The Lions dominated the first quarter of their clash with fellow premiership heavyweights Geelong, but the Brisbane home crowd was left biting its fingernails when Lachie Neale left the field injured.
The 2020 Brownlow Medallist looked worse for wear after a tackle from Cats forward Jeremy Cameron.
When Neale clutched at his shoulder in agony, punters feared the worst.
He left the field, appearing to have suffered a dislocated right shoulder.
It was a case of déjà vu for the Brisbane faithful; Thursday night’s contest was just Neale’s third game back from an ankle injury that required surgery earlier this year.
“That’s stinging, that shoulder. He’s motioning to the sideline, it doesn’t look good,” said James Brayshaw in his call of the game.
“The Brownlow Medallist looks in real discomfort.”
However, the star midfielder showed his tenacity when he re-entered the fray just minutes later to test his injured shoulder.
During the third quarter, Fox Footy’s Tom Morris shared more details of Neale’s injury.
Revenge was a dish best served bold as a running and gunning Brisbane blew Geelong off the Gabba and underlined their 2021 premiership credentials with a 44-point thumping of the Cats in the Round 15 Thursday night blockbuster.
After being robbed of victory by an umpiring error in the dying minutes of the one-point loss to the Cats in Round 2, Brisbane left nothing to chance as they emphatically snapped Geelong’s six-game winning streak and cruised to their ninth win in 10 games.
The win could come at a cost for the rampant Lions with reigning Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale suffering a shoulder injury in the first term and bravely soldiering on for the rest of the match under duress.
He fell awkwardly after being tackled by Jeremy Cameron in the first quarter with all his weight going through his extended right arm. He eventually got to his feet but was clutching at his right shoulder.
He was rushed from the field in the hands of Brisbane trainers and surprisingly returned to action just minutes later but continued to favour the shoulder as he got plenty of the ball to help the Lions tear the Cats apart.
Brisbane kicked the first five goals of the match to lead by 30 points at quarter-time, 34 points at halftime and 43 points at the last change. Joe Daniher booted four goals for the home side while Charlie Cameron had three majors from seven shots on goal.
The final margin flattered Geelong.
The Lions backline as a whole was outstanding while the Brisbane midfield was led superbly by Dayne Zorko, Jarryd Lyons and Neale. Daniel Rich’s left boot started attacking thrust after attacking thrust for Brisbane and was magnificent off halfback with 25 disposals to be best-on-ground.
Geelong were coming off impressive wins over Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs but could not match Brisbane’s intensity around the ground. Their forward line was rendered useless as the likes of Harris Andrews, Marcus Adams and Brandon Starcevich owned the skies and the ground for Brisbane.
After Brisbane opened up a 36-point cushion early in the second term, Geelong’s superiority in contested possessions and clearances started to pay dividends with three quickfire goals to Zach Tuohy, Patrick Dangerfield and Isaac Smith.
However, Brisbane managed to wrestle back the momentum with twin towers Eric Hipwood and Daniher combining for three goals.
Brisbane should have been further in front at quarter-time after some wayward goalkicking gave them a return of 4.7 (31) to Geelong’s solitary point that came from Cameron hitting the post with a set shot.
THREE AMIGOS GO MISSING
Geelong’s vaunted forward line trio of Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron and Gary Rohan had donuts between them in the first three quarters and just one mark inside 50 before Hawkins broke the drought in the final term. AFL icon Leigh Matthews said in commentary that the “three-head monster” turned into the “three-headed minnow”. After a week of being in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, Joel Selwood was also quiet. He had five touches at halftime and 13 disposals by full-time after receiving close attention from Deven Robertson.
UMPED UP KICKS
The umpires lost control in the second term as tempers boiled over and the contest became increasingly spiteful. Melees, 50 metre penalties, pushing, shoving and a whole lot of whistle dominated the quarter. By halftime, 37 free kicks were paid with the season average for entire games being 38. Twenty-one free kicks alone were paid in the second term as both teams were guilty of poor discipline. Plenty of soft ones were handed out too that only added to the tension.
LIONS TAME CATS
Geelong had owned Brisbane since the Ash McGrath-inspired “Miracle on Grass” after-the-siren victory in 2013 with 11 wins from the next 12 contests between the clubs. The only Brisbane win came late in 2019 when Linc McCarthy took a spectacular mark and kicked the winning goal in a top-of-the-table clash at a sun-drenched Gabba. The Lions make a real point of toppling teams that have previously dominated them and they came out with all guns blazing against the Cats to stop the rot in fine style.
Lions midfielder Jarryd Lyons is in career-best form so a new two-year deal for the out-of-contract ball magnet should be a slam dunk for all parties involved. The former Sun played another vital role with 24 disposals, 15 contested possessions and five clearances. He is no longer flying under the radar and cannot be considered underrated. He keeps racking up outstanding numbers to underline his importance to the Brisbane midfield.
LIONS: 4.7 8.9 11.13 13.16 (94)
CATS: 0.1 3.5 5.6 7.8 (50)
LIONS: Daniher 4, Cameron 3, McCarthy 2, Hipwood 2, Lyons, Coleman
CATS: Smith 2, Tuohy 2, Dangerfield, Hawkins, Rohan
Greg Davis’ best:
LIONS: Rich, Zorko, Adams, Andrews, Cameron, Lyons, Daniher
CATS: Dangerfield, Guthrie, Tuohy, Higgins, Smith, Parfitt
LIONS: Neale (shoulder), McStay (knee)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Greg Davis’ votes:
3: Daniel Rich
2: Dayne Zorko
1: Marcus Adams