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The Good, Bad and Ugly - Richmond v Brisbane

It was a night where the Lions fans broke records, and it was a night where one powerful Tiger broke the hearts of those very same supporters.

Richmond travelled to the Gabba and absorbed the best the Lions could throw at them early before unleashing a brutal barrage that sat the Lions on their backsides.

The thing here is that Brisbane had Richmond on the ropes. They had the advantage and were peppering them with short, sharp little blows, but they were missing the mark, and as a score line of eight goals and the lazy 17 behinds will attest, it was not lack of opportunity that cost the Lions. It was lack of conversion.

To Richmond’s credit, when they got their chances, they took them – all but four of them. They finished eight 18 goals from 22 scoring shots, passing some kind of accuracy milestone along the way.

In front of a record Gabba crowd, the Tigers started to shape the game into the kind of contest they like to play in. They bent Brisbane to their will and stopped the run, stopped the quick ball movement and forced the Lions into mistakes with their relentless pressure. Soon enough, it was Tiger Time, and even in enemy territory, the roar of the Tiger fans could not be silenced.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

 

THE STRUCTURE

I know what you’re thinking – boooorrring, right? The old Mongrel is about to yap on about some technical aspect of the game.

Wrong… you really don’t know me at all – I don’t actually know about the technical aspects of the game. Haha.

But what I do know is that I saw some incredible coaching, both on and off the field by Richmond in order to continually manufacture one-on-one contests inside their forward 50. In the modern game, this is simply not supposed to happen, yet there was Dustin Martin, taking Marcus Adams to the square, taking Luke Hodge to the square, and where was the help? Where was the man dropping back into the hole to clog things up?

I was astounded that Chris Fagan allowed so many one-on-one contests inside forward 50 – absolutely astounded. I don’t know whether it was disorganisation in the Brisbane defence, or just better organisation in the Richmond forward line, but if you were watching Dusty head forward with one guy on him – and let’s say it was Hodge which we’ll get to in a minute, would you sacrifice a player to have him drop in the hole?

I would. Every time.

You could see on the scarce end-to-end footage the coverage allows that it was either Lynch isolated on Adams, Riewoldt isolated on Adams, or Martin isolated on Adams or Hodge.

Bloody help them out!

Hats off to Richmond – they worked this forward set up perfectly. Six goals to Dusty and five between Lynch and Riewoldt indicates that it wasn’t just sheer star power that got the Tigers over the line here – it was careful planning and wonderful execution. When you compare that to what was going on up the other end, the difference is startling.

 

DYLAN GRIMES

There might be others who get the nod and receive votes from the coaches in this game, but when the game was there to be won, Dylan Grimes was a complete monster. He kept the Tigers in this one as the Lions went all out in the first quarter, Grimes was the defender who stood up and foiled their plans for long enough until his teammates found their groove.

Grimes had five touches in the first quarter, and four of them came via intercept marks as the Brisbane mids forgot to think about what they were doing going inside 50 time and time again,

Grimes not only reads the ball well when he opts to play the intercept role, he also rarely gets beaten when the ball is kicked directly to the contest between himself and his direct opponent. In this one, he had Charlie Cameron’s number… again.

That’s 2-0 in favour of Grimes.

Just for fun, let’s talk about the delivery inside 50 from the Lions in the first quarter. They wanted to get Charlie Cameron involved and went to him often. You see the problem with that? There are two, actually.

The first problem’s name is Dylan Grimes. The other problem is that the Brisbane midfielders are largely stupid, bombing the ball high and long to the undersized Cameron hoping he’d be able to do something he hasn’t done all year – take contested marks.

Cameron has taken just eight contested grabs for the season. Remember that Aaron Naughton took nine in one game for a moment if you will. Kicking the ball on Cameron’s head and hoping he could clunk a mark is the height of stupidity, but Grimes didn’t take those intercept marks because the Brisbane mids were being intelligent about their forward entries. He capitalised on their haste and their panic. He used their enthusiasm against them. He was like the Emperor…  “gooooood, Lions… give into your unbridled enthusiasm. Kick the ball to Charlie Cameron again…”

Grimes tapered off and later moved over to start manning up on Daniel McStay. The job was done and the All-Australian back pocket clearly prevailed over the All-Australian forward pocket. No need to hold. No need to panic, and only a little bit of a need to stage. And even with that one blight on his game, Dylan Grimes was still the most influential player on the park until Dusty started to go nuts.

 

THE MAN

Yes, speaking of Dusty going nuts… he menaced the Lions again in this one, and in a display that has sirens and whistles going off in every other coach’s mind at the moment, Martin put the Lions to the sword and bagged himself a finals career-high six goals in the process.

Dusty played a different game than we’re used to seeing from him. Playing out of the goal square for long stretches, Damien Hardwick identified that none of the Brisbane defenders looked to have the tools to go with the 2017 Brownlow Medallist up forward, so that’s where he plonked him, and Dusty went to work.

Martin marked strongly, kept his feet as always (seriously, how often does he go to ground? Never, right?) and made every opposition player in the vicinity panic whenever he went near the footy.

He saw off Marcus Adams pretty quickly. Adams has had a tough couple of weeks as he has attempted to remove the outline of Jack Riewoldt’s boot from his ass after Jack slotted four goals against him in the blink of an eye in Round 23. He got a little more of the same from Dusty before the old fella was moved onto him.

 

THE MAN V THE OLD MAN

This was a real treat. I remember when Luke Hodge found himself isolated against Martin in Round 23. It was fleeting, but one of the boneheaded commentators speculated that Hodge was afraid of playing on Dusty.

Afraid? Luke Hodge? The guy who played in a Grand Final with broken ribs and won the Norm Smith Medal. No, no, no… probably not really enjoying the match up, but scared? Think again.

Well, Hodge took on the responsibility again in this one, and had a couple of wins, outmarking Dusty and then catching him holding the ball as Martin lost his feet.

However it was always going to be leg speed and manoeuvrability where Dusty enjoyed the advantage. When Hodge misjudged a  long ball inside 50, seeing it flying past him as it landed at his feet, Dusty pounced, took it cleanly, avoided the other Lions headed his way and snapped a goal.

Not even the old man could stop THE man.

 

THE OLD MAN

I’m making nice segues here with this ‘man’ theme. Pretty pleased.

You could tell there was a bloke out there tonight who’d played in a few finals. Luke Hodge was a pillar of strength for the Lions in this one, and really attacked the contest with the kind of vigour only someone who’s been there and done that can possess. Hodge understood what was required on several occasions and made a bee line for the ball as others reached for it or tried to finesse.

You don’t want to do that when Hodge is in the area – he runs in straight lines.

He finished this game with 27 touches and nine marks in one of his best outings for the Lions and one that would’ve had plenty of Hawthorn supporters sitting back, smiling and saying “Ah yes… I remember that.”

 

PRESTIA V NEALE

This was an intriguing battle as they lined up on each other early on and contested the same stoppages multiple times.

Neale has been lauded for his efforts this season and was a very worthy selection in the All-Australian time, but Prestia has largely flown under the radar despite producing some stellar efforts as Richmond’s number one clearance player.

He’s also Richmond’s number one player for disposals.

And contested possessions.

And metres gained

Prestia has been fantastic this season, and matched up against Neale, he had the opportunity to make believers out of the ignorant. He didn’t even need to beat Neale to do so, as just matching the Lions’ recruit would be good enough to be considered a huge win.

Neale finished with two goals to go along with his 37 touches, but he did get plenty of touches late in the game. His ten clearances were a game-high and it was the seventh time this season he has hit double figures in extracting the footy. Prestia was no slouch, however, notching 32 touches and adding eight clearances. He also laid ten tackles and had six goal assists despite not hitting the scoreboard himself.

So, who came out on top?

The numbers point to Neale, but the eye test says it was way closer than that. Prestia was right with Neale with both men having 24 touches at three quarter time, and obviously put the cue in the rack in the last quarter as Neale had the lazy 13 touches. Several of those were in the last couple of minutes, which was well and truly junk time.

I’m sitting on the fence in this one. I love what Neale has been able to do in Brisbane this year, but I don’t think he really imposed himself on this contest. That said, I don’t think Prestia did either. Both were very good, but they cancel each other out in this game.

Like the Black Knight said to King Arthur “we’ll call it a draw.”

Of course, he then called him a pansy and threatened to bite his legs off, so you can decide which player is Arthur and which player is the Black Knight.

 

MR FIX-IT

Well, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet here, but I called this Shane Edwards into the middle business as finals approach a little while ago. He has spent a fair whack of time hovering around half back this season, and whilst that has been great for him to get some handy uncontested ball, the Tigers have missed his creativity through the middle and his ability to use that vision of his to pave the way for others to get involved up forward.

I suppose his stint down back is testament to just how versatile Edwards is. At this stage of his career, coming off an All-Australian season as a forward-mid, he moved back and performed admirably across half back and the wing this season. Last season he averaged 1.3 goals assists and 6.3 score involvements per game. This season they are down to 0.4 and 4.7 respectively.

Edwards’ evasive skills and quick hands released plenty of Tigers on the outside as he collected eight clearances for the Tigers this afternoon. His ability to ensure his arms either remain free, or get free in tackles is uncanny, and his appetite for the footy saw him have 18 of his 29 touches in the contest. With Dusty playing forward and Cotchin in and out of the middle, the Tigers needed someone to stand up and work in concert with Prestia today.

And if you need someone at Richmond to slot in and get a job done, you turn to Shane Edwards. He’ll get the job done.

 

 

THE BAD

So, we’re going to town on the Brisbane forwards in this one. Buckle up.

 

IT’S HIPWOOD TO BE SQUARE

Another solid seven disposal game for Eric Hipwood in this one. When the going got tough, he got going… to anywhere the ball wasn’t, it seems.

Putting this out there – at this point in his career, Hipwood is a flat track bully.

Don’t believe me. Sit tight and take it in. I know he is still a kid in many respects, but he has shown that he is capable of kicking bags of goals. He has 2+ goals against Sydney, Adelaide, Hawthorn, Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs. His biggest bags of five and six came against Melbourne and Port Adelaide respectively.

Hmmmm, what is it about those teams? They seem to be a little ‘outside the eight-ish’ to me.

Against the top six teams, he has three goals in six games. Yep, goalless against West Coast, one against Collingwood, one against GWS, none against Geelong, one against Richmond in R23, and none today. That’s 0.5 goals per game for those who think I don’t know basic maths… I do!.

He is 21 years old and in terms of contributing today, he was in the negative for his pissweak effort to be aggressive with Dylan Grimes that cost the next bloke his shot at goal in the first quarter.

Eric Hipwood has now played 73 games. He needs to be better than this, and not just against inferior competition. He’ll have next week at home to put this one behind him and make a statement against the Giants.

 

CHARLIE CAMERON

What’s the definition of insanity? Isn’t it doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

If so, I’d like to introduce you to Charlie Cameron – the insane small forward.

It was only two weeks ago that Charlie decided to engage in a battle of strength, holding and constant touching with Dylan Grimes, and tonight they were at it again.

Was Cameron doing much different? I’m not sure… maybe he wore different cologne. Perhaps had a bit of a trim… I don’t know what he gets up to, but I do know that instead of darting around, changing directing and trying to use the areas where he has the advantage over Grimes, we had Charlie getting soundly beaten in the air time and time again.

At one point I actually started to coach the Brisbane mids from my lounge room. “No… kick a chaos ball and let Charlie run onto it!”

They didn’t, and he didn’t, and as result we have Charlie completely towelled up by Grimes for the second straight game. Up until three quarter time, Cameron touched the ball just five times. At this time, Grimes gave him some slack and let him go find some footy. As a result, Charlie ended up with ten touches for the game.

Really it didn’t matter if he picked up 15 touches in the last quarter – he was soundly beaten when it mattered, and if they meet again soon, he’ll be soundly beaten again unless he starts playing to his strengths. How many times do he and the Lions have to learn the same lesson? Their apparent inability to learn may have gone a long way to costing them a Prelim berth.

 

DANIEL MCSTAY

You ever hear the saying that some people can’t walk and chew gum at the same time? How about the saying that blokes cannot do two things at once?

Well, I don’t believe that Daniel McStay can do two particular things in the same game of footy. Those two things are take marks and kick goals, which is pretty bloody unfortunate considering he plays the role of pseudo key forward for the Lions.

He has a beautiful pair of hands, but I have never seen him put a complete game together. As he flew and marked 25-30 metres out in the second quarter, I looked over to Mrs Mongrel, who was not really paying much attention and said “this is where he’ll struggle. He either marks well or kicks well, but never does both well.”

Lo and behold, she now thinks I am some kind of fortune teller who simply has a mental block when it comes time to guess the Powerball tickets, damn it.

Today was the day that McStay took marks but couldn’t kick. Yes, he finished with a goal, but that miss in the second quarter as the Lions upped the ante, or attempted to, was huge in the context of the game. He finished with six touches for the game.

Yep, six touches.

That’s a huge fail.

 

TWANG

Mitch Robinson may just be my favourite Brisbane player. I like his style, I like his hardness (much to Mrs Mongrel’s amusement) and I like the way he never ever backs down.

Sadly, it looks as though we won’t see him again this season as he looked pretty despondent sitting on the bench nursing a hamstring injury he incurred in the third quarter. Robinson had been his aggressive self all game and had been heavily involved in some hard physical clashes at points. I hate seeing players as hard as he is succumb to soft tissue injuries, but as a hamstring tear sufferer extraordinaire… I doubt we’ll see him in 2019 again.

On a positive note, it’ll give him a little more time to drop a few podcasts. They’re pretty good quality.

 

THE UGLY

 

THE STAGE

Last week, Dylan Grimes was crowned the AFLPA’s Most Courageous Player. It was a deserved accolade based on the work he had put in all year whilst faced with the immediate adversity of the Alex Rance injury and the increased responsibility he took on as defensive general. He was an overnight sensation that took years to be recognised, just like most overnight sensations.

Yet in one incident. Grimes basically undid a large amount of the good will the AFL fan community has bestowed upon him with one of the worst dives we’ve seen this season.

You can check the vision below – it’s a shocker.

Now I don’t know who is more at fault here – Eric Hipwood for pretending to be some sort of tough guy (he looks like the kind of guy that gets beaten up by his younger sisters), the umpire for falling for what was such an obvious stage, or Grimes for lowering himself to the level of people incapable of winning contests without hurling themselves to the deck.

It was a horrible look, and had it happened a couple of weeks ago, I wonder if a few AFL players may have changed their votes on who they thought was courageous?

Dylan Grimes is a wonderful defender. In spite of this distasteful act of staging, which should earn him a fine, he had a great game. Sadly, more than a few people will be talking about that one incident than the half dozen intercept marks he took for the contest.

You’re better than that Dylan. So much better.

 

INABILITY TO HIT THE SCOREBOARD

So, there is an argument that the Lions have no one to blame but themselves. It’s a pretty solid argument, though I do think the team they were playing… you know, the ones who were better than them – they probably have a fair bit of responsibility here as well.

There are all sorts of pressure in finals games. In the GWS v Western Bulldogs game this afternoon, we saw some intense tackling pressure. We’ve seen players in the past kick for goal after the siren – that’s intense psychological pressure. But there is one kind of pressure in a game of footy that can cause panic amongst an entire team.

Scoreboard pressure.

The Lions went into quarter time the better team. They held a handy two goal lead but had ten scoring shots for the quarter. Really, they should have been five goals up.

Had they kicked away to that kind of lead in the first quarter, the game may have played out very differently. Zorko, Cameron, Rayner, McStay, McInerny… all of them missed goals they should have kicked, with the last two particularly costly as Dustin Martin answered each of their simple misses with goals of his own within 90 seconds each time.

You hear it time and time again in footy – bad kicking is bad football, and the Lions inability to put anything even remotely resembling scoreboard pressure on the Tigers was bad football at its… ummmm, baddest.

 

QUICK BITS

I expect a couple of Richmond supporters to point to the dive Dayne Zorko took not long after the effort from Grimes. Look, I’d like to say it was as bad but really, I actually hold Grimes in higher regard than I do Zorko, and as such, I consider Grimes’ effort much, much worse. Also, Zorko did get a push in the back, so going down was okay. Staying down… I’m not so sure about.

Zorko was decent in this game without being what I’d call good, but he has a habit of little things that are a bit untoward, so staging is something not unexpected from him.

Really nice first half from Cam Rayner that would only have been topped off had he hit the scoreboard a bit more. Pretty quiet after half time, however.

The injection of Cotchin onto the ball at points reaped rewards for Richmond. Pretty intelligent to use him sparingly in the guts, as him getting through this week was just as important as him racking up big numbers.

The throw from Dusty to set up Riewoldt? I seriously have no idea how that was missed. I know the umps can only pay what they see, but that was about as blatant a violation as you’ll get. Not a great night at the office for the men in green.

Flashes of brilliance again from Shai Bolton tonight. Not just his big mark, but his effort early on to keep the ball in play and find Tom Lynch was an excellent example of his value.

Compare the pair. Daniel Rioli and Charlie Cameron both had just seven touches of the footy each, yet Rioli did the little things you do without the footy in your hands to make a difference for your team. Rioli had six tackles. Charlie had none.

It’s usually a bad sign when you actually forget someone is playing, but that’s how I felt about Jack Riewoldt for about a quarter and a half as he seemed to vanish to give Martin the forward 50 to work in. Intelligently, he took Darcy Gardiner with him. He bobbed up again late, but the game was gone by then. This time last year, the thought of Jack Riewoldt playing as a decoy forward would have sounded a little absurd, wouldn’t it? Yet here we are.

You know something I really hate about footballers? The thing Jake Stringer does when he throws his arms out sideways and appeals for a free kick or pleads his innocence. There was a fair bit of that from Jack Riewoldt early on today – I hope he gets that out of his game… it makes him look like a knob.

I see returning the ball on the full to the player taking a free kick is no longer a thing. Trent Cotchin threw the ball to the ground a metre in front of Stef Martin at one stage despite being just a couple of metres away. No call – should have been 50.

I mentioned those missing goals for Brisbane before. I thought Dayne Zorko got a little of the hero complex about him in this one. He was having pings from all over the place and a couple of times he didn’t even look in board.

Has Alex Witherden gone backwards this season a little bit? I won’t pretend to have watched every Brisbane game, but he just seems a little lost in the current structure when I have seen him. If any Lions fans can shed some light on it. I’d appreciate it.

Oh, I have one more thing. This goal to Daniel Rioli…this is the Richmond game. I love it. It reminds of the way Hawthorn played when they were piling up flags a few years ago. The little taps and forcing the ball forward – it is classic Richmond. Enjoy.

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