised by Joe Danier’s kick from the centre circle to find an open teammate, but a miscue in his kick saw him pick out an opponent and turn the ball over, allowing Gold Coast to score. He had a horrible day by his standards and expectations, but Lions fans can feel comforted by the fact that he backs up those days with good ones. Usually. Well, sometimes.

The second half also had Noah Anderson put his stamp on the game. He was massive in his ability to find a teammate while under pressure, and his drive to make a contest lifted his whole side. While I think Miller was the most valuable for his role, Anderson capitalised and will probably have the umpire’s eye, giving him the three votes.

As the game wore on, Gold Coast’s field kicking got even better, spotting up teammates in space regularly, while shutting down easy options for Brisbane. To the Lions credit, they never gave up, but Gold Coast’s run and effort could not be denied. They ground out their opponents and pushed them into mistakes in a way that had Brisbane stunned into indecision far too regularly.


The difference-maker

Poor kicking for goal is poor footy. It’s a saying that pretty much every kid hears from their junior days, right up to AFL level, and yet again we see a reason why.

Despite having more inside 50s than Gold Coast, Brisbane failed again and again to hit gettable shots, especially in the second half where they kicked 3.7 to the Suns’ 10.3 with the game on the line. Hipwood and Daniher combined for 1.6 between them, while at the other end Casboult and King were sniper-like with a total of 7.1. With just one extra scoring shot, the Suns duo were able to bring a lot of pain and scoreboard pressure to the Brisbane side.

The most entertaining part of that was undoubtedly Ben King kicking a bag, especially considering he only had seven disposals for the match, but Casboult’s contribution shouldn’t be dismissed.

For years, he was considered a great contested mark, but his shots on goal were… unpredictable at best. To his credit, he’s worked very hard since heading North, and went from a liability to being a decent kick, and now he can claim to be one of the better ones in the league. Not a guaranteed, kick-for-your-life-type player, but if a mate said he’d give you his car if Casboult made a 40m set shot, you’d probably be justified in planning some parking arrangements before he put boot to ball.

Aside from the efficiency of Gold Coast’s forward line, the Miller-Neale match-up worked out brilliantly for them. Dunkley and McCluggage had excellent games, with Dunkley’s 30 touches, 10 tackles and 9 clearances showing just how well-rounded he is, but they missed the creativity of Neale in moving the ball outside into runners in space. Miller didn’t sacrifice his own game completely though, regularly getting space and running the ball through the corridor himself in the sort of line-breaking runs that had him in Brownlow conversations this past few years.

Miller himself managed 29 touches, five tackles, six clearances and 527 metres gained, which isn’t a phenomenal return, but compared to Neale’s seventeen disposals, three tackles, four clearances, and 85 metres gained, it’s fair to say Miller won that contest handily. That’s not to run Neale down, the bloke is a champion and will no doubt bounce back in a big way, but being able to match such an accomplished player at the ball and beat them so often definitely deserves recognition.


Ruck battle

I put it to you, dear reader, there is no ruckman currently as underrated as Jarrod Witts. Guys like Gawn set the standard, but get the plaudits that accompany it, while Witts has been toiling away productively.

He attended 87 ruck contests, winning the hitout 43 times, and to the advantage of his mids 18 times. Compare that to Mcinerney (a ruck that I personally rate very highly) who only managed 31 taps and four to advantage of his smalls from 79 contests, and it’s a no-brainer to give Witts the nod. He’s one of the few that can match the muscle of the big O, and his positioning at around the ground ball ups was superb. It’s a sign of a good ruck that they integrate with their mids, and Witts did it perfectly in this match, practically reading their minds regarding their movements.

If you’re a young ruckman, watch Witt’s game here, you won’t regret it.

The secondary contest was Casboult v Daniher, but neither really attended many contests. Just enough to spell their key big men.


Other bits


Miller’s been very hand(s)y

Partway through the third, and with Brisbane’s inaccuracy costing them heavily, Miller and Zorko tracked the ball towards true centre wing. Zorko collected the ball shortly before being tackled. He raised his arm up to attempt to get Miller’s tackle to slide high, but Miller hung on to the guernsey and they both went to ground in a rolling ball of man-flesh that had the umpire forgo blame and decide to ball it up.

After the usual tussle, Zorko stood up, pointed at Miller and yelled “HE F#@KING GRABBED MY NUTS!”, causing the commentary team to clutch their pearls and swoon with the drama. If this were a theatre, no doubt Zorko would have been accompanied in a musical number in his accusation while the broadcast team frantically searched for a video angle that would suggest hand-on-dick action. Some lad in the production van must have thought that time spent looking through grainy pre-broadband video downloads for some shady porn had not been wasted as they looked frame-by-frame to see if Miller had managed to fiddle with Dayne’s main man.

Unfortunately for those wanting further drama and amateur porn enthusiasts everywhere, it seemed no such angle could be found.

That’s not to suggest that Zorko didn’t have a point, but also doesn’t mean Miller did anything intentional. As an example, one of my hobbies is Brazillian Jiu Jitsu (think of what would happen if judo, Sadism and aggressive cuddling had a baby). I remember very clearly when one of the long-time teammates was wrestling with our coach, when suddenly he grabbed a handful of trouser snake.

“Mate, either let go or buy me dinner first” said Coach Deon.

“What? I’ve got your belt.” said the teammate whom I shouldn’t name due to a very identifiable name.

“One’s wrapped around my waist and you’ve got a handful of the other. Which do you think is which?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well you can fucking let go anyway!”

Whether that’s a reflection on how easy it is to ignorantly grab another man’s nether regions or some sort of conversation that my teammate needed to have with himself if entirely beyond my scope of expertise, or this article really, but I think it’s possible that maybe Touk and Zorko may both have a point. Or maybe they need to have an open conversation too. Either way, all the best to them. So brave.


Who taught Bailey Humprey how to run?

Maybe I’m being unfair on the lad, but for some reason when he’s running at the ball, he just kind of looks like a 40-year-old bloke in his 400th game of ressies. He’s quick when he wants to be, but has the ambling cruising gait of someone who regrets having the pub special with four pints the night before.

Then again, those older blokes know when to conserve their energy and when to put in, so maybe Humphrey is ahead of the curve. It’s just odd to see someone so young, yet so wise in the ways of old-school footy. If he does a sneaky out-the-shorts-leg piss on the field, I think he deserves automatic life membership and an extra hundred games added to his tally.


Keidean Coleman

How good is this kid going to be? He has speed, a great ability to dispose of the ball quickly and mostly hit a good target. He also positions well, intercepting handballs to opponents and accelerating away with the sort of first-step speed that any player would envy.

Up until his injury he had 21 touches with five score involvements and fiver intercepts. He looked very dangerous with the ball


Next up

Brisbane head to WA to take on a Freo team that’s found some form. On their day, either side can put a big hurting on opponents, while their worst will see them vulnerable to teams that they really should be beating.

If Brisbane lose, they can effectively rule out a top two finish, while a Freo loss puts any chance of playing finals into the dreaded ‘mathematically possible’ category.

I’m backing in Brisbane simply because I can’t see a midifeld of this quality dropping the ball twice in a row, and their forwards will definitely be spending a lot of time practising their set shots. Freo can match up to them well, but if Brisbane get in front, I’m not sure they’ll have the stubbornness needed to fight back hard enough. Maybe I’m wrong though and it becomes their line in the sand game.

I’m going with the favourite though.

Brisbane by 21.

Gold Coast have a big test when they travel to Adelaide. Tex Walker needs a bag to stay in touch with Curnow, and the Crows have been gelling very well in recent matches. With both sides coming off derby wins, it’ll come down to who can get their forwards to fire. King’s athleticism and Walker’s ability to bring his teammates into the game will be vital for each team, and should be far more fun to watch than the ladder positions suggest.

If I’m forced to make a pick though, I’m backing Adelaide at home, but not by much.

Crows by 13.



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