Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Perth, Australia
Brisbane has a good record at the Gabba and has not lost an encounter against the West Coast Eagles at its home ground in five years. Conditions were wet and slippery after six hours of torrential rain but the Eagles had a lot at stake, fighting for fourth position on the Ladder to secure a home Final. The opening of the game proved that the Lions were not going to make it easy for them.
Jed Adcock got the home team off to a dream start scoring a goal from a poor West Coast kick-in after an early Brisbane point. A great ruck tap and run down the ground had Jack Redden kicking their second. Brisbane had six inside 50 meters to zero as well as 16 disposals to one at this point in the quarter and the Eagles could not get their hands on the ball. Brisbane applied wonderful forward pressure but the Eagles managed to break through and Mark LeCras kicked truly for his 41st goal of the year. Chris Masten threw himself on the ball and won a “kicking in danger” free kick. His goal brought the Eagles back into the play and it became goal for goal. Brett Staker’s unfortunate run of luck with a knee injury continued and he was replaced early by substitute Patrick Karnezis. The wet conditions made for a comedy of errors by the Eagles in their back half but a mark and goal by the enigmatic Matt Priddis put them in front. The first quarter wound down with both teams kicking another goal and the Eagles went into the break with a 4 point lead. The game was not pretty but given the conditions there was a very good spread of goals.
Tom Rockliff demonstrated his soccer skills when he volleyed the ball out of the air on the goal line to start the second quarter with a goal. Brisbane had all the early play in their forward half and looked dominant, kicking very accurately while the Eagles were sloppy and over-running the ball. Kanezis took a strong mark to kick the Lions’ next goal and when Josh Drummond slid a goal through, the Lions looked full of confidence and well in control of the match. In a renewed effort towards the end of the first half, the Eagles pressed relentlessly into their attacking zone. Although they kept the ball trapped in their zone with good defensive efforts, they could not get a result on the scoreboard. For only the third time this year West Coast failed to score a goal in a quarter and Brisbane led by an unexpected 13 points as the half ended.
When play resumed, the game had all the makings of an upset as Brisbane kicked the first two goals of the third quarter. The Eagles were making shocking kicking choices and turning the ball over with great regularity in the back line. In fact, the Lions could have put the sealer on the game very early if Aaron Cornelius had made a different decision. He played on when the correct move was to go back and take his kick from behind his mark. The Lions lost control of the ball and Mark Nicoski made something out of nothing. He pounced to snap kick on goal from 40 yards out to bring the game back within reach for the Eagles. It had been 50 minutes between goals for West Coast and, at this point, it looked like someone hit the alarm button on the Eagles’ firehouse wall. The momentum shifted slightly. Luke Shuey began to have a bigger influence around the packs. He soccered the next goal and the Eagles’ intensity lifted again. Now it was the Lions who were under siege and making critical errors. Masten was playing an excellent game, his best so far for the Eagles. His interception of a poor kick-in gave the Eagles three in a row but there was bad news. Dean Cox split his brow open and was replaced by substitute Ashley Smith late in the quarter. One of the problems with players who are regular substitutes is that they get used to playing a quarter and a half. Karnezis was a case in point. He was brought on early and after a quarter and a half he ran out of energy. He was looking capable of scoring Brownlow Medal votes early, but had very little influence in the latter half of the match. In a contender for goal of the year, Ashton Hams may have guaranteed his career with an astonishing left foot snap from almost out of bounds. His 40 yard kick sailed straight and high through the middle of the goals and cut the Lions’ lead to just 2 points.
Sensing that they could come from behind for a win, West Coast put their forward press into top gear. They were kicking with much more efficiency than their opponents who seemed rattled after the four goals kicked in a row against them. When Quinten Lynch dribbled the ball end over end for the Eagles’ fifth consecutive goal and the lead, the Lions were dazed. Not to be denied, they clawed back the lead when Sam Sheldon kicked a superb 70 yard bomb that went through on a bounce. The game was being played at a fast tempo and it was the Eagles’ turn to get back in front when they kicked the next three in a row to take a commanding 16 point lead late in the game.
Still Brisbane would not be denied and Cornelius kicked truly after a 50 meter penalty to keep them in the hunt. It could have finished differently had Drummond kicked straight when the Eagles turned the ball over in their back half. Players were exhausted and perhaps that was the difference in the end. Skills fall off when there is nothing left in the tank. The ball was tied up in packs and stoppages by the Eagles as they tried to wait out the siren.
In the end it was an exciting game with many swings to both sides. The Eagles won by a slight eight point margin but the Lions never surrendered. Luke Powers had announced his retirement before the game and he was chaired off the ground by his team in appreciation of his terrific 282 game career. In a mark of respect for Powers’ career and influence on the game, the entire Eagles team formed a guard of honor for him as he left the ground.
West Coast secured the prized fourth position on the Ladder to give them not only a double chance in the Finals, but a guaranteed home Final at some point in the series. Brisbane faces Sydney away next week in a dead rubber as the Final Eight had been decided after this round. The Lions took a turn for the better late in the season and can look forward to a strong pre-season and better results next year when injured players return.
Scoreboard Brisbane: 4.4 7.6 9.12 11.15 (81) West Coast: 5.2 5.5 9.10 13.11 (89) Best Players Brisbane: Black, Rich, Leuenberger, Rockliff, Raines West Coast: Masten, Shuey, Priddis, Lynch, Gaff
Article last changed on Thursday, September 01, 2011 - 10:52 AM EDT