Match Review – Gold Coast, Brisbaine, Melbourne
Three of the AFL’s youngest teams took to the field at Metricon Stadium for their first public hit out last night, and the driving rain ensured we saw three physical, hard fought contests. Four goals was the most any side could manage under the circumstances, with three points ultimately proving to be the greatest final margin in three closely contested games.
Moist, sticky conditions made it very difficult going for the big men all night, and whilst the fitness and conditioning staff would be happy to get the run in the legs of their players, it was challenging for the coaching staff to look too closely at the skill levels.
Game 1 – Gold Coast v’s Melbourne
Gold Coast 4.2.26 def Melbourne 3.5.23
Game one was by far the highest scoring of the night, with all eyes on Melbourne’s new recruit Mitch Clarke suiting up in the famous number 11. Lining up as the Demon’s deep key forward, Clarke was matched up by former Melbourne defender Matthew Warnock and provided a strong target throughout the match.
After kicking four goals in the Gold Coast’s internal match last week, Bock again started forward and looked dangerous throughout despite not hitting the score board. Up forward for Melbourne it was another veteran who has spent recent seasons in defense, with Aaron Davey showing enough to suggest new coach Mark Neeld may have plans for him to spend considerable time in the forward 50 as the year progresses.
The new rule punishing the last man to kick the ball before it crosses the boundary line was badly exposed in the wet, with players often finding it impossible to hit a target when kicking under pressure.
The first of three close results eventually saw the Suns get over the line by less than a kick, although Melbourne would also have walked away satisfied with the hit out.
For the Suns it was the same old Gary Ablett. Simply a class above, he seamlessly transitioned into wet weather mode, and seemed to gather his 12 disposals with more time and space than any other man on the ground.
Dion Prestia also found plenty of the ball for the Suns, gathering nine possessions in a silky display.
The inside word from Melbourne is that Matthew Bate is near completing the best pre season of his career to date…and it showed. Playing purely as a ball winning midfielder, Bate’s hard running and work rate around the contest saw him collecting 11 possessions, whilst VFL recruit James Magner was also busy with nine.
Aaron Hall certainly caught the eye of the modest crowd with two of Gold Coast’s four goals for the night, showing great pace and reading the play well.
For Melbourne another 21 year old in Magner was the one to watch, with good support from young Josh Tynan who also showed he knows how to find the footy.
Karmichael Hunt officially only recorded two disposals for the match, but his work rate, intensity, tackling and pressure when he didn’t have the ball was impressive. On what was a difficult night to begin his transition into the mid field, Hunt showed us early signs that he may just have what it takes.
Game 2 – Melbourne v’s Brisbane
Melbourne 2.1.13 def Brisbane 1.4.10
With a 2-1 score line that looked akin to that of an A-League clash, as often happens in the round ball game the better side did not win this contest. Brisbane ended up with a whopping 55 more disposals in the shortened two quarter contest, and held Melbourne scoreless in the first half….yet it was not enough.
Two late goals against the trend of play by Sylvia and then Sellar found Melbourne with an unlikely lead late in the game.
A last ditch effort saw Polkinghorne gathering a James Frawley fumble only ten metres out, yet he was unable to convert what should have been a regulation goal with eight seconds on the clock.
Bate continued his impressive work in the midfield collecting another 13 possessions, and clearly ran out the match stronger than anyone in an impressive display of endurance.
Moloney was providing a strong body over the contest, new co-captain Jack Grimes was the Dee’s best in the second half, and Jeremy Howe put in another put in another solid performance.
For the Gold Coast Matt McGuire kept Mitch Clarke to zero possessions whilst gathering ten of his own, and Ash McGrath provided plenty of run coming out of defense.
Thomas Couch, son of 1989 Brownlow medallist Paul, showed a desire to get involved in the physical side of the contest from the first bounce, and adapted well to the conditions gathering six kicks.
Ryan Lester was Brisbane’s most impressive youngster, with 12 disposals for the evening. Lester played the first three games of the 2011 season and showed some great signs until a stress injury to his foot sidelined him for the remainder of the year, and his form against the Demons indicated that he is every chance to become a regular for the Lions in 2012.
Elliott Yeo also found plenty of the ball with 13 possessions, and showed plenty of poise in mostly selecting the correct option when under pressure.
Nathan Jones’s work around the contest was paramount to keeping Melbourne in the game. Rarely beaten, his physical presence will be much more valuable to the Demon’s fortunes this year than the stats sheets will ever indicate.
Game 3 – Brisbane v’s Gold Coast
Brisbane 2.6.18 def Gold Coast 2.4.16
Another sub-tropical deluge during the early stages of this game ensured yet another grinding, slog of a contest. Karmichael Hunt again starting in the middle and showed signs of adapting well.
Dixon and Bock both provided options in what was usually an open forward 50 for the Gold Coast, whereas at the other end Jonathan Brown was busy, and more importantly looking fit and healthy.
The Gold Coast had their chances to snatch this arm wrestle late in the game, yet inaccuracy ensured the three sides would end the night with a win each.
Harwood and Hawksley were busy between the arcs gathering 12 and 14 possessions respectively, whilst Redden and Rockliff showed they are in line to impress in the midfield yet again for Brisbane.
For the second time on the night Aaron Hall handled the conditions better than most, gathering another nine disposals to go with his earlier impressive performance.
Swallow and Prestia were prominent around the contest, and Bock was busy again up forward, particularly in the first half.
Brisbane would be more than happy with how their on ball division is shaping to look in the coming years, with Bewick, Harwood and Hawksley all playing the conditions intelligently.
For the Gold Coast we’ve all heard plenty about how good Jaeger O’Meara is going to be, and in the second half of this contest he showed us why. Great poise, balance and composure, coupled with pace and most importantly, footy smarts, will be the key elements to his game when he finally is allowed to play AFL in 2013.
Charlie Dixon was easily the best big man in this game, consistently demonstrating that he has a very good footy brain already.
Young Josh Green had seven disposals for Brisbane, yet had his hands on the slippery ball far more often than the stats will show. Often throughout the night he bumped, tackled, pressured and denied an opponent the opportunity to take possession when he was not in the box seat, no doubt characteristics that will please coach Michael Voss.