You know how you get those old sayings.
A bird in hand is worth two in the bush… in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, and then there’s one you hear a lot in footy circles – a champion team will always beat a team of champions.
It is fitting that we start the review with that, given at three quarter time the Lions were obviously the better team on the night, leading by 28 points, yet the six of the top seven disposal winners on the ground were Giants.
It was a strange thing to look at on paper (or a computer screen), with so many Giants having big games – Coniglio, Kelly, Kennedy, Hopper, Williams and Taranto, and then there was Lachie Neale; the lone Lion in the land of Giants.
So, what does that all mean? How can a team with their ball winners doing what they do fall behind and fail to make inroads into the margin for basically the entire second half?
I guess that’s my job to explore it and your job to read it and point out where I’m wrong, as I knock up another Mongrel Punt good, bad and ugly.
He was everywhere in the first half, and was the most dangerous forward on the park for the majority of the game. Others finished with more goals, but by adding a game-high nine score involvements to his 22 disposals and three goals, McCarthy once again demonstrated the form that vindicated his move north.
Moving into the middle for periods after half time, McCarthy found himself drifting into defence and even into the centre bounces. It proved to be a good move as he collected seven clearances for the Lions to finish level with Lachie Neale.
Indeed, McCarthy’s presence in the middle eased the burden on Neale who was getting plenty of attention at stoppages from Tim Taranto after quarter time. With Neale’s influence at bounces limited, McCarthy stepped up to prove that he is more than just a one trick pony in this Brisbane team.
So will we see him used more in the middle? I think it would be done sparingly, because his three goals indicate just how important he is around goal, but if a bloke like Robbie Gray can make a career out of playing dual roles, why can’t McCarthy pinch hit here and there too. If he does it half as well as Gray on a regular basis, the Lions may have unearthed something wonderful.
THE GOLDEN FIST
As the weeks tick by and players jockey for position in everyone’s All-Australian teams, one name that should be right, smack-bang in the middle of the full back equation is Harris Andrews.
You know you’re dominating when teams start plotting around the way you’re defending because the path of least resistance is wherever you’re not – that’s what faces Andrews at the moment and he and his golden fist roam the Brisbane defensive 50.
The only other defenders subjected to this planning by the opposition are Jeremy McGovern and Alex Rance, and with Rance out of the picture, it is starting to look as though Brisbane will have not just the obvious selection of Lachie Neale in the team of the year, but Andrews as the new king of deep defenders.
He had nine intercept possessions to go with his 15 spoils in this game, dominating the aerial contests inside defensive 50. Remember Ivan Drago in Rocky 4? He’d just run around with his fist cocked, ready to punch as soon as Rocky’s head was in the vicinity. Actually, I think it was Apollo Creed’s head that was in the vicinity in the instance I’m thinking of... and those fists were pretty effective in that case.
That is the way Andrews is going about it – he is not just spoiling contests – he is murdering them! He is not just beating opponents, he is completely obliterating them in marking contests and leaving them disgruntled. His demolition of Jeremy Finlayson today was a thing of beauty, and any team thinking of using a good player as a bit of a decoy to occupy Andrews should watch the footage of this game and rethink their strategy.
THE CLASS ACT
Hugh McLuggage had a nice last quarter, but while he went around and added to his stats, I wasn't really giving him much credit for them. They were junk time disposals in the grand scheme of things, and I was way more impressed with his disposals earlier in the game – you know, when it mattered.
You see, McLuggage is one of those players who doesn’t need 30 touches to be one of the best players on the ground. Such is his intelligence and skill, I would prefer 18 touches from him to 30 from someone like Adam Treloar or Angus Brayshaw. You know why? Because he uses the ball so well.
As he gathered at half back in the first half, you could almost see the mids and forwards run that little bit harder to get on the end of his disposal. If he has it, and you make space, he will find you because his kicking ability is elite. I haven’t looked at Champion Data to garner that info – I know what I see. He looks like a player who knows what he’s doing when he gets the pill – Pendlebury-like with his disposal at times.
I’ve heard Jason Dunstall talk about how confident he was leading to Darren Jarman back when both played at Hawthorn, and I reckon the way McLuggage is starting to distribute the ball, Eric Hipwood and Daniel McStay may start licking their chops as he runs through the middle. He may have only gone at 65% efficiency in this one (okay, I looked), but the Giants quickly realised his potency and closed him down.
If you afford Hugh McLuggage space, he will punish you. 65% of the time, he punishes you… every time.
THE LACHIE NEALE FIRST QUARTER
Yes, I know he played four quarters, but his first was the best. Matched against Josh Kelly, Neale decided to get busy early in this quarter, and by the time we reached the half-way point, he had clocked nine disposals.
The attention came for him soon after that, and despite finishing the game with 31 disposals, seven clearances and six tackles, Neale kind of went downhill in terms of performance after the first stanza.
It was a shame that his head to head clash with Kelly was not allowed to continue, as Neale looked as though he was revelling in the contest, but as other teams have learned the hard way, allowing Neale to run unchecked, as he was bound to do with the non-defensive Kelly, results in disaster.
So the brakes were applied after the first quarter (during, actually) and Lachie Neale “only” finished with 31 touches.
Not a bad day at the office, is it?
What a season for Stephen Coniglio. Can I run some of his numbers by you for this contest?
20 contested touches, 11 tackles, nine clearances and 34 overall possessions.
That, my friends, is the sort of game a gun midfielder should be having if he is to be rated as one of the best in the game. He looked absolutely exhausted by the end of the match, dragging himself to contest after contest and barely able to do much with the ball once he got there.
It must be frustrating to watch his teammates fail to win the contested ball, when he is in there battling it out at stoppage after stoppage. I am pretty sure that’s not his role in this team – you don’t throw a Rolls Royce in the demolition derby.
Coniglio is class, and his pairing with Josh Kelly should be the perfect one-two punch, but when the contested ball was not being won by his team, Coniglio was forced to take matter into his own hands. It took Jacob Hopper quite a while to get going in this one, and once he started making his presence felt at stoppages, I reckon Coniglio was spent.
He looked shot by three quarter time, and rightly so. He did a mountain of work for his team in this one, but just couldn’t get them close enough. I really hope he stays with the Giants and becomes one of the first truly great players for the club.
To be honest, I am pretty sick of stars leaving. Him, Toby Greene, Josh Kelly and Jeremy Cameron… they could be remembered as the players that stuck fat and won the Giants their first flag. Imagine having that on your lifetime CV? It’d make you immortal.
THE HIT (OUT) MAN
Big tip of the hat to Stefan Martin in this game, who really battled hard to keep his side in the game in the middle. Martin looked small compared to Dawson Simpson – in height at least; he was still as muscular looking as ever. As such, Martin was forced to use his raw power to hold his ground to break even at stoppages.
Not only did he do that, but he was able to get his hand to it eight more times over the course of the game than his opponent.
Martin is often a forgotten man when people talk about the ruckmen of the competition. It was just last season when he was being spoken about in the same breath as Grundy and Gawn when it came to the best big men in the game. Now, it seems that names like Marshall, O’Brien and Lycett have leaped him, in terms of notoriety if not performance.
At the end of the day, Stefan Martin is a slightly undersized ruck. Not that 199 centimetres is small, but for context, Simpson stands at 210 centimetres. Martin is big, but he’s battling giants… and in this case it was literal.
He laid six tackles and had four individual clearances to round out a nice game for him.
GOOD BLOKE CHRIS FAGAN
I really like Chris Fagan – he comes across as a brilliant bloke whenever I’ve heard him speak. I loved him at Hawthorn and was rapt to see him get the gig at Brisbane.
And now I like him more and more as a tactical coach as well.
I’m not expert in the nuances of coaching and the finer points of man-management… hell, I don’t know what is going on with my own team of Mongrels at times! But what I do know is when a team is responding well to instructions, and there were little things in this game that gave a fair indication that a) Chris Fagan knows what he’s doing, and b) the players are completely on board with it.
The move of McCarthy to the middle to aid Neale – Inspired.
The instruction of Harris Andrews to leave Finlayson and not fall for the decoy – Regimented.
Leaving Hodge as the deepest defender despite the lack of leg speed – Trusting.
Moving Stef Martin forward and making Dawson Simpson defend him on the lead – Intelligence.
Pushing Charlie Cameron up the ground and getting Heath Shaw on the way back – Perceptive.
Allowing Dayne Zorko to be tagged in the first and then miraculously having the tag dropped – Lucky.
Everyone needs a bit of luck, right?
GWS fans will not like this, but Leon Cameron was completely outcoached by Chris Fagan in this one. His moves all paid off, and even something like having Alex Witherden sacrifice his running game to play on the dangerous Toby Greene, whilst not a resounding success, had enough impact on Greene to prevent him from taking over and ripping the game apart. Let’s face it - Greene threatened for a little while today.
He allowed the Giants to focus on Dayne Zorko and used McCarthy, Lyons and Berry through the middle.
The only thing that didn’t seem to work was not making adjustments to get Daniel Rich free at half back and away from Zac Langdon, who had the job of shutting him down, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't required.
This coaching performance will go down as an unheralded one by Fagan, but my guess is that once he pulls into his driveway late tonight, thinks about switching off and getting some shut-eye, there’ll be a bit of a smile on his dial. It turns out he’s pretty good at this coaching caper.
Hmmm, how to tackle this one.
Zac Williams had a wonderful overall game, but when Shaw was being beaten in the first quarter by Charlie Cameron, GWS opted to throw Williams onto the small forward to limit his influence. This, ideally, should have released Shaw to play the role Williams was in the first quarter.
But it didn’t work out that way.
Williams was close to best on ground in the first quarter as his run through the middle opened avenues for the Giants, but when he was moved to cover Shaw’s position, the Giants lost all that run. They became stagnant, and rather than provide that run himself, Shaw played conservatively.
It cost GWS.
Williams reverted to his original role later in the game, but by that stage the Lions had established their match-winning lead. Shaw, once a prolific ball winner, finished with just 13 disposals for the evening, and made a couple of costly errors along the way. He is one Giant whose performance has undeniably fallen off from 2018, and I wonder whether he is at all hampered by the knee injury that ended his season prematurely last year?
I thought that Heater could get a couple more years in the best 22 at GWS, but looking at it again, maybe I should reconsider?
THE TAG RELEASED?
So I watched Sam Reid start the game in the centre square, and like most, I was thinking “What the hell is he doing in there?” I then saw him move to Dayne Zorko and it all started to make sense.
I’m a big fan of Reid (out of contract at the end of the year, by the way). He strikes me as someone who takes his individual job very seriously, and will walk hot coals to ensure it gets done as long as it adheres to the overall team gameplan.
At quarter time, Zorko had two touches, and then… there was no tag anymore.
What happened there? It was paid scant attention, but Zorko seemed allowed to run free after the first quarter, and he ended up with 26 touches. So two touches with Reid next to him, and 24 without. I was at a bit of a loss to explain it to myself. Here’s how the conversation went.
“What happened to the Zorko tag?”
“Yeah look… they probably need Sam Reid in defence.”
The only thing I can think of is that Reid didn’t have the tank to go with Zorko for the whole game? But surely he had enough for more than a quarter? Reid is one of the best mid-sized defenders in the game – a run with role is new for him as far as I know, so maybe this was like a bit of a test to see how he went?
The answer was “very well” - so much so that he should have continued the role and made for a horrible day at the office for Dayne Zorko. The fact he didn’t… well, GWS will have to dissect why the tag was released. It wasn’t the brightest move.
THE HEAD DROPPER
I think Leon Cameron may have made a big mistake in throwing Jeremy Finlayson against Harris Andrews in the hopes of curtailing the defender’s influence.
You see… I’ll just put on my Captain Hindsight cape and goggles… there are two problems with this matchup. Number one – Harris Andrews attacks the contest irrespective of who is on him. If Jeremy Finlayson was going to hang off or provide a dummy lead, Andrews simply would not concern himself with him.
Guess what happened. Finlayson drifted off and did his thing, and Andrews got involved in the actual contest time and time again.
It resulted in the second problem, and that is that Finlayson gets the sulks a bit when things don’t go his way. How would I know? I have eyes. I watch the game, and I see him pouting and gesturing when the ball doesn’t go to him, or when a free kick isn’t paid to him. He is a bit of a petulant player – a little like Jack Riewoldt was about five or six years ago.
For the Giants, this was a nightmare matchup. They may have been better off throwing Adam Tomlinson forward to body up on Andrews, and releasing Finlayson to play high half forward or half back.
But hindsight is a wonderful thing…
Okay, before I forget, I just want to launch into this section with a couple of quotes from our esteemed commentators, who were obviously taking a little while to kick into gear for this game.
I love Dermott Brereton, and love when he gets on a bit of a rant about things only loosely related to footy. However this afternoon, I doubt he is Eric Hipwood’s favourite commentator. Hipworth? Eric Hipworth? Yep… that’s right; Derm likes the way Hipworth goes about it. And he liked it twice!
And then there was Gerard Healy who, moments after Derm "Hipworthed" his way into my memory bank, Gerard seared himself into my memory by calling a one-on-one contest a “head to head job.”
Yes, I am immature, and yes, I enjoyed it greatly. On with the quick bits.
Great to see Luke Hodge with a bit of unsociable footy in him. After copping a shoulder to the ribs from Jeremy Cameron in the first quarter, Hodge got a bit of payback later in the game when he dumped Cameron with a nice bump. I love seeing that kind of stuff. If it’s good for the goose – it’s good for the dual Norm Smith Medallist. I’m pretty sure that’s how the saying goes.
Toby Greene looked dangerous at times. He is one of my favourite players to watch because he is good in the air, on the ground and is always thinking a couple of steps ahead. He finished with three goals in a standard performance for him and looks as though he is working into form nicely as we head toward finals.
You reckon Mitch Robinson has ever gone at a contest less than 100% committed? If you have this footage, please forward it to me. The bloke is a maniac, and I love his attack on both the ball and the man.
So I’ve been waiting for Jarryd Lyons to show me why the Gold Coast Suns allowed him to walk for nothing. Is he a bed wetter? Too flatulent on bus trips? Do his feet smell? It has to be something, because to give away a guy this talented for bugger all… surely they could have orchestrated a trade? Oh well, I thought we would’ve seen Lyons taper off and perhaps fall into some lazy habits once the initial honeymoon period wore off in Brisbane. I am happy to be wrong on that – he’s been excellent.
So where to for the Lions? They’re now top four and have a road trip to face the up and about Port Adelaide side. Those blokes are coming off a win, so if true to form, they’ll drop this one to the Lions at home. Of course, I don’t believe it’ll be that easy. They were great against the Crows.
And the Giants… well, every time they start to look like a contender, they fall over. They get the Tigers at the MCG in what should be a cracker. With a bit of luck, Lachie Whitfield returns to give them the run and carry they need. This game will go a long way to seeing whether the Giants are indeed contenders, and may well do the same for Richmond. This one is a must-watch.
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