Brown drags Lions past wasteful Blues

Round 2: Brisbane v Carlton

Theories, opinions and conventional wisdoms: footy is awash with them, this game more than most in its anticipation.

Ever since Carlton offloaded Brendon Fevola to Brisbane, consensus thinking on these teams has the Lions vaulting into top 4 contention, whilst the Blues were expected to struggle up forward and face a downturn in fortunes. This game was the first real test of these theories, about which I’ll add my thoughts later.

The pre-game news of Paul Bower’s omission was a blow to Carlton. He was the obvious candidate to peel off and provide 3rd man up defensive support to those minding Brisbane’s twin towers. His absence left a more exposed defence.

Carlton began with a flurry of forward line pressure which resulted in Setanta Oh’Ailpin tumbling through the opening goal. Jonathan Brown announced his presence with a booming reply from the 50 metre arc. A front-and-centre Eddie Betts fed Lachie Henderson for his first goal against his old side. Not to be outdone, Fev joined the party with a soccer goal to balance the ledger of ex’s.

The Blues were winning the clearances, and worrying Brisbane with sustained tackling pressure, but failing to capitalise on the chances created. Attempting a high possession style in the humid Brisbane conditions, Brett Thornton turned the ball over, allowing Brown to feed Fev on an easy lead for his 2nd goal. Joe Anderson had a bad 90 seconds, first kicking OOTF before dropping a mark to allow Todd Banfield in for a goal. Young Banfield was noticeable for more than just his shock of red hair in the early going. Josh Drummond also stood out, being allowed the time and space to direct play with his piercing kicks.

Matty Kreuzer demonstrated his superb athletic ability by helping clear from defence, then following play all the way up the ground and winning a free shot on goal by putting his head over the ball. His subsequent miss, and a Setanta poster saw the Blues trail at ¼ time, 2-6 to 4-3.

Betts, Yarran and Setanta all missed early in the 2nd quarter, before Brown marked on the lead and stretched Brisbane’s advantage. Henderson goaled from a free, and Carlton continued to win the contested ball, but then cough it up and get caught on the rebound. Fev’s 3rd followed a horrible Thornton turnover, and Brown soon repeated the dose.

Brett Thornton’s preferred method is to zone off his opponent. Body pressure isn’t his strong suit, and he rarely looks comfortable when matched on Johnno Brown. Then again, few do.

Carlton’s forward structure now collapsed, and they spent the rest of the quarter bombing aimlessly and accumulating behinds. Trailing 3-11 to 8-3 at the main break, they were badly in need of a reassessment. The optimistic may have been pinning hopes on Brisbane’s shorter recovery period between games.

Joel Patfull had curbed Marc Murphy’s effectiveness in the first half, and Bryce Gibbs had been preoccupied following Jarred Brennan, but these two now burst to the fore, as Carlton began a 3rd quarter blitz.

The move of Kade Simpson to the forward line produced an immediate goal. He then passed to Setanta for his 2nd. Brock McLean goaled from the 50, then Henderson gave Setanta his 3rd and the Blues had hit the front. Carlton was running riot through the midfield and dominating centre bounces. A Mitch Clark goal from a free provided brief Lion relief, before Henderson and Murphy stretched the Blues’ lead.

With the game slipping away, the formidable Mr Brown stepped up. Almost single-handedly keeping his side in it, he marked from a Carlton kick-in to narrow the margin. Despite Mitch Robinson bullocking a goal from a throw-in, Brown helped Brisbane steady late, and contain the margin at ¾ time. A 7 goal to 2 burst saw the Blues lead 10-14 to 10-7.

Black and Power had spent time up forward, but they now returned to the centre square in a an attempt to restore order. Andrew Carrazzo had successfully quelled Daniel Rich to this stage, but the young tyro was to work his way free for some telling late touches. Trav Johnstone made up for his ridiculous beard with a steady contribution.

The turnover curse bit the Blues again, with Black gifted a goal to close the gap. Gibbs kicked a classy goal from 50, but when Brown answered from that distance on the boundary line to level the scores, you could feel the momentum shifting. With midfield equilibrium returning, Banfield gave Brisbane the lead, before clearing brilliantly to set up Rischitelli for another.  Brown’s 6th set up an 18 point lead, and despite Oh’Ailpin’s 4th, another Brown bomb for his 7th effectively sealed the deal.

Fittingly, the game ended with Betts running into an open goal and missing. He and Yarran chased and tackled hard all night, but their collective 0.6 hurt the cause. Carlton will be rueing their general profligacy in this game.

Brisbane ran out victors 16.11.107 to 12.16.88.

So how did reality match up with theory? In truth, it felt like not much had changed since last year’s final. Carlton again held sway in the midfield for long stretches, but ultimately were overrun by an inability to find an answer to Big Johnny Brown, who looks the fittest he’s been in years. Despite all the focus, Fev wasn’t that much of a factor in proceedings.

I am obviously biased, but I haven’t seen much to support the differing expectations about either sides’ prospects.

Whilst the Brown/Fevola combo looks daunting, Brisbane got 143 goals out of Brown/Bradshaw last year, yet were constantly criticised for being too dependent on them for their scores. I can’t see how Fev would help this much. Maybe he attracts some attention away from Brown, but attention cuts both ways with Fev.

That Power and Black are spending more time forward seems to indicate Brisbane’s brains trust sees the need for alternative goal kickers. As seen in this game, this runs a risk of leaving them exposed in the centre square.

Brisbane would seem good things to make the finals. But if they’re to improve on last year, I get the feeling much relies on leviathan Brown maintaining his current dominant form.

And so to the Blues, everybody’s anticipated strugglers. I was one supporter who had come to the conclusion we would never win a flag with Fevola dominating up front. This was based on the presumption that Brown equivalents don’t grow on trees. As such, I see the step of moving the Prodigal Bogan on as a necessary one, even if it involves short term pain.

It could be argued we should have done better in the trade, but the still-developing Henderson already offers one bonus Fev never will: he can be played in more than one position. This will enable us to more effectively rotate our forward line, widening our tactical options. More consistent tackling pressure from our forwards can also be expected. I’m not so sure the pain will be as great as many predict.

Theories are all well and good, but the Blues face a tough stretch of games ahead, starting with recent nemesis Essendon. Of course, a certain bald-headed bloke will return in a fortnight to assist matters.

Votes–  J Brown 3 (he should probably get the 2 as well),  Murphy 2, Drummond 1.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Peter Flynn says


    Love the word tyro. It’s used a lot in cricket.

    Carlton played an ‘unselfish’ brand of football.

  2. I hope young Banfield fully reaches his potential, when he let loose last night gee, he was impressive.
    I have watched very few brisbane games in the last few years (for reasons that I have to deal with, even though we finally knocked them off in 2004, and I was living in QLD at the time). So I may be a browny come lately to the cause, but jeez, Jonathon Brown is one hell of an impressive footballer, after a few grogs last night I was yelling at the telly (as per usual), that browny is an out and out champion, and I hate that word being bandied about as often as it is these days, gives one some impression of how much much I thought of his game last night.

  3. John Butler says


    Unselfish, but sadly, also unwinning. The Bombers match may tell a tale.


    J Brown would have to be the league’s alpha male. We have rarely been able to stop him without double/triple teaming.

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