by Murray Silby
The Brisbane Lions’ Reserves showed its class by recording a 26-point victory over NT Thunder at TIO stadium on Saturday night, the proficiency of 19 AFL-listed players proving too good for the home side, recording a 15.11 (101) to 11.9 (75) victory.
Despite Brisbane controlling most of the match, Thunder continued to press the Lions deep into the final quarter, but height, superior skills and cleaner finishing meant the visitors always looked like they’d take the four points.
The moment Thunder looked to have its best chance of running over Brisbane was when it managed to get to within eight points of the Lions in the 22nd minute of the third quarter, but each time it threatened, the Lions were able to respond.
It took Thunder 12-and-a-half minutes of the opening term to score its first goal and that came thanks to the smarts of full forward Darren Ewing, who drew a free kick for in the back and duly goaled from the edge of the goal square, but by that stage the Lions already had three on the board and had jumped out to a 19-point lead.
Michael Close goaled for Brisbane next, but majors by Adam Sambono and a gem by Lachlan Collihole from deep in the pocket on the boundary line brought the margin back to six points.
Two late goals to the Lions’ Ryan Dadds and Samuel Copland blew the difference back out to 18 points at quarter time.
When Brisbane’s Jono Freeman scored the first goal of the second quarter the Lions’ lead extended to 23-points and the warning signs were there again for Thunder, but successive goals to Hugo Drogemuller and Ewing narrowed the margin to 14-points and the NT seemed to be making a serious play for the lead.
Samuel Copland kicked his second goal for the Lions before Ewing’s height disadvantage against Matthew Eagles worked to his advantage in drawing the free kick for over the shoulder in a marking contest and he ran around to kick the goal to ensure the deficit at half time would be 14 points.
It could have been narrower too, if Thunder had been cleaner with its delivery by foot and hand.
That trend continued in the third quarter with the ball spending most of the first 10 minutes of the term in Thunder’s half of the ground, but near misses, whether it be when attempting to mark or delivering a kick or handball, as well as Brisbane’s ability to choke Thunder’s forward forays meant the home side wasn’t able to take advantage of its possession during that time.
It took 11 minutes for the first goal of the third term to be scored and that went to Brisbane ruckman Archie Smith with a snap over his shoulder on the edge of the goal square.
Goals to NT’s Drogemuller and Cameron Ilett followed and suddenly Thunder had reduced the margin to eight points.
The final two goals of the quarter by Brisbane’s Ryan Bastinac and Matthew Hammelman, who kicked his third, restored order from the Lions’ point-of-view for a 20-point margin at three quarter time.
When Brisbane scored the first two goals of the final term to Samuel Copland and Jono Freeman, and the margin grew to 32 points it looked liked the result might be a blow out.
Ewing wasn’t finished yet though and popped up again, snapping his fourth after Shannon Rioli brilliantly evaded traffic at half forward to deliver to him.
Brisbane’s giant ruckman Oscar McInerney added another for the Lions thanks to a 50 metre penalty in the centre square before Ewing dribbled his fifth through on the run.
Dadds kicked his second and Brisbane’s 15th on 24 minutes while Drogemuller kicked his third, from limited opportunities, late in the term.
Despite Brisbane’s ability to suffocate Thunder’s forward 50, giving several centimetres to his opponent and the delivery often rushed or under pressure, Ewing was among his side’s best, finding a way to get the ball and score goals, while his captain Rioli tried throughout and chimed in with several displays of brilliance.
Ilett was his usual dependable self in defence and also found the ball in attack.
For the visitors, forwards Hammelmann and Copland were always dangerous, but benefitted from on baller Bastinac’s dominance around the ground as well as the tap work of Archie Smith in the ruck.
Brisbane’s coach, the former Western Bulldogs utility Mitch Hahn, said his young side was very happy to make the journey to Darwin and break what has become a hoodoo road trip for his club.
“Fantastic. NT challenged us a few times and we haven’t won up here since 2012 so our ability to come up here and get the four points is really great for this group,” he said.
“At times we got pulled into NT’s game, which I believe is a turnover game. They’re really good in close and they can hurt you on the turnover. The majority of their scores came from turnovers, which is what we expected.
“We knew they were good in the shoe box and tackling pressure is fantastic. We thought if we could own the ball and control the ball that’s where their defence fell down a little bit, but to their credit they were on top of that as well and at times our skills let us down and at times the pressure was just too good and that’s probably why the scoreboard ended up as close as it did.”
Thunder’s coach Andrew Hodges said the loss against a professional outfit like the Brisbane Lions provides a learning opportunity for his players.
“We’ve had eight new players come into the side in the last two weeks, played their first game, so for them in round two to come up against a side with 19 AFL-listed players is a great experience for them,” he said.
“So, disappointing to get the loss, but there’s some positives to take out of it. Some negatives that we’ll have a look at, and we’ll review that to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
“They got us on the spread. Obviously they’re professional athletes, they work pretty hard. We probably didn’t stick to our game plan and the way we wanted to play. I think Brisbane dictated the terms of the game pretty well tonight and controlled it and we let that happen so that’s something we’ll go back and look at and fix.”
NT Thunder 3.1, 6.2, 8.5, 11.9 (75)
Brisbane Lions 6.1, 8.4, 11.7, 15.11 (101)
NT Thunder: Darren Ewing 5, Hugo Drogemuller 3, Adam Sambono, Lachlan Collihole, Cameron Ilett.
Brisbane Lions: Matthew Hammelmann 3, Samuel Copland 3, Ryan Dadds, Jono Freeman 2, Jarrad Jansen, Michael Close, Archie Smith, Ryan Bastinac, Oscar McInerney.
NT Thunder: Cameron Ilet, Shannon Rioli, Darren Ewing, Michael Coombes, Braedon McLean, Nicholas Yarran, Ryan Smith.
Brisbane Lions: Ryan Bastinac, Jono Freeman, Ryan Harwood, Cedric Cox, Jacob Allison, Benjamin Keays.