The Sunday afternoon order was a trip to the Gabbattoir for Melbourne, as the Lions hosted the Demons in a riveting game of footy. Decent weather out in Brisbane saw the locals in the penthouse across the street donning their Lions speedos for a swim.
They wouldn’t have been disappointed with the first half which featured a see-sawing contest that saw both teams trading goals in a fast-paced end-to-end game of football. Of course, playing such attacking footy led to a collection of turnovers as each team attempted to hurt the other on the counter-attack, at break-neck speed.
Both teams continually demonstrated the importance of the match, with players consistently laying their bodies on the line. It was a bruising game, to say the least. What seemed to be a costly and wasteful first half effort by the Lions, was rescued by an explosion of Eric Hipwood proportions. The Lions pulled away on the back of Hipwood’s efforts, to deny a valiant Melbourne side that just couldn’t keep up with them.
So, let’s get into the key points of the game.
The Best Stuff
The Brisbane Midfield
They often say games are won and lost in the midfield. The Brisbane Midfield clearly won this game for them. Led by Zorko and Neale, with a more then commendable supporting cast, the Lions smashed the Demons in Clearances (43-29), Contested Possessions (159-132) and Tackles (54-36). The Lions demolished the Demons using their biggest strength, and the weight of numbers eventually overwhelmed Melbourne. It’s no surprise the Brisbane midfield features heavily in the positive areas of this article.
Dayne Zorko played like a man possessed today. From the very first few minutes of the match he was skimming around the field as if he was running on top of it whereas his opponents were drowning in it. 33 disposals, 607 metres gained, seven clearances (five Centre Clearances) and five tackles. Zorko played the former half of the dynamic duo that propelled the Lions midfield above their opponents. Zorko can probably consider himself unlucky not to be BOG in this game. Perhaps if he had kicked little straighter than his 3.2, it may have just swayed the points in his favour.
Simply irresistible. What more can you say about this guy? The latter of the dynamic duo and the undoubted leader of the Brisbane midfield. Neale just continually willed himself to the ball in tight and got first use for the Lions. He was also on the end of a few special hit-outs from Martin in the second half, which were just showcasing the beautiful connection between midfielder and ruckman. Neale finished with 38 disposals (23 Contested), 12 clearances, 13 score involvements and five tackles. When the chips were down at key points in this game, you always found Neale at the coal face, winning the ball and feeding his teammates.
The Melbourne mid’s had serviceable games but it was Salem who was the standout on the outside. Ever present as the link-man for Melbourne’s forays forward, Salem can hold his head high with his 586 metres gained from his 32 disposals at 81% disposal efficiency.
Hipwood’s Hot Half.
We’ve seen a few key forwards show us their stuff with brilliant efforts this year. And Hipwood’s 3rd quarter changed the course of this game. Both teams going goal-for-goal, it took Hipwood’s break-out effort to see Brisbane finally get back in front in the tough contest and Brisbane never looked back. In almost the exact opposite of his counterparts at the other end, Hipwood provided his midfielders with the confidence to win the ball and surge forward. Slotting his 5th goal to start the last quarter he began the avalanche that broke Melbourne’s spirit.
The Good Stuff
Overall it was solid day out for May as he builds back towards the player he was, when he was captain of the Gold Coast Suns. Early season injuries and being part of an out of form team haven’t helped his season thus far, but he looked strong in air, composed on the ground and showed genuine passion for the jumper with his animated discussions with Sam Frost at three-quarter-time. Inevitably, it will be blown out of proportion by the circus this week, as commentators search for ways to dig into the Demons team. The words “Disharmony” or “Disunity” will no-doubt be used.
Another very solid outing for Lyons whose consistency for Brisbane keeps paying dividends. Much in the mould of a player like Joel Corey, Lyons does his work with minimal fuss. 33 disposals, 14 contested possession, six clearances, seven tackles and 34 pressure acts. Lyons just gets it done.
I really liked McCluggage’s game today. 23 disposals, six clearances and six tackles. McCluggage is another member of the support cast that provides the steel that reinforces the concrete that is Neale and Zorko.
Harris Andrews and Darcy Gardiner
Another solid outing for Andrews and Gardiner as they stood tall as the anchors of the Brisbane defence. Although their numbers aren’t much for reading, except for the eight intercept possessions each, they definitely did their jobs in keeping the combination of Tom McDonald, Tim Smith and Sam Weideman quiet when they were lined up on them. The defensive pairing of Andrews and Gardiner is beginning to form one of the best key-back duos in the competition. Even though their opponents today were not in the best of form, the pair worked hard to keep them in check. The mouth-watering match ups on Cameron and Himmelberg next week will be must-watch TV.
The Not so Good Stuff
The Melbourne Midfield
Looking at the stats and you would say that the Melbourne Midfielders had serviceable games. Oliver, Salem, Viney, Brayshaw and Harmes looked respectable on paper. But they were comprehensively beaten by the Brisbane midfield. The best example is the centre clearances. It’s probably the purest stat for a midfield match-up, and the Lions absolutely decimated the Demons by a whopping 20-6 margin out of the guts. Max Gawns’ injury aside, the Melbourne midfielders were atrocious in defensively accounting for their opponents.
For such a high-billing match-up the ruck battle was largely a non-event. Gawn went down hurt early in the 2nd quarter, but came back on after half time. It must be said that the connection between Stefan Martin and Lachie Neale began to shine through in the second half with some beautiful connections, but other than that handful, neither ruckman really asserted himself on the contest. Martin was serviceable overall but with Gawn injured and essentially a non-factor after quarter time he really should’ve taken control of the stoppages. For two high-profile players it was quite disappointing.
Brisbane’s early inaccuracy.
The Lions must have been kicking themselves, as they almost kicked themselves out of the game. 4.13 at one point and behind by just under two goals, one of the top teams would’ve put the Lions away. It’s something they must fix before they come up against the best teams, as they will pay dearly for their inaccuracy.
Mitch Hannan brain-fade.
Hannan did well to draw a free kick on the back flank. Melbourne were looking steady as Brisbane were peppering their forward 50. Hannan then inexplicably decided to kick the ball towards the middle of the ground with long high and not very direct kick. Of course, the Lions pounced, caused the turnover and scored a goal to bring the margin back to four points.
Lions Forwards poor defence.
Poor checking by the Lions forwards allowed Steven May his first goal as a Melbourne player. The Lions were in the middle of making a charge and had the momentum going their way, when May was allowed to casually run past Oscar Baker on a Set shot outside 50 and slot the goal with no pressure at all. Sam Frost received a similar opportunity in the last quarter also. It’s a habit the Lions coaches will definitely bring up during the week.
Rayner’s disposal this game surely means he needs a new boot sponsor. I don’t know if he has one, but if we’re being generous, the boots he wore today were probably the wrong size. Hodgey should definitely be taking him out for some kicking practice this week. Particularly after his consecutive exit kicks out of defence in the 3rd quarter. He did improve in the last quarter to save some face, but the youngster has a lot of improvement in front of him based on this performance.
Melbourne forwards butter fingers.
Multiple times throughout the game the Melbourne forwards beat their Brisbane defender and got the chance to take a clean mark and just… dropped it. Maybe they were still expecting some contact or had mentally kicked the goal already. Whatever the reason, it would’ve hurt the confidence of their midfielders two-fold as they are the ones who worked tirelessly to get the ball forward, only to see it go back over their heads. Set shots at goals also provide a rest for players to recover, even if the forward misses, it gives players a chance to catch their breath and reset their mental focus.
The Other Stuff
Hipwood’s “Almost” run
Hipwood had a very big “almost” moment in the first quarter. Starting on the half back flank he charged forward along the wing with some serious pace, leaving Nathan Jones in his wake. He stuffed the kick, but continued on and got the ball back just inside 50 on his preferred side on the boundary. A better finish by Hipwood would’ve no doubt drawn comparisons to a few goals kicked by Lance Franklin.
Zorko calling his own 50 metre penalty?
Zorko took a contested mark in the middle and as he took about three steps back, Jack Viney ran in front of him (continuing his original line of running). Zorko pointed at Viney and demanded a 50-metre penalty. The umpire thought about it for a moment and then obliged. It was somewhat funny stuff as Zorko seemed to have talked the umpire into giving him the free kick. It was also very stiff on Viney who, on replay, only really took the two steps after Zorko marked and really should’ve been given the chance to clear the area. Perhaps a word to his teammate on the mark to be a little slower in getting his hands up so the umpire doesn’t have such a clear point of reference next time.
An array of errors
There was a solid minute of gameplay in the second quarter where there was a litany of mistakes made by both teams. Teammates running into each other, 2-3 smothered kicks, handballs missing targets, guys marking inside 50 and attempting 10 metre kicks to teammates. The run of play was only broken by a free kick and 50m penalty to Harmes for being held and prevented from getting to the next contest, which is a free kick I haven’t seen paid in a few years.
Second quarter carnage.
The second quarter of the match also saw some very big hits. There will be some sore bodies for both teams this week. It started with Gawn hurting his ankle early in the quarter. Largely innocuous at the back of a marking contest. It really started when Oscar McInerney’s face cannoned into Christian Salem’s hip. Salem was over the ball and clearly did nothing wrong except have the correct technique of winning the footy, whilst McInerney went face-first at his opponent. It left us with some concerning scenes of McInerney drooling/spitting blood down his arms as he lay unmoving on the turf. It ended with Oscar Baker face-planting into the Gabba turf after launching high enough to almost touch the 3rd tier.
The Final Wrap
For Melbourne this game just reflects their season. Patchy at best. They gave it a good shake at times, but their top players are just not playing their best. Their forwards are dysfunctional and their midfield, which was the source of their power last season, is just not what it was. It is clearly a wasted season for a team which had such high hopes in March.
Overall this game was a solid hit out for the Lions, who will take plenty of positives out of the match, as they march towards September. They play GWS and Port Adelaide (both away) in the next two weeks and a win in either outing will see them look far more likely to get that vital home final. Win both and they are looking at top 4. Make no mistake this team has the pieces. They just need to put it all together. Their first big test on the run home comes next week. Brisbane is a very serious team in 2019, particularly at home. No team will want to play them in an elimination final at the Gabba.
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