Round 16 – Melbourne v Brisbane: The (hopefully temporary) eternal damnation of the Lions

Watching the Brisbane Lions play footy has become a Sisyphean act.

 

The problem isn’t that the team is totally devoid of playing ability, the problem is one of optimism.

 

Optimism that the glimpses of talent sporadically shining through build an unjustified sense of hope that something more will develop; that the rare phases of fluidity the Lions are capable of can somehow be tempered into foundational building blocks for the club, rather than spilled down a drain of wasted disposals, games and careers.

 

Anyone who has glimpsed ten minutes of a Lions game this season will have seen the following:

 

An opposing team charges through the corridor towards the forward fifty, thanks to some hard running the Lions apply pressure and force a turnover, cutting off the threat. Young minds recall the whiteboard in the dressing sheds, and bodies move accordingly to facilitate the switch (albeit a little sluggishly) to the open side.

 

The Sherrin is sent across the back fifty, and then fired out to find a free man gallivanting along the boundary on the wing. Sure, the ball gets to him on the bounce – introducing a hint of doubt that this setup may not all be going to plan – but the Lions’ player bounds onwards, taking a bounce to steady himself, gaze shifting from the red leather in his hands to the groups of players dancing across the turf inside the fifty, like bees pirouetting around a stamen.

 

The young bloke weighs up his options, intent on finding a target for that final penetrating kick into the forward fifty to guarantee a set shot (which is no guarantee of anything). Exploding from the swarm of men inside the fifty metre arc is a lone maroon guernsey on a lead towards him; the young fella plants his standing leg and swings his kicking leg through the ball. Sinews strain, ligaments tighten, muscles flex and ripple as the professional dilettante unleashes a powerful attacking kick.

 

Invariably, the Sherrin skews disgustingly off the boot and becomes an aimless, lofted, meaningless roost destined for somewhere near the top of the arc, suspended in the air for an eternity.

It hangs long enough for me to consider that watching the Lions has become the purest exercise in futility I engage with every weekend, surpassing a longstanding date I have with clearing up the back garden.

 

It hangs long enough to wage a back and forth argument on the merits of Daniel Rich – that the golden-haired boy perhaps isn’t as hard at the contest or as clever with the ball as we’d all hoped he’d be – or the merits of Daniel Merrett; poor sauce, those are now all too well known.

 

It hangs long enough for me to crawl back into the recesses of my mind still occupied by childhood dreams. To stay there for a moment and re-imagine an alternative life, of playing on the hallowed Gabba turf as a spry young twenty-something.

 

I blink and I’m returned from my daydream, sitting on the couch, holding a beer, now over a decade older than the Lions’ most junior player, confronted with the reality that it will never be me out there, leaving sweat and blood on the field so that some lazy bastard can criticise my every false step.

 

Then finally, the ball is ripped to terra firma by gravity and comes hurtling towards a pack of players and is fittingly spoiled.

 

Spoiled, along with any hopes of fluency when the Lions have the ball, any chance that a game plan will come together or – dare I mention it – any hope of achieving that now mystical W. For the Lions, an L in the column next to every fixture has become as likely as a BT ‘zinger’ in the commentary box and a W as rare as any actual insight from the same.

 

From the spoil the opposing team breaks hard through the corridor, gliding through the middle like they’re in a Wednesday night training drill and before you know it the ball is through the sticks and the goal umpire has the flags out.

 

The flashes of individual brilliance from players in a maroon, blue and gold jersey come often enough for my liking. It’s the vacuum that exists in the collective repertoire of basic skills that is hard to come to terms with.

 

A game plan isn’t worth a thought if the simple matter of kicking to a target cannot be achieved.

 

Footy paddocks are pretty flat but the Lions make it look like they’re always running uphill, constantly scooping the rock up a hundred and fifty metres away from their goal, struggling to push forward and push forward until they’re inevitably repelled back to their own end, only to take up the task again.

 

MATCH DETAILS:

 

Melbourne   5.4   7.7   7.10   8.12.60

Brisbane Lions  1.2   1.5   3.8   4.12.36

 

GOALS:

Melbourne: Hogan 4, McDonald 2, Garlett 2

Brisbane: Zorko, Robinson, Andrews, Christensen.

 

Umpires: Bannister, Harris, McInerney

 

Crowd: 25,149 at the MCG

Comments

  1. Peter Schumacher says:

    A sad but very insightful narrative.

  2. Phil Hill says:

    Good read but the only Brisbane player, in the 50 metre arch, that consistently leads up to a on coming Brisbane player was Christian, a bloody rover.

    What about the total absence of a kick in strategy?

  3. Adam Muyt says:

    It’s all so depressing!
    I blame Voss and the debacles of the 2009 draft. Still paying the cost. Thought at the time it would set us back maybe 5 years; now it looks like 10.
    Anyway, excellent summary of the match and Lionland.

  4. Thanks gents.

    Phil, you’re on the money. The Lions’ lack of a tall forward is ground that’s been well covered and is immediately evident. Staker playing up there just looks lost. I suppose this article was borne out of the frustration of the skills on display rather than the void of key position players up front but in a way both issues do go hand in hand.

    Seeing the Lions lose playing this switch/ wing/ roost long method of football is hard to swallow. In some ways I’d prefer that Leppa had them at least attempting to play through the corridor/ handball and run a bit more – even if it would be throwing the players in the deep end and leaving the team open to the counter.

    Optimistically it will be 10 years Adam! Brisbane is a young man’s club at the moment, I can only hope that half of the toddlers running around at present kick on and lead the Lions out of these dark years.

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