Brisbane v Adelaide – The Mongrel Review



The Build Up

For Brisbane, this was sold as a chance for them to tune up their game as they move into a post-season run at a flag, but also as a potential danger game if they took the Crows too lightly.

For Adelaide, every match matters if they want to play in finals, which would be a big feather in the cap of coach Nicks as he looks to develop the squad into a contending side in the next few years.

Another focus is the possible Coleman medal for Adelaide’s all-time leading goalkicker Tex Walker. While he’s not shy about tooting his own horn (once famously sending his own highlights package to Nick Kyrgios in an example of his off-field decision-making ability perhaps lagging behind his footy smarts) he generally chooses the team option more often than the individual one when he crosses the white line. Trailing Curnow by five goals is a decent gap with the form Charlie has been in, but with West Coast in the final round, a strong game against Sydney and Brisbane could see him well in contention.

Tex may be somewhat selfless on the field, but I’m yet to meet a forward who hasn’t fantasised about taking home their league goal-kicking award. I bet he’s even got a spot he picked out for it years ago.


Ins and Outs

Both teams had some minor changes after their wins last week. Brisbane decided to send Darcy Fort to the twos and put the sub vest on Jaspa Fletcher, which is kind of understandable with their recent form. I’d expect them to get back into the squad shortly though as they look to share the laid as the Lions move into the final weeks of the season.

Big Oscar McInerney returns from an ankle injury to take his spot, which radically changes the Brisbane tactical options. McInerney has shown he can play the power forward, ruck and tall intercept roles with some consistency, allowing the smalls to crumb at his feet effectively. Livewire Keidean Coleman faced a fitness test, but wasn’t selected, which is a bit of a shame as I think he adds some excitement to the team with his pace and flair.

Brisbane’s injury list is fairly light, with Answerth expected to return in the next week or so, though losing Rich and Ashcroft for the season hurts them.

Adelaide were forced to make changes when Chayce Jones’ Lisfranc fracture on his left foot required surgery, and Josh Rachele was omitted (though was also given the sub vest, so won’t be in the twos).

Luke Pedlar comes back into the side, which was a bit of a surprise considering that Izak Rankine seems to have rejoined the main training squad during the week, after a hamstring injury. If fit, he’s a valuable part of the Adelaide attack, so keeping him sidelined may mean he wasn’t quite right, or they’re playing it safe with a player that relies on his speed and leap to such an extent.

Adelaide’s injury concerns aren’t limited to Rankine and Jones though, as Butts and Doedee are done for 2023, both of whom are best 22 players for the club.


The Game

The Crows came out of the blocks quickly, showing pace and dare as they moved the ball quickly and efficiently. Their transition game looked fantastic, and the opportunism from young McAdam was elite, including picking the pocket of Walker as he went for a mark. The commentary team said Tex wouldn’t mind at all, but I think even the most generous bloke might have a little arched eyebrow at the choice.

Adelaide looked very good in the first eight or so minutes. Then Brisbane got firing with their own rapid movement and high-pressure play. They consolidated possession well, and ended the first quarter with a three-point lead.

Brisbane’s forward structure took a hit when just before halftime, Jack Gunston hobbled off with a knee concern after landing awkwardly in a tackle. He was subbed out, and will await a report from the medical room about how it’ll affect the rest of his season. Gunston has been a boost to Brisbane’s attack, so losing him may upset their forward structure at a time when they’d really like to be more settled. I’d be surprised if he plays next week though, even if he is fit. Fort can come in, while Hipwood and Daniher can hold up their end too.

The final goal of the half may be a little controversial as it looked like Pedlar pretty much hed-butted Dunkley in the chest to earn a high-contact free. It looked like one of those things that can happen in a contact sport, as Pedlar bent down slightly to get the ball and Dunkley stopped short to avoid crashing into him, to the point he was practically stationary when Pedlar’s head came into contact with him. Neither player was in the wrong here, as Pedlar is justified in trying to collect the ball that had spilled from the ruck contest, but Dunkley likewise did try to minimise the inevitable contact. Under the rule set though, the free was there to be paid, and it was. Dunkley seemingly asked the ump what he was supposed to do differently in the moment (which is a fair point, he had no real options available except disappearing into a cloud of mist), which the ump didn’t take kindly to and gave Pedlar 50, allowing Adelaide to close the quarter-time gap to three points.

I think that call will get some air time, not because either player was wrong (well, except Dunkley for the back chat), but because both players were doing what they’re supposed to do. I would like to see rules around ensuring players protect themselves at all times, but this wasn’t a case of Pedlar turning into contact or ducking to draw a free, the ball was there to be collected, so he bent down to do just that, just like Dunkley would have done had he been half a step quicker. I’d say this shows that on occasion, head contact can be unavoidable in this sport, and trying to make the rules eliminate that will be an exercise in frustration (though I wouldn’t be shocked if certain media ‘hot takes’ hold this up as an example of Adelaide’s tactics being bad for the health of players and leading to concussions while ignoring the cross-town rivals recent concussion concerns. Not that I’m pointing the finger at anyone in particular…).

The game remained a tight tussle through the second quarter, but part-way through the third (or the ‘premiership quarter’ as my junior coach would say) Brisbane turned up the pressure with some fierce tackling and got a hold of the game to enter the final stanza with a two-and-a-half goal lead.

The final quarter was a slog as both sides worked hard around the ground and at the contest. The tackling from both sides was a highlight, with players sprinting to put pressure on opponents with or without the ball. A classic cross from Zorko found Hipwood 30 out, dead in front and he converted easily to put the margin at a game-high 19 points.

At this point, Brisbane seemed to feel like they’d done enough. Adelaide disagreed though, and pushed back with some fantastic pressure and quick ball movement that contrasted to the slow, controlled possession-based footy that Brisbane employed. The Crows managed to claw back the score to a six-point margin, and looked like they’d threaten to pinch it, but Brisbane rebuffed their final push to ice the game and take the win.


Tex Walker

Not may players fill column inches like Walker, both good and bad, but it’d be hard to argue that he’s in fine form despite being on the wrong side of the dreaded 30-years-old mark that alone can end careers.

His first of the day saw him hit the 600-goal milestone, and achievement matched by less than 40 players to have played the game. He’s just 22 behind Brendan Fevola, and likely to surpass that if he continues to have this sort of impact into the next season or two.

His current tally of 65 for the season is also a career-high, and with West Coast as an opponent in the last match, the same team that he managed to kick a career-high ten goals against last time out in round 13, so he’s not out of contention if the difference is a handful of goals in the final round.

The question though, is if the team can potentially make finals, will he instead work Thilthorpe, Rachele, Rankine and McAdam into the game? His field kicking remains excellent, and a vital part of Adelaide’s attack.


Harris Andrews

For some reason, there seems to be a group of vocal people that dislike and underrate Andrews’ contribution to Brisbane. I’m unsure why, as he’s been a fantastic part of their defence. His work in this match was excellent, with 11 intercepts, 3 contested marks, and even snuck forward for a goal.

His positioning and ability to out-body opponents is a genuine highlight, and while he may not be the prettiest of footballers, there’s something to be said for someone who will scrap and fight for the front spot at every contest.


Ruck battle

The return of Big O meant Daniher could return to the forward line for much of the game, with Oscar taking 101 ruck contests for 39 hitouts (nine to advantage). McInerney is a big, strong ruckman who can use his 204cm, 110kg frame to out-power most of his contemporaries. Most of them, but not all.

Reilly O’Brien has been toiling away the past few seasons to be considered one of the games better big men, and while I’d still put a few others above him, he’s doing a lot right as he moves into the 28-31 age bracket that is usually the peak for big men.

RO’B only took 86 taps, but won 44 of them with 12 finding his mids cleanly—a much more efficient effort than McInerny. Now, Big O is coming off an injury and isn’t really the most mobile bloke to begin with, so making so many contests is an achievement in itself, particularly as it allowed the team to use Daniher forward when Gunston went down. But I have to give credit where it’s due to RO’B on a great outing, and give him the nod here.

Walker and Daniher did battle it out in the secondary ruck roles, but most of those were taken in their respective forward lines, or to rest the main ruckman. Both of them would rather have been a kick off the play for a clean shot at goal, so I’m not sure either was really trying to do more than fill the role for a moment and then quickly push forward, but Tex did a decent job when given the big man duties, winning seven of his 19 taps to Joe’s zero. With that stat, Walker takes the win there.


The stats that matter

The Lions have played 10 home games this season at the Gabba, winning every one of them, a streak they’ll look to extend if they get a top-two finish—which does seem likely.

Brisbane dominated contested marks and showed plenty of willingness to put a body on chasing players—something I think should be far higher rated than a ‘one-percenter’. A timely shepherd gives your teammate time, something that is incredibly precious with the speed of modern footy.

Adelaide was very aggressive with their tackling, winning that stat 74-52, but the killer stat was evident in the 13.15 score. The Crows won the inside 50 battle 56-49, but were unable to make Brisbane pay far too often. In a game decided by a goal, a little more efficiency in their forward 50 would have seen them walk away victorious, though rather than lay that at the feet of Adelaide’s inability to convert, Brisbane’s defensive pressure can claim a fair portion of the credit for that outcome.

Adelaide have had quite a few honourable losses this season, and while some say that they can be character-building, it’ll be a very bitter pill for the team to swallow.


Sprint to the finish

To play finals, Adelaide will need to beat sixth-placed Sydney at Adelaide Oval, and put West Coast to the sword in WA.

Adelaide have struggled to win away from home, but West Coast shouldn’t trouble them too much, due to being focused on the draft and trade week more than the four points.

Sydney will be a significant task, but not an impossible one.

Oddly enough, Walker’s Coleman challenge could prove to be an obstacle. If the Crows try to focus on him, Sydney can streamline their defence and launch scoring opportunities from their back half.

Tex is usually a team-first player though, so no doubt he’ll play that way against Sydney. At home, they’re every chance in what could be a cracking game. With Adelaide’s percentage, 12 wins may be just enough to get into finals, providing some other results go their way.

I’m tipping Adelaide to win both. I don’t know if it’ll be enough, but they’ll give it a red hot go.


Brisbane’s September action is assured, but matches against Collingwood at Marvel and St Kilda at the Gabba will be very interesting. Melbourne and Port are fighting for a top-two spot, and Brisbane will be desperate to keep the double chance. Collingwood have had a couple of losses recently, and with some injury concerns to vital players, they’re vulnerable. Brisbane aren’t running with a clean injury sheet either though, so it’s not going to be an easy match for either team.

I think Brisbane may have a little more to play for here though, and Collingwood’s top-two spot is all but assured. If they had a choice between winning the match or coming out without injuries, I think they’d choose the latter, and in these games, that little bit of hesitation can decide the outcome. Brisbane by seven.

St Kilda will be an interesting one, as the roles are reversed. A Brisbane win against Collingwood, and a few other results may mean that St Kilda need to win to play in September, while Brisbane could have the double chance locked up and be more concerned about list management. While I don’t expect the Saints to make much of an inroad into the finals, the experience will be invaluable to their crop of youngsters, so they’ll be desperate for it, but I think Brisbane will be just too good at home. They should win that one too.