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MAULED by Whispering Jack


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The writing was on the wall from the very first bounce of the football. The big men went up, Max Gawn more often than not, decisively won the ruck hit out and invariably a Brisbane Lions onballer either won the battle on the ground or halved the contest and they went at it repeatedly until they finally won out. Melbourne managed the first goal from Alex Neal-Bullen but after that the visitors shut out every area of Demon presence around the ground except in the ruck duels. It was a mauling.

 

However, even Gawn’s herculean dominance throughout the night in that division worked to the advantage of the Lions. There, the numbers told the story of the game in stark detail. For the night, Melbourne won 58 hit outs to Brisbane’s 27, a figure that might at first brush indicate a thrashing in favour of the Demons. The clearance figures had them down by 35 to 44 (it would have been worse, but Brisbane released the pressure valve near the end). The Lions were so successful at brushing off the Dees and sharking Gawn’s hit outs that I found myself at times hoping that McInerney would win the tap out so that the rhythm of the game would be disrupted sufficiently to afford a clearance opportunity to Melbourne.

 

The match had been dubbed as “season defining” for the Lions, one that could spell the end of their 2024 top four hopes even this early in the season. On the other hand, a win would have them in the frame to getting their season back on track. And given that it was dual Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale's 250th game, they had a further purpose in their plans to unseat the Demons and put to bed their Melbourne hoodoo after last year’s narrow defeat in the Grand Final and in the last encounter between the two sides in Round 18 2023 when they were monstered in the midfield late in the game in an epic come-from-behind thriller.

 

This time, it would be different. Cam Rayner was on fire in the midfield from the very beginning. He dominated the game inside and out with 12 first quarter disposals, seven of them contested, six clearances and seven inside 50s. By the end of the game, his count was 25 disposals, 14 contested possessions, ten inside 50s, nine clearances, and seven score involvements. Josh Dunkley finished with 30 disposals and nine marks while Neale himself knocked up  24 disposals and eight clearances. To put it simply, they were first to the ball.

 

I place emphasis of these numbers because Brisbane left Melbourne in their wake with the much-vaunted trio of Christian Petracca, Jack Viney, and Clayton Oliver notching up a mere 61 disposals and 10 clearances combined for the game – also improved late by the release of the Lions’ pressure.

 

So dominant were the Brisbane mid-size brigade in the first half that Neale, who usually leads this group numerically, had the only sixth highest number of team possessions with 12 which equalled Melbourne’s best, namely Kade Chandler and Max Gawn. The latter’s figures were exemplary, he finished equal top in possessions with Jack Viney and accumulated 149 Dream Team points which was 57 points greater than Ed Langdon who was next in his side.

 

The Demons were clearly flat after their successful trip to Adelaide where fans could have noticed that writing on the wall when they were goalless in final quarter against the Crows. This was their fourth match in 19 days, the third in 12 days but the fans were expecting so much more after the success of their business trip to the City of Churches.

 

Before they left Adelaide, the team should have stepped into one of those churches and prayed for more strength and energy because the first three quarters of last night’s game were emblematic of a group that was perilously low on petrol tickets. It left them with an aggregate of three goals over their past four quarters, a figure they exceeded in the final term when the Lions had well and truly taken their feet off the pedal.

 

At half time, the crowd was treated on the MCG screens with a magic act from Magic Mike, a Demon fan. The club would have done better employing him to work some magic and remove the wall that the team was about to hit because the mounting pressure on the field and on the scoreboard induced a sense of panic that left supporters frustrated.

 

Two examples of the panic were Petracca’s attempt to goal from well outside range that was easily mopped up by a Brisbane defender and Caleb Windsor’s blistering run of three bounces which ended similarly. A more measured approach in both cases would almost certainly have resulted in a score, most likely a goal. Petracca should have done better in the circumstances; Windsor will learn from his experience.

 

It was a bad night for the many young players in the team including first gamer, Koltyn Tholstrop who looked a little overawed but did show some good signs for the future. Like Windsor, he will also learn from the experience.

 

The failure to win clearances clearly added pressure on the team and made it harder to score. Moreover, Melbourne struggled to move the ball from its defensive fifty throughout the game with 28 of 47 chains intercepted by Brisbane and only six going inside fifty for a single goal. All of this reflected in the embarrassing statistics in terms of possessions and marks for the likes of Ben Brown, Bayley Fritsch, Harrison Petty and Jacob van Rooyen (at least he was giving Max a chop out in the ruck) – again made to look better in the last half of that final stanza when the Lions went for a well-earned end of game nap.

 

Of course, the Lions’ midfield dominance added to the pressure on the defence which did well in the circumstances to hold the opposition to 82 points for the night. At times, Brisbane was able to use pace to slice through Melbourne’s defences with ease, but credit should also go to Steven May, Jake Lever and Tom McDonald in holding them to that score, and in the end, the difference of 22 points, was enormously flattering to the club.

 

Melbourne simply couldn’t take a trick. The loss of Christian Salem early to a hamstring injury was compounded by the injury to Jake Bowey and retirement of Angus Brayshaw. By way of contrast, the Lions so comfortably negotiated the evening that they didn’t bother employing the tactical sub, so James Tunstill sat on the bench for 100 minutes.

 

The bye could not have come any sooner.

 

MELBOURNE 2.0.12 2.4.16 3.7.25 8.12.60

 

BRISBANE LIONS 4.2.26 7.4.46 10.8.68 12.10.82

 

GOALS

 

 MELBOURNE Fritsch 2 Brown Chandler Gawn Lever Neal-Bullen van Rooyen

 

BRISBANE LIONS Cameron 3 Daniher Hipwood McCluggage 2 Bailey Fletcher Lohmann

 

BEST

 

MELBOURNE Gawn Chandler Viney Rivers Langdon McDonald 

 

BRISBANE LIONS Rayner McCluggage Dunkley Neale Andrews Bailey

 

INJURIES

 

MELBOURNE Christian Salem (hamstring)

 

BRISBANE LIONS Nil

 

REPORTS

 

 MELBOURNE Nil

 

 BRISBANE LIONS Nil

 

SUBSTITUTIONS

 

 MELBOURNE Taj Woewodin (replaced Christian Salem in the first quarter)

 

BRISBANE LIONS James Tunstill (unused)

 

UMPIRES Findlay Gavine Nicholls Power

 

CROWD 43,098 at the MCG 

ReportRd052024.png

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I don't think we can underestimate the loss of Salem on top of Bowey and Brayshaw. Howes and McVee have been playing well this year but they we under siege and we really need some experience to quell the influence of McCluggage, Bailey and Cameron.

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35 minutes ago, Freddy Fuschia said:

I don't think we can underestimate the loss of Salem on top of Bowey and Brayshaw. Howes and McVee have been playing well this year but they we under siege and we really need some experience to quell the influence of McCluggage, Bailey and Cameron.

Speaking of Brayshaw, when is the AFL going to make a decision on the situation regarding whether the payout on his contract is included in our salary cap?

Surely, this impacts on the club's recruiting through the midseason draft if it wants to go down that path?

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4 games in 19 days is crazy.  I know the AFL wants to milk us while we are up, but they are sending us straight down.

We played terribly and lost to the team that narrowly lost the GF by 4 goals.  Hopefully we come back against the Tigers refreshed.

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No one in the media mentioned the Lions had played the first 2 rounds, break in round 2 (bye) and another break in round 4 (against North) whilst we have played both Adelaide teams off a 5 day break and 6 in a row.

They love sticking it to us don't they!

 

Edited by YesitwasaWin4theAges
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