After approaching the danger-zone in season 2019 with back-to-back losses, the Brisbane Lions got back on even footing in Round 4, joining Geelong on 2 wins from 4 games – leapfrogging the Cats to the top of Conference B on percentage.
Rarely challenged by a lacklustre Dogs outfit in front of a near evenly split Bulldogs/Lions crowd of 6,541 at Whitten Oval, the Brisbane midfielders and forwards worked in concert to produce a heartening 32 point win, leaving the more fancied Bulldogs anchored to the bottom of the powerful Conference A.
Long-sleeved Lions jet Kate McCarthy was the clear best on ground in the second half; her renowned leg speed provided a highlight in the third quarter as she burnt defenders while rocketing into the forward 50, before delivering a perfectly weighted pass to the dangerous Jess Wuetschner. She also kicked two goals in the last term to stretch the margin beyond anything surmountable and was good enough to share her thoughts post-match on her teammates’ efforts, the Lions’ task ahead and her own performance.
“I think winning against a team in the other conference puts us in a good spot.
“Obviously we’re taking it week-by-week, but if we can go well in the next three games, we’ll be right up there.
“Playing Geelong and then Collingwood will be good to see where we sit against others in our conference. As long as we keep playing games like we played tonight and executing our game plan, the results should take care of themselves.”
In good news for fans who enjoy seeing goal-kickers McCarthy, Wuetschner and Nat Exon sporting long-sleeves, Kate confirmed that as far as she’s concerned, they’re here to stay.
“I love them! I’ve just asked my club [Yeronga South Brisbane] if I could have one for club footy.
“It’s obviously a lot hotter up in Queensland and if you wet the sleeves and there’s a bit of a breeze, they keep me a lot cooler; I’ll definitely keep wearing them!”
Despite a game-breaking display from the third-year player, McCarthy hadn’t been totally wrapped with her start to 2019.
“The first couple of rounds I wasn’t really applying that forward pressure that I really pride myself on.
“Last week I started to get that back and worked really hard without the footy...I did a little bit of soul-searching, had some good chats with Stakes and Starcs [coaches Brent Staker and Craig Starcevic]...I think that really helped to get some confidence back.
“I was able to play a little bit better and then capitalise tonight.”
She was full of praise for her team, who lacked any weak-links and aided one another to deny the Bulldogs any chances.
“It was just the perfect team game tonight and it was nice being on the end of a couple.
“My two goals wouldn’t have happened without Bre Koenen putting a beautiful ball out into space and Ari [Arianna Clarke] being really smart and playing on from that 50-metre-penalty.”
The night’s best stories, from a Brisbane perspective, were career first goals to Megan Hunt, Jordan Zanchetta and Bre Koenen. Koenen, in particular, played an impressive game & was one of the better performers on the field, extra special given her path back from injury in the early part of the season. McCarthy singled her out for praise.
“I thought she deserved a goal tonight, with some of her defensive pressure.
“It’s so great to have her back in the team. She missed the first couple of rounds with injury and she’s worked really hard to get herself in a position where she could be selected and playing the game tonight; I thought she was one of our bests on.”
McCarthy’s opposition namesake, Ireland’s Aisling McCarthy was a standout for the vanquished team both with and without the ball – she continues to win many fans in just her third game in the AFLW. Despite the goal of the game late from Kirsten McLeod in the pocket and valiant efforts all night from Aisling Utri and Monique Conti, the Dogs were unable to make up any real ground on the Lions.
In a horrible moment on a dirty night for the reigning premiers, star mid Ellie Blackburn was stretchered off the field due to concussion in the opening minutes of the final term. The Bulldogs will await medical results before making a decision on her availability for next week’s vital game in Perth against the Dockers. Should Blackburn miss, it makes the imminent returns of Izzy Huntington and Brooke Lochland that much more important.
As for Brisbane, it was difficult to single out their bests, but McCarthy, Exon, Koenen, Ally Anderson and teenage tall Jesse Tawhiao-Wardlaw were among those most worthy of applause. The Lions are set to go into the next two rounds as favourites and could cement a spot in the top two of Conference B if they can turn the first cross-conference win over a side from Conference A (from ten attempts) into consecutive victories – something they will feel more confident of achieving if they can perform across the park like they did against the Bulldogs.