Round 12 – Melbourne v Brisbane: Set up running





It’s Friday. After a hard week working on the plantations, I put my feet, and wonky knee, up by the fire. Wood simply burns better when you cut it yourself. The kid goes to bed, I pull a few bourbons from the freezer, let them thaw, just that bit, and watch a finals match in early June. Brisbane v Melbourne.


A lot happens.


The Lions play their game in the first half. They chip it around beautifully through the backline. Chip, chip, chip. It drives me nuts. Then, finally, the burst through the middle. Fifteen hard metres and launch, long to talls who clunk them – by leaping at the pack, the mark, the kicker. And smalls who run away, towards goals.


They try to physically intimidate Melbourne, which is such a waste of energy. Today’s AFL players are tough. They wont’ squib to protect their day job. Not squibbing is their day job.


In the first half Melbourne play Gawn forward too much. He roves a goal, but just doesn’t work. He’s a ruckman. The player they put in the middle for him, Luke Jackson, is a kid. A chin. Yet another mullet. Put him back in the oven for a few seasons. He gets monstered. Melbourne have no rhythm. Get spanked out of the middle. Hipwood stole Spiderman’s fingers. Daniher takes speccies.


In the second half, Melbourne just say: “Bugger it!” They run. Their handball is just electric, dynamic! Stupidly brave, or bravely stupid. Either way, they link at top speed. The ball just flies forward.


The red and blue have a lot of ’07-’11 Geelong about them, in that they get most of their goals starting from the back flank. My god! Dusty old Demons have become just so silky! Silky! They charge into open forward lines before Usain Bolt could flood back there. They don’t stand to ruck contests, they sprint into them.


When they do get held up a kick and a bit from goal, in that dreaded 55 to 85 metres out zone, they don’t bomb to traditional hot spots. Most players can kick a goal from angles these days. They set the ball sailing to ten metres out from the boundary, to numbers. Where there’s no room for opposition backlines to run it out easily. They cramp it up, back McDonald, that Christian-Beale-looking 26 bloke, whoever, while the smalls and mids charge at the fall, goalwards. If the other mob get that handball out back, they’re swamped, pinned by the boundary with no left and right options.


It’s a subtle, but beautiful innovation.


The TV commentators will tell you how much better so many forwards were in the second half. Pickett, E-I-E-I-O, so on. But that was effect, not cause. The commentators are all ex CHFs! I swear, forwards go into telly, they get their hair right. Backmen become premiership coaches. Again, and always, I highly recommend watching the game with some good music playing.


And thawing bourbons.


Gawn got more on-ball time, and instead of trying to be clever with is taps, which Brisbane are so well coached at poaching, he now starts hitting it well forward, for goalward momentum.

And it works. Petracca, Harmes, Oliver all start running onto it.


Brisbane have a real problem in the ruck. The place it starts. Big Donk looks like he may not be able to think too quick, but can lift heavy boxes. Nathan Buckley was the best receiver in the history of the game. Of course he doesn’t rate good ruckwork. The only thing he was on the receiving end of was another Scott Burns/Paul Licuria handball.


Oliver broke free.


The backline, led by Steven May, showing glimpses of Brian Lake, ably backed up by Emmett Dunne, and just charged everything!


What is it about moustaches that they make Indigenous players look interesting, and white players look like geeks, anyways?


Down forward Charlie Spargo may appear a bit baffled, goes unnoticed, but sets up so many sausages.


In the end, the difference was Brisbane set up their structures. Melbourne set theirs up running.


Yet all the top teams have good game plans. You have to also have the cattle to execute them.


Every decade or so a team comes along that’s just so easy to barrack for – personalities on every line, characters.


From May to Pickett, Hibberd, Harmes, Brayshaw, Fritsch – he can play…




I cannot stress enough the value of having personalities to barrack for. It makes something clinical a joy. Makes it personal.


Oliver looks so much like James Spader it does my head in! Boston Legal charging. He also looks like the perfect modern footballer. Impossibly explosive speed, hits packs and ball-ups absolutely flat knacker, yet tall, and strong. But, also, vitally, a natural footballer. He just reads it. The ball, the contest, the game.


And hates losing even more that he loves winning.


And above all else, this, and most games, there was Christian Petracca. His motions are so crisp, fast, he attacks the ball so aggressively, yet delivers so smooth. He does what the greats do – make their teammates look better. He does it out wide, he excels in traffic.


Like Nicky Winmar before him, Ian Stewart, a few others, he does what the oval ball challenges us to, time and again; turns chaos into order.


And when he does it for four quarters, like tonight, the Dees take a lot of stopping.


Adelaide cast doubts, Brisbane dispersed them. Barring earthquakes, the Dees will be playing well into September.


Anyways, it’s near 2am, the bourbons are gone. Melted in my belly. And I have local footy to coach tomorrow. Thanks Melbourne and Brisbane for a ripper.



MELBOURNE     2.3     5.4     10.9     14.13 (97)
BRISBANE         4.4     8.6     10.8     11.9 (75)


Melbourne: McDonald 3, Pickett 3, Fritsch 2, Petracca 2, Gawn, Jackson, Neal-Bullen, Sparrow
Brisbane: Bailey 4, Cameron 2, Coleman, Daniher, Hipwood, McCarthy, Zorko


Melbourne: Petracca, Harmes, Oliver, May, Gawn, Neal-Bullen
Brisbane: Zorko, Bailey, Lyons, Andrews, Neale 


Melbourne: Nil
Brisbane: Lester (hamstring)


Melbourne: Baker (unused)
Brisbane: Mathieson (replaced Lester)


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  1. Many highlights in this piece Old Dog. The writing does the quality of the footy justice. Great read. Thanks.

  2. Andrew Else says

    Feel privileged to be able to read this. If I was a Dees fan I’d print it out and put it on the fridge. Great game. I was planning on watching a quarter but I didn’t move for the whole game. Just wish I was joining you at the local footy!

  3. Fabulous read. Great point about the Melbourne kicking into the goal area. They’ve worked out their game!
    Commentary is dreadful – TV and radio. I miss Rex

  4. One of the things I love about this piece: its foundation is in your respect for the game and the players Old Dog.

  5. Love it. Forwards are results. Backmen build effects.
    You explained what I was seeing but couldn’t understand with Melbourne’s attacking set up in the second half. Their midfielders running onto the fall of the ball gave them extras at the contest when Brisbane’s defenders punched. I guess it makes them vulnerable out the back with a turnover but the defensive side just couldn’t get possession.
    Clayton Oliver is my favourite current footballer. Robbie Flower with steel reinforcing. The quality of his disposal by hand and foot lifts him above Petracca to my eye.

  6. Rick Kane says

    Raising a cuppa to a magnificent essay. I’m hooked in the first para, with lines like this, “Wood simply burns better when you cut it yourself”.

    Great stuff MZ. Last line says it all. And the Third Quarter was why we call it the Premiership Quarter. For all the stats in the world, I’d like to know if a ball has moved so fast, for such extended periods through a quarter as that one. Dees literally ran Lions into the ground.

    Thanks for capturing this game with such insight, empathy and humour.


  7. Matt Zurbo says

    Thanks to all!

  8. Rulebook says

    Excellent Old dog ! Gawn-Oliver-Petracca what a trifecta

  9. Rulebook says

    Very happy with ex redleg-Zac Bailey 2 !

  10. Matt Zurbo says

    He played a cocker, didn’t he!

  11. DBalassone says

    Cracking piece for a cracking game Old Dog. The thing that has struck me is how well the Dees have recruited from other clubs: May, Lever, and Hibberd all in the backline (I know Hibberd can do run-with roles as well), but that is virtually a ready-made backline recruited from other clubs.

  12. Geoff Woolcock says

    Nailed it MZ! Salad days for all us Dee tragics….

  13. Peter Schumacher says

    I thought that we had it at half time.

    My contribution is, “They was too good,”but I still wouldn’t write off Brisbane, particularly if they play the Granny in Perth, so that whoever they play, must be Melbourne, don’t start off with a virtual 3 goal home advantage. I reckon that their forwards could still do plenty of damage. What about that mark of Hipwood’s? Almost reminded me of Nick Riewoldt the way he burst through the pack to take that grab.

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