R9 – Adelaide v Brisbane – What Caught My Eye

As Dwayne Russell said at the very start of this matchup, “It’s too early for an elimination final, but this one feels like one”. That’s certainly the type of match-up it felt like going into the game. The in-form Adelaide at home in the City of Churches posed a difficult task for the injury-depleted Brisbane. The fixture of this match being the last game of the round, is quite a fitting one.

There were matchups everywhere. Dunkley looked to be circling Rankine as his next victim. Down back, Himmelberg was opposed to Andrews, with the latter looking to zone off him. Another interesting matchup that piqued my attention was Zorko having Keays for company. It’s not unfamiliar territory for Keays, who’s had some good scalps trying to expose the opposition’s damaging half-back. Michalanney had one of the hardest tasks in footy, going against Charlie Cameron. Those familiar with his career to date know he’d be more than up to the task, but the task wasn’t going to be an easy one.

Only three points split the two teams in the first term, with Brisbane being the beneficiary. Rankine got the home side going in the second quarter, with a beautiful goal assist to his partner in crime, Rachele. Both teams squandered opportunities with a few turnovers, which luckily didn’t get punished on the scoreboard.

It felt like it was still anyone’s game going into the second half. Brisbane had scored their goals mainly from stoppage, and it felt like Adelaide had to even that up to snatch a win. Adelaide made the most of their turnovers and looked to move the ball quickly when they were able to get on the outside.

The call to activate the sub at half-time by the Crows, looked to be costly with Worrell having to leave the ground in what looked like a wrist injury, in the opening minutes of the third. I’m sure looking back, Nicks will probably want to have his time again. Curtin was tactically subbed out before Worrell’s injury during the half-time break. Although Curtin was quiet in the first half, the second-gamer would’ve had some good learnings staying out on the field. Especially when he plays a similar position to Worrell and could’ve been used to cover his absence, and still have another rotation available on the bench.

An avalanche of goals from the Lions in the last quarter looked like it would be all too much for the Crows. They led by three goals, before a stroll-in goal by Himmelberg for his second, kept his team in the game. Just when the Lions looked a class above, the Crows surged back and levelled scores, to produce the second draw of the season in as little as two weeks.

With neither team able to separate themselves, it’s safe to say that the draw did neither any good. Let’s delve into who and what caught my eye.


If you had read the Geelong v North Melbourne game review I did earlier this season, I was big on every team needing a disruptor in the side to help make opposition defenders accountable. The only problem is, that not every team has one.

The casual footy fan will know that Harris Andrew is key to the Lion’s defence, straightening up their structure, and being the pillar the Lions’ defencd is built around. Some of you would know that Elliott Himmelberg isn’t exactly a mainstay in the Crows side, as well. So for him to go out and play the game he produced today, will go a long way in keeping his spot in the side. It may be what catapults his career.

It was a fascinating battle from start to finish. Himmelberg not allowing Andrews to dictate terms, making him defend, and keeping him occupied. With Himmelberg kicking the first goal for the Crows, it wasn’t naive to think that that would’ve been a confidence booster. Although both sides split the points, you could argue that Himmelberg’s two goals could’ve been the difference in the Crows securing the draw or failing against a good side, again. He finished up the game with seven score involvements, the fourth-most, and also had his hands in two direct goal assists for his team. His pressure was also quite good for a big man, making it hard for Nicks to leave him out of the side going forward.

Andrews hardly disgraced himself, still playing a pivotal role in patrolling the back line. 17 disposals, nine marks and 13 spoils is still a decent game for Andrews, but most of his damage was done further up the ground, which the Crows will be a little bit happy about.

This battle was important in the context of the game because if you let Andrews do as he pleases, you’re in for a long game. Without Himmelberg’s role in negating Andrews, the Crows simply don’t get close to a draw.



There were key matchups aplenty to keep you occupied at the Adelaide Oval. One that was tantalizing to watch was the battle between the two big boys, Payne and Walker.

You almost forget how good Payne has been in his short career. Before going down to injury in the backend of last season, he looked like he was going to be a key contributor to the Lions fortunes in September. He was certainly at his best in this one.

Tex didn’t disgrace himself by any means, kicking two goals to finish the game but Payne didn’t make it easy for him. It was the perfect match-up for Tex. Payne possesses a similar height and build to the Texan, keeping up with him on the lead and being able to match his strength in one-on-one wrestles. His body positioning was fantastic throughout the game. Payne was also able to help his defence out, taking crucial intercept marks. He finished with 12 marks for the day, playing a crucial role in supporting the rest of the back six.

In the end, it was a good old-fashioned battle between the two, with Payne taking the chocolates just.



It’s not a coincidence that we’ve seen a spike in Rankine’s output of performance since he’s been given more midfield minutes. Splitting his time between midfield and forward line, he was creative and produced a spectacular performance.

If you look at this game and take a look at his season to date, at a glance you’ll see career highs everywhere. He ranks up there with the best players in the game at the moment. The freedom he’s getting and being allowed to have at the moment is yielding good results for the Crows. Everything he touches he turns to gold.

Three goals and 24 disposals is a pretty solid day, and it nearly made the difference. We saw Dunkley go to him at the start of the game, but it wasn’t a solid run-with role. A player like Rankine is hard to stop when he’s given the licence to just go wherever he pleases. Up forward he’s a nightmare to play on because he keeps moving and can be hard to tackle with the way he shimmies and weaves through traffic. In the midfield, he plays attacking and assertive, with no respect for the opposition. Not only does he hurt you on the scoreboard, he always brings his teammates into the game.

The trajectory Rankine has taken so far this season should place him in All-Australian calculations come the end of the season. Teams might have to start thinking about ways they could quell his influence, or even exploit him going the other way.



The ruck battle between The Big O and ROB was a pretty significant one. A hard fought duel, that at times was hard to split.

O’Brien had 15 disposals, five clearances and 56 hit-outs. McInerney wasn’t far behind, with 14 disposals, six clearances and 40 hit-outs. The Big O was also able to apply great pressure finishing with eight tackles.

I would’ve liked both ruckmen to have tried working one another defensively and trying to get on the scoreboard. To be fair, both aren’t notable goal-kickers. What both did try to do well was getting back and helping their defence out at times, with O’Brien taking an important mark standing in the hole, to stop a certain goal in the third quarter. While they both do their best work at centre bounces and around-the-ground stoppages, it would be good to also see them take more marks around the ground and impose themselves a bit more.

Just like the final score, it’s pretty hard to split the two. I’ll give The Big O the chocolates, mainly for his pressure. He certainly fought back hard towards the end to help his team get their stoppage game going.



How good is it watching Darcy Fogarty roost the footy? He troubled the scorers with four goals, a couple of those sailing through over the back fence with ease. It was a game you want to see more of from the big fella.

Not only is he a beautiful kick, but he can take a nice grab especially when he can run and jump. Maybe a game like the one he played here can give him all the confidence to rip the competition apart and become a premier forward. Crows fans have been patient enough, eagerly waiting for him to take the mantle as the number one key forward. Hopefully, they don’t have to wait much longer. Tex has been a great mentor for him, allowing him to grow into himself and find his way in the game.

Playing against a seasoned Lions defensive unit, he was able to find separation on the lead and convert his opportunity. When he’s not clunking marks, he’s able to bring the ball to ground and get it to the advantage of the smalls. His eight score involvement shows that he’s able to bring teammates into the game.



Not only did we have some good one-on-one duels between forwards and backs, and between the rucks, but the midfield of both teams had some absolute game-changers running through there. It was fascinating to watch throughout the encounter.

I’ve loved what Soligo brings to the table. He’s the dynamic player the Crows needed to shake things up in what was a pretty one-paced midfield. He offers a bit of speed, some grunt and a lot of flair. While he wasn’t as clean as he’d like to be, he was willing in the contest and fought hard every time he had the ball.

You just know what you’re going to get from Laird and Crouch, the veterans, who are industrious in the way they approach the game. 56 disposals, 14 clearances, and 21 tackles between the two shows how hard-working they were, but it just wasn’t enough. Their captain, on the other hand, looked like he was ready to do it all himself. In what was an eye-catching performance from Dawson, who diced and dissected his way through the defensive zones to try and win at all costs. 19 kicks, 11 inside-50s, 10 score involvements, and 800 metres gained is what he finished up with. And if it wasn’t for Izak Rankine, he’d be the clear best player on the ground.

For the Brisbane mids, I thought that they were able to win their fair share of the ball. Dunkley, Berry, McCluggage and Neale got a fair bit of it but weren’t as clean and polished with their ball use when they had the ball. The last three in particular. While they did get parts of their stoppage game going, they didn’t use the ball particularly well for parts of the game.

I am a bit lost on Rayner, who seems to consistently go missing for large chunks of the game. The game against Melbourne where he spent large chunks in the midfield looked like a coming-of-age moment. Since then, he hasn’t been able to achieve those heights again. Understandably there’s been key injuries to key players such as Zac Bailey, and even recently Lincoln McCarthy, so Rayner has had to fill in their roles. Even up forward he’s not hitting the scoreboard as much as he’d like to. Fagan needs to find a way where Rayner can do something similar to what the likes of Heeney and Petracca are doing for their team at the moment. They’re not maximising what Rayner can do.

For me, it shows that Ashcroft has been the most significant loss for this midfield. They’ve tried mixing it up with Lyons coming in and out of the side, McCluggage and Berry taking more responsibility and Dunkley trying to take out the opposition’s best player and hurt them going the other way. If Neale is well-held or doesn’t have a big say, then the Lions mids are not quite a scary proposition.



Playing at half-back out of necessity could potentially prolong Zorko’s career. The Marcus Ashcroft Medallist has had a pretty solid season to date, despite his team’s indifferent form. It’s not surprising Keays was sent to try to expose him going the other way. His foot skills are what lead to a lot of scoring for the Lions and can cut teams open, the more space he has. It was a modest 26 disposals for Zorko in this game. If he had any more than that, who knows what the result could be.

Compared to the rest of their team, the unheralded Crows back six just keeps getting to work. They play undersized at times but manage to hold up collectively, in a part of the ground that’s copped some big injuries. Keane continues to come along and be a great find for the Crows since joining in the off-season. Before going down, Worrell was significant in getting over as a third man and helping in marking contests. He also was able to halve one-on-ones and get some big spoils in.

Brisbane’s injury crisis has created opportunities for some debutants who would’ve struggled to make the team had Brisbane been at full strength. Logan Morris’ story continues to fascinate me. He faded out of the game as it wore on, but was able to bop up for two goals. Bruce Reville had a stack of the ball in the middle part of the game and continued to provide much-needed run and carry for the Lions. Shadeau Brain started as the sub and began the game a bit shaky, but quickly redeemed himself with a beautiful intercept mark. He had a couple of good moments in his limited game time, showing he has got quite the footy brain.

I thought the Crows small forwards got to work for the majority of the game and looked to match the dynamic Lions front six for potency up forward. Rachele played his role and was brave, particularly very late into the game where he had to put his head over the footy a couple of times. Although a little wasteful, Keays tried his guts out running hard defensively and being an option going the other way. McHenry didn’t have a big game, but wasn’t wasteful with the ball in hand and along with Rankine and Keays, had several pressure acts.


It feels like there’s still plenty to unpack in this one. We’d be here for a few more chapters if I tried to go through it all. It’s a weird feeling at the end of a draw, isn’t it?

What now for both teams? I said that it was curtains for the loser, and I’ve concluded that it probably doesn’t help either team to split the points.

I think we need to have another look at the draw and have a genuine conversation about it. I’m as traditionalist as anyone, but for the spectator, the draw can be a bit of a cliffhanger. And it’s even more annoying as a fan of either side. That’s just me though.

Funnily enough, I was reading a comment online that there was bound to be another draw with how even the competition is. And it happened on the same day I read those comments. We’ve already witnessed the first draw of the season between Essendon and Collingwood, in the ANZAC Day clash. That was fitting, as it was hard to separate the two. It felt the same in this one, it was a sea-sawing battle. A dozen lead changes, with the biggest margin blowing out to 18 points. If there was a winner, they would’ve certainly been deserving but it wasn’t to be.

Are we happy with a draw and both teams take home two points, or do we desperately need a result? I’ll leave that up for discussion and see what the consensus is.

I’d love to be inside the four walls of both teams to see what learnings they take from this game, if any. Do they review it forensically or do they move on quickly?

Looking forward to next week, the Lions host the Tigers, who have a few injuries of their own. If the trend of injuries continues the way it’s going, this could potentially be ugly. For the sake of the players, and the fans I hope it’s not the case. I expect the Lions to win comfortably.

The Crows take on the mighty Pies at the MCG. Both teams have had some cracking encounters in recent times, I expect nonetheless. It’s going to take a mighty effort to beat the in-form Magpies, but I expect the Crows to take it up them.