People predicted that if there were to be one upset this round, it would be Brisbane defeating Collingwood. It almost came to fruition in a frantic last quarter that saw them draw level in the dying stages.
The Pies were tough, and showed no signs of tired legs after three games in 11 days, running out winners by seven points.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
This was a knock-down, drag-out affair, with players giving their all at every contest. Several heavy clashes and a few spectacular falls.
The Lions looked gone with ten minutes to go. The Pies were 15 points up and were full of run. Lynden Dunn had just made two really good defensive plays and steadied the ship, but the Lions kept coming.
Zorko’s banana from 35 out in traffic dragged the Lions a bit closer, and then #1 pick, Cam Rayner grabbed the ball from the centre and went looooooong to a contest where McStay marked and goaled, and it was game on again.
Jordan de Goey answered with a great one-grab mark against Gardiner and a perfect kick for goal before Dane Beams’ long goal tied it all up.
The much-maligned Chris Mayne put the Pies in front with a rushed kick, and then the Lions took the ball to the other end.
Allen Christenson had a chance to tie it up again, but lunging pressure from Jeremy Howe caused him to kick out on the full.
Enter Mason Cox – we’ll get to him in a minute.
You can tell that reporters were sitting and waiting to see how this one played out. If the Lions win, Zorko is the hero, bouncing back to fine form and making Nathan Buckley rue his choice not to tag him, despite the tactic being so effective against Zorko for the last few weeks.
But the Lions didn’t win, and Buckley backing in his own midfield to hurt the Lions as much, or more than Zorko was hurting the Pies looks like a good plan.
It was the kind of day Zorko needed. He compiled 34 touches, 10 tackles and 7 marks… close to the rare AFL Quadruple Double. He had 16 contested possessions and slotted four goals. If you’re going to pick one fault in his game, it would be that he travelled at only 68% efficiency. That said, a lot of his ball came under pressure.
The Lions need Zorko up and about if they are to hit the winners list. They may not have got there today, but based on this performance, it shouldn’t be too long.
Jordan de Goey repays the faith
We all remember de Goey's off-season exploits. the more alarmist people involved with football were calling for harsh penalties and even sackings. You think the Pies would give away someone with this kind of talent? You're kidding yourself.
De Goey is out of contract at the end of this season, and on today's performance, he will command a high price for the Pies to retain him. He is worth it. He has the sort of core strength that makes tackling him almost impossible. He's strong through the core, like Dangerfield or Cripps.
20 touches and five goals is the kind of return that any player would take. Zorko was good, but de Goey was not only responsible for five goals, himself, he handed off the game winner as well. Three votes.
Beams ties it up
Beams’ kick with minutes to go was a booming 50 metre bomb under all sports of pressure.
The Lions were coming, and they needed their captain to stand up. He did, and the former Magpie went back and slotted a ripping goal to tie the game up.
Beams had a pretty ordinary off-season, and was supposedly lacking fitness, but he ran this game out well, collecting 31 touches.
His goal was a captain’s goal.
The Pies midfield
Maybe this is why the Pies didn’t go with a tag on Zorko?
Sidebottom had 34 in another classy display. Tom Phillips continues to improve. He had 28 touches, 10 marks and a goal. Treloar had 26, Sam Murray had 24, Stephenson had 21 and Pendlebury had 20 despite sitting the entire last quarter.
Nathan Buckley backed his mids in to win their respective duels. They did just that.
Big guys don’t get any smaller…
As I wrote before – Enter Mason Cox.
The big man took the biggest mark of the evening with a minute left in the game. Allen Christenson had just sent the ball out on the full, and the Lions were geared up for one last push. Cox stood tall… pardon the pun, and clunked a great mark on the half back flank.
From there, the Pies went coast to coast. Phillips went off the ground down towards de Goey, who collected and shovelled an underground handball into the path of the running machine, Jaidyn Stephenson, who collected and ran into the open goal for the sealer.
For all the garbage he copped at the start of the year, and yes, I did write some negative things about him when he made some mistakes, Mason Cox really stood up when it mattered. Great mark under the circumstances, and an integral part of the play that iced the game.
Silly free kicks
For the second week in a row, Lynden Dunn cost the Pies a goal.
Now consider that for a second. Collingwood won by seven points. Lucky Mason Cox took that mark at half back, because had they lost, and incident, as soft as it was, with Lynden Dunn throwing Mitch Robinson to the ground 50 metres from where Brisbane had the ball was a dumb mistake.
He knocked over Jack Higgins last week, which was dumb, and now he’s done it again.
Saving grace for Dunn is that he made a couple of huge plays late in the game to redeem himself.
Mitch Robinson staging for free kicks
I hate staging. Cannot stand it, and when you have someone as tough and hard as Mitch Robinson throwing his head back, and pretending to be hit… it’s a really poor look for the game.
Robinson was ignored early in the game, and then when the time came where he actually did get a high knock, he was ignored again. You know what – that’s good umpiring. If you’re going to try to pull the wool over the umpire’s eyes with fabricated contact, or contact you initiate, you don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt when there is contact. It’s the Lindsay Thomas rule.
Robinson is as hard at it as any player in the league. He’s better than that.
This is such a shame. More than any other year, I have enjoyed watching Pendles ply his trade. He is now in a situation where he doesn't have to do everything all the time - he has support, and as such, he has changed his game a little.
In particular, I've loved his tackling this season. He has been laying some rippers this year, and I hope this is a very short stint on the sidelines.
Stefan Martin v Brodie Grundy was a highlight, especially when you consider the All-Australian ruckman implications. Grundy won the hit outs and was a beast with tackling again, but Martin controlled the ball around the ground. You’d give the points to Martin today. Pies fans will tell you that Grundy may be carrying an injury from last week against the Tigers, but don’t let that take anything away from Stefan Martin’s performance – he was huge.
Loved the way Pendlebury was able to take the time to steady before slotting his first quarter goal. Blair fed him the nice handball and the captain didn’t let him down.
Speaking of Pendlebury, did you notice him put his body on the line versus Mitch Robinson at the centre bounce right after his goal? Pendles came out on top in that collision, too.
Jeremy Howe was excellent in the backline in the first quarter. He finished with five marks to his name in the first, including three intercept marks. He also added a goal creeping down into the congested forward line.
How good was Charlie Cameron's tap to et up Dane Beams? Great, quick thinking.
Luke Hodge looked a bit iffy early. Didn’t have the clean hands we’re used to seeing from him. He righted the ship later and was important in getting the Lions going early in the last quarter. He finished with a game-high 13 marks.
Two goals in just over a minute to the Pies hurt the Lions at the start of the second quarter.
Pendlebury’s long handball to set up Treloar’s running goal from fifty was classic Pendles. Just perfectly weighted, and using the vision that he is famous for.
No idea how Zorko and McLuggage both got free by themselves on consecutive touches for the Lions. Zorko got it uncontested at 50, and went long to McLuggage who was in the square. Defensive breakdown for the Pies.
On that, I am actually a bit worried about Collingwood's defence. Brisbane seemed to get out the back a little too often for my liking. Against a top team, the Pies might have paid dearly for defensive structural breakdowns like they had tonight. Maybe it was the nature of the game - free flowing, but I'm not sure Bucks would be too happy with it.
Jarrod Berry had a couple of really good minutes in the second, snapping a goal of his own, then assisting Lewis Taylor on the next inside 50.
Great little close-quarters touch from Mason Cox to Josh Thomas to allow the snap for goal.
Pendlebury’s chase down of Dane Beams was great. This is the area Pendles has improved greatly this year. He was ranked top five in tackles this season prior to this round.
Loved Darcy Moore threading the goal from a difficulty angle with… wait for it – a drop punt. Read it again – it actually happened.
Stefan Martin ‘s centre bounce take away from the ruck and bomb deep into 50 gave Zorko a goal over the back. Spectacular play from Martin.
There’s an uncontested mark that Harris Andrews would like to have over again in the second quarter. He spilled it and Josh Thomas pounced for his third goal.
The way Eric Hipwood attacked the ball at full pace and wheeled onto his right foot outside 50 is the best I have seen him attack the ball. He needs to do more of it.
Back to back goals from Charlie Cameron and Lewis Taylor were both great. The Lions were really capitalising off chaos balls coming into their 50, much more so than when they went to marking targets.
Loved Sam Murray taking the game, and opposition players on with his run.
Darcy Gardiner’s missed tackle afforded Tom Phillips the chance to slot his first goal. Phillips didn’t need a second chance.
The kick from Charlie Cameron on the boundary to Lewis Taylor inside 50 was absolutely perfect. No idea how Taylor was so alone again. Does he smell or something?
Cameron got goal assist number three with a ripping short pass to Zorko.
Cam Rayner started showing a bit in the third quarter, and came into the game more in the last. For mine, Stephenson has him covered in terms of performances this season, but there’s something about Rayner that tells me once he gets a better tank, he’ll wreak havoc.
Really surprised not to see Alex Witherden not get 50 metres against him after a round arm spoil on Ben Crocker. It looked a bit careless.
Charlie Cameron doing a little bodywork on Brodie Grundy was good to see. Grundy gave him a shove after it. Maybe he was telling him to pick on someone his own size?
Zorko missed a golden opportunity to hit up Lewis Taylor. Kicked it out of bounds.
We covered most of the rest of the last quarter before. It was a ripping game and it really could’ve gone either way. Terrific win by the Pies.
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