2022 Semi Final, Melbourne v Brisbane: A tale of two halves

In Melbourne’s Finals Dossier, discussing the topic of leads given up in losses, I chose to take a glass half-full view, thinking it wouldn’t happen again with higher stakes on the line.

A mea culpa today because I was wrong. It happened again on Friday night, not making the most of a first half advantage and watching on as Brisbane ran them down with 11 goals after half time.

This isn’t to downplay Brisbane’s performance. The third and fourth quarters were the first time in months defending to the level they’re capable of, finishing with their season high pressure rating (source).

The astute move of Jarrod Berry on-ball played its part, as did Eric Hipwood stepping up in the absence of Joe Daniher.

After a first half which could charitably be described as ‘tame’, it exploded into life after the main break.

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Every final this year is getting the ‘North Melbourne match review’ treatment, for lack of a better term.

Essentially, everything I do there is transported into September, with the obvious difference of looking at a game from both teams’ perspective instead of just one.

It replaces the Notebook in the $5+ spot for Patrons. Each review will be posted the morning after the game, with early access to Patrons until the evening when it becomes free for all.

Here are all the Patreon details and how to sign up.

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A handful of key stats at half-time:

Contested Possessions: 83-59 Melbourne
Clearances: 24-13 Melbourne
               – Centre Clearances: 7-2 Melbourne
               – Stoppage Clearances: 17-11 Melbourne
Inside 50s: 30-22 Melbourne

Contest and territory was all Melbourne up until the last 10 seconds of the half. But for all the general play advantage, they didn’t create high quality chances. The scoreboard read 6.8, and the natural reaction was ‘they’ve been inaccurate’. But the misses:

Behind 1: Rushed
Behind 2: Spargo set shot from 45, 45(ish) degree angle
Behind 3: Langdon right foot checkside, general play under pressure from the left forward flank, 35 out
Behind 4: Rushed
Behind 5: Sparrow set shot from 48, 45(ish) degree angle
Behind 6: Harmes snap from 30 out in general play under slight pressure
Behind 7: Rushed
Behind 8: Neal-Bullen rushed snap from 30 out straight in front under pressure

There aren’t a whole lot of ‘yep, definitely missed a sitter’ moments among those eight chances.

Brisbane were surviving on scraps from Melbourne’s creaky ball use with the first two goals coming from defensive half possession chains after Demons turnovers. They created nothing from any other source.

Yet after a Callum Ah Chee goal with seconds remaining from a centre clearance, Melbourne’s first half efforts amounted to just a 22-point lead.

Much like many of their losses this year, they had the chance to put the game out of reach but couldn’t do it. Which left the door open for Brisbane…

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Posts continue to come thick and fast. If you’ve missed anything recently, here are links to catch up:

Friday 9th: Look Back/Ahead: St Kilda (10th, 11-11, 99.8%)
Thursday 8th: Look Back/Ahead: Port Adelaide (11th, 10-12, 110.3%)
Wednesday 7th: Look Back/Ahead: Gold Coast (12th, 10-12, 102.8%)
Tuesday 6th: Look Back/Ahead: Hawthorn (13th, 8-14, 89.8%)
Sunday 4th: Elimination Final Analysis: Fremantle v Western Bulldogs

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At half time, Brisbane were staring down the barrel of another night being second best at contests. Over their last 14 quarters against Melbourne, they’d lost the contested possession count by a combined total of 93. That had to change.

Deven Robertson spent the first half in a defensive role against Clayton Oliver. While Oliver wasn’t at his electrifying best, he was still influential, and as a result of the role Brisbane were down a ball winning option in their rotations. Melbourne weren’t concerned about Robertson’s offensive capabilities.

Given Christian Petracca’s forced relegation to fourth-string midfielder (behind Oliver, Viney and Brayshaw) because of a fractured fibula, Melbourne’s midfield was weaker than usual. An opportunity presented for Brisbane to rectify their woes from previous encounters.

Enter Jarrod Berry.

Tasked with the reasonable sized assignment of defending Oliver and winning his own ball, Berry responded with the best half of his career.

Barring a three-week stretch early in the season, Berry had been relegated to spot on-ball minutes, at the back of the line behind Neale, Lyons (when fit), McCluggage, Mathieson (when playing), Rayner, Bailey and Zorko.

In Brisbane’s time of need, they turned to Berry, and he attended all but one centre bounce in the second half, following Oliver around while also providing an offensive spark. The results were spectacular.

Second HalfJarrod BerryClayton Oliver
Disposals22 (9 contested)9 (8 contested)
Clearances53
Inside 50s23

Berry’s first priority was obviously defensive, aiming to take Oliver as far away from the drop zone at stoppages as possible…

But with the extra experience that Robertson (naturally) doesn’t have, Berry was able to find the happy medium of getting his own uncontested ball as well, acting as an extra option between the lines of Melbourne’s defence. It allowed Brisbane to get the ball in motion more often than the first half.

Elsewhere, Gawn’s physical ailments became apparent the longer the game went. He had eight first quarter disposals, but only seven for the rest of the game.

This attempt at running isn’t the movement pattern of a fully fit player.

Suddenly Melbourne had a hobbled Gawn, a neutralised Oliver, and a sore Petracca. Brisbane had the opportunity to finally break even around contests, a chance which had eluded them for so long in this matchup.

That new-found confidence flowed into other areas of the Lions’ game. No longer constantly under attack and forced to play reactively, they were able to move the ball from side to side, stretching the Melbourne defence and allowing more one-on-ones.

The main man to benefit from this was Hipwood. Of his three third quarter goals, it was the second which showed how the game had changed. Width, short kicks, and leads, all done decisively.

If the clip doesn’t work, click here to play

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As we head towards free agency and trade period, a reminder that the plan is to have a post for every move that involves a player. Judging by the rumours, there may be a lot of posts in the pipeline.

For first access, head to Patreon to sign up.

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Brisbane allowed Melbourne 49 uncontested marks in the first half. In the third quarter, that number decreased to just six.

With the contest phase of the game equalled, the pressure I mentioned at the top came into play, not allowing Melbourne any time to control tempo.

It meant the game was now on Brisbane’s terms, and two passages of play from Berry early in the last quarter summed it up.

Although they both ended in behinds, it showed the difference between first half Brisbane – reactive, second best, static – and second half Brisbane – proactive, aggressive, moving.

If the clip doesn’t work, click here to view

Through Berry’s addition to the on-ball rotation, it opened up an extra avenue of scoring. Up until the last seconds of the first half, Brisbane had no goals from stoppages.

They ended with five, equalling Melbourne’s total despite losing the raw clearance count by 14 (51-37).

The Lions’ pressure then stopped the Demons from moving the ball with any fluidity (although if any Melbourne fans are still reading this they’re probably thinking it didn’t matter whether there was pressure or not).

Pressure + multiple avenues to goal = confident ball use, Brisbane able to use the full width of the field to stretch Melbourne’s defence. Finding one-on-ones, neutralising the Demons’ intercepting strength.

As a result, the second half read Brisbane 11.4.70 – 5.5.35 Melbourne, and the Lions are through to a preliminary final against Geelong at the MCG.

(After all this, I find it amusing that after defending Brisbane nearly all year and believing in them as a top tier team, I jump off right before finals. Then they promptly progress to a prelim. They’re the breaks I guess.)

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