The time is ticking, the whips are cracking, and the end of the 2023 AFL season is in sight.
The Brisbane Lions and Collingwood Magpies square off in the decider this Saturday, with both teams having demons to overcome.
For the Lions, the MCG looms as just as big a threat as the Pies, having not won at the venue all season. For the Magpies, the Lions have the wood over them, with six-straight wins over their rivals, albeit, none of them coming at the Grand Final venue.
The teams are packed with stars – Collingwood boasting Jordan de Goey, who broke more tackles in the Preliminary Final than I’ve seen in years. Scott Pendlebury is a proven big-game player. Nick Daicos is the brightest young star in a sky full of lights, and Darcy Moore has excelled in his first season as captain.
Brisbane boast a rarity – a dual Brownlow medallist in Lachie Neale, fresh off his 2023 win in one of the best finishes to the count in ages. Joe Daniher has become the reliable forward the Lions have needed since his recruitment for the 2021 season. And Harris Andrews has been back to his absolute best in defence for the Lions all season… how he missed the All-Australian team still has me scratching my head.
The two best teams of the season are ready to go head-to-head as the eyes of the footy world focus on the Melbourne Cricket Ground at 2.30pm, Saturday the 30th of September.
Let’s get stuck into The Mongrel Preview with our Big Questions… makes the AFL one look like its written by bozos, really.
WHO DOES JOSH DUNKLEY GO TO?
After watching him tear GWS apart in the middle last weekend, it is difficult to see Chris Fagan ignoring the impact Jordan de Goey had around stoppages. In perhaps his most impressive outing of 2023, de Goey simply refused to succumb to the efforts of the entire GWS midfield, shrugging off just about every effort they made to take him to ground (except that one from Connor Idun, which should have been paid holding the ball). I don’t know what the record is for broken tackles, but de Goey’s efforts were the most impressive in recent memory.
It’s fair to say that without Jordan de Goey, the Pies fall over against the Giants. His 13 clearances amongst 34 possessions were both game-highs, and his power in the contest was simply too much for them to handle.
But can he handle Josh Dunkley? He is no stranger to negating the efforts of the best in the league, y’know? And more importantly, he hurts you going the other way.
At the Bulldogs, Dunkley was the man who could win his own footy, register ten or more tackles (three times this season), and keep his opponent quiet. This is no ordinary “tagger”. Dunkley is far more to the Brisbane Lions than just a stopper – he has the capacity to be the best player on the park in his own right, and to pigeon hole him as a defensive midfielder… you could pay dearly for trying to cram him into that box.
Patrick Cripps is one of the most revered players in the league. The 2022 Brownlow Medallist was squashed by Dunkley in the Prelim – yeah, he was hurt, as evidenced by the child’s mattress he has strapped to his ribs, but 13 disposals were his worst return of the season, and every time he touched the footy in the middle, Dunkley was all over him like a cheap suit.
Some are speculating that Dunkley will go to Nick Daicos, but Dunks’ bread and butter is on the inside, and if he limits the damage of de Goey, the Pies will quickly need to find someone to compensate. With no Taylor Adams in the team, that falls to Daicos, Pendlebury, Crisp, and Tom Mitchell.
It will be interesting to see who steps up if Dunkley does stand opposite de Goey, and how JDG responds to the attention of a player who has the physical strength to hold his tackles and stop the Magpie in his tracks.
Jordan de Goey’s mauling of the GWS midfield was impressive, but if he can best the attention of Josh Dunkley, that would be something truly remarkable.
Oh, what the hell? A Mongrel paywall? Yep, the first question for everyone – the next eight or so for members. I believe my work is worth twenty cents per day. If you don’t, that’s fine – catch ya when I post some free stuff. Of course, you’re welcome to join/rejoin to read it all.