BRISBANE LIONS 6.1 9.6 13.11 18.14 (122) MELBOURNE 3.6 3.8 4.11 8.13 (61) GOALS Brisbane Lions: Brown 4, McGrath 3, Hanley 3, Green 2, Merrett, Zorko, Polec, Redden, Bewick, Black. Melbourne: Blease 2, Garland, Sylvia, Howe, McKenzie, Bate, Bail. BEST Brisbane Lions: Black, Redden, Hanley, Brown, Harwood, Rich, Rockliff. Melbourne: Sylvia, Martin, Howe, McKenzie. INJURIES Brisbane: McGrath (hamstring). Melbourne: McDonald (ribs). UMPIRES C Kamolins, J Mollison, M Jennings. CROWD 22,114, at Gabba.
HOW do you define impotence? The Melbourne Football Club may not define the word, but it is certainly an example of it. An unkind remark, perhaps, but without Mitch Clark, rarely has a side looked so bereft of attacking options as the Demons did against the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba yesterday.
The figures don’t lie. Melbourne all but broke even at the clearances and won the inside 50 count, going inside on 54 occasions to the Lions’ 50. But the Lions rebounded from defence 45 times to the Demons’ 31, and they moved it swiftly to the other end, scoring 32 times to 21.
It was a telling statistic, indicating that while Melbourne had opportunities, it had no valid forward target and was powerless to keep the ball locked in its scoring zone.
With no Clark, and no Brad Green or Liam Jurrah, either, coach Mark Neeld had no choice but to try to fill the void with Colin Garland, a capable defender, Jared Rivers (ditto) and Colin Sylvia, an unfulfilled talent again being asked to do too much.
It was hard to see the Demons kicking a winning score with that lot. Sam Blease – brought on early after Tom McDonald copped a knee in the ribs and went to hospital – kicked the Demons’ first and finished with two, to be Melbourne’s leading goalscorer. Only six other players joined him on the list.
It may be unfair to gaze, again, at the persecuted figure of Jack Watts. He’s been good in defence in recent weeks, but yesterday he was torn apart by Jonathan Brown – who had too much size and too much guile – and was quickly replaced by James Frawley. Watts might be more useful to the Demons if he were left to develop his game in the forward line.
The Lions, with their third win in four games, are looking better by the week. It was hard to recognise them even from the side that upset West Coast here in round 10, where they overused the ball and made their share of unforced errors. This was a quick, direct side playing with increasing confidence and skill.
It helped that they had targets to kick to. Jonathan Brown put in a vintage performance, kicking four goals from 24 possessions and 12 marks. And the development of Niall McKeever and Ryan Harwood, both excellent yesterday, has allowed Daniel Merrett and Ash McGrath to be released from defence.
McGrath put in another biting display before nicking a hamstring, kicking three goals, while Pearce Hanley also kicked three in a marvellous display of run, creativity and finishing. Prominent, again, were Jack Redden, Tom Rockliff and Daniel Rich, the Lions’ likely starting midfield for many years.
But the Lions would be especially glad to see veteran Simon Black back at the coalface. He played a classic centreman’s game and didn’t waste one of his 26 possessions.
He delivered the play of the day in the third quarter on the half-back flank. Taking possession, about to be beset by Demon defenders, Black simply stopped, side-stepped his flailing opponents, looked left and right as though about to cross a highway, then calmly spun onto his left and pinpointed a pass to McGrath in the centre.
It was the sort of move few players in the AFL could pull off and watching Black at his peerless best was a highlight of an otherwise predictable contest.
It puts the Lions on the edge of the eight, one of five teams with six wins. With a lowly percentage, they are still long odds for the finals, but many didn’t give them even a sniff of the action when season 2012 began.
KNOCKING AT THE DOOR
With this win, the Lions move to 12th on the ladder, with six wins and seven losses, ahead of Fremantle. They’re just a game outside the eight, but a poor percentage of just over 96 per cent means they have to continue their improvement and keep winning if they’re to have a hope of playing finals.
BLACK AND BROWN
The Lions’ old firm was up to their old tricks yesterday, with captain Jonathan Brown and Simon Black back to their best. Brown played his most imperious game in a long time, finishing with four goals and 10 marks, while Black played both inside and outside the packs to perfection.
Tom McDonald was an early casualty for Melbourne when he was cleaned up in a marking contest in the first quarter. Copping a knee to the ribs, he was taken to hospital after coughing up blood. He was replaced by the speedy Sam Blease, who was one of the Demons’ better contributors.
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