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LION TAMERS by George On The Outer


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In an enthralling game between two top four sides, it was the Demons who tamed the Lions, and propelled themselves into the position of premiership favourite even though the season is barely past the halfway mark.

This is because Melbourne keeps on beating those teams around them who might provide a challenge. Not only that, it keeps winning with emphatic displays of resilience and toughness that have not been seen in a Demons side for many, many years.

Challenged in the first half of the game, which saw the Brisbane Lions lead by 13 points at ¼ time and then extend that lead to 20 points at the major break, Melbourne just had to respond. It took a while even in the third quarter to get to a controlling position on the ground, and then the goals started to come. The score line differential was eliminated by the ¾ time siren and then opened up for the Demons to ultimately record a 22 point victory.

So what happened to cause this remarkable turnaround? The answer is not easy to discern given that with the exception of those privileged enough to be in Sydney, most of us had to view on our television screens without the benefit of a full ground view.

The match was always going to be a close run thing, with the Lions early lead coming about as a result of some silly errors from a few Demon players.

Brisbane brought a more physical aspect into the contest, whereas Melbourne was and is more a “control the ball” team. Compounding the issue was the first half aerial superiority of the Lions, particularly up forward where Daniher and Hipwood were beating May and Lever.

In the middle, Brisbane was superior and, at the main break, the Lions led in just about every recorded statistic possible. Yet, despite those silly first quarter errors, the 2021 Demons with their 10-1 winning run were still an opponent to be feared given they were still within striking range.

Whatever it took and whatever the change at half-time, it was a different Melbourne that took the field in the second half. Max Gawn took over completely in ruck contests, for his 31 hit-outs were only exceeded by his four clearances, and 17 disposals.

This provided the supply to the Christian Petracca and Oliver duo who exploded from their quiet first half, Oliver only having 8 touches at the first break. James Harmes had lost the battle with Neale to date, but suddenly found himself involved. Alex Neal-Bullen did not have a single touch in the second quarter, but he also found himself back in the action. James Jordon found his feet, and finished with 20 disposals to complement the Petracca/Oliver team’s disposal count of 51.

The change happened swiftly and decisively. All around the ground players started playing to the Melbourne plan again. The defensive structures (not just the defenders) was evident from that point on. Brisbane players looked up and simply had nowhere to go, and the contest and turnovers eventuated. Three goals after half-time against nine for the Demons was the sealer. The Lions were being tamed by a team of professionals.

Once the structures had been re-established, the team of Lever, May and now Petty swung into action. Intercept after intercept became the norm, and this drove the Demons well into attack. The absence of Ed Langdon as the link player up the line was taken up by Christian Salem and Charlie Spargo, who had moved well up the ground. Spargo was instrumental in seven score involvements, and despite giving away inches to opponents often succeeded in getting the ball to ground or simply tapping it on the better placed team-mates.

Pickett proved to be a constant thorn in the side of Brisbane defenders and finished with three goals, which easily could have been five, save for a couple of easy missed set shots. Tom McDonald also bustled and fought strongly to finish with three as well, while Bayley Fritsch continued with his reliable couple of goals in this game as well.

Sam Weidman replicated his game from the previous week, with a solitary touch until half way through the third quarter, and then his first mark at the same point. This despite a number of missed marks where he got both hands to the ball. An easy set shot went missing and he could only manage a similar output in the final quarter to finish with 1 point. He has had his chance yet again, and probably burnt it.

Likewise, Jack Melksham who was used for only 57% of game time for a meagre five touches has surely used up all of his nine lives. With Ed Langdon due back next week, and Tom Sparrow showing enough in this game, the selectors look to have an easy option.

Challenged once again, the Demons did what they had to do. Players played their roles, and the result came their way again. They have now learnt how important the team aspect is to producing success. The supporters have supported that success with 50,000 now having signed up, many in anticipation of the near guaranteed September appearances.

Like the Western Bulldogs in the previous week, the Lions were serious competitors. Their respective ladder positions showed that, and Brisbane had come into the game with 7 successive wins. They probably have shown their cards, and their best performance capabilities in this game.

Players like McStay, Robinson and Cameron, who had been instrumental in recent wins, were unsighted. When the final siren came they and the majority of their team-mates had been well and truly tamed by the Demons, who simply chalked up another win in their 2021 tally.

MELBOURNE 2.3.15 5.4.34 10.9.69 14.13.97

BRISBANE 4.4.28 8.6.54 10.8.68 11.9.75

GOALS

Melbourne McDonald Pickett 3 Fritsch Petracca 2 Gawn Jackson Neal-Bullen Sparrow

Brisbane Lions Bailey 4 Cameron 2 Coleman Daniher Hipwood McCarthy Zorko

BEST

Melbourne Petracca Harmes Oliver May Gawn Neal-Bullen

Brisbane Zorko Bailey Lyons Andrews Neale  

INJURIES 

Melbourne Nil

Brisbane Lions Ryan Lester (hamstring)

REPORTS

Melbourne Nil

Brisbane Lions Dayne Zorko (allegedly striking Tom McDonald) in the third quarter

SUBSTITUTES

Melbourne Oskar Baker (unused)

Brisbane Lions Rhys Mathieson (replaced Ryan Lester)

UMPIRES Donlon Rosebury Howorth

OFFICIAL CROWD 3,772 at Giants Stadium

ReportRd122021.png

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