Lions look formidable

Thursday, May 2
Geelong Advertiser

HOW do you single out one Brisbane player to stop, and say it will enable you to win the game? You can't.

The Lions have several matchwinners in their ranks, after all they are the reigning premiers.

They have strength across the ground, on every line, and very few weaknesses. We all know how good the Fab Four are in the middle but there is much more to the side.

Mal Michael is one who has lifted his game, becoming one of the best full backs in the competition.

The Scott brothers are used each week to nullify the opposition's best player and can be pushed forward. Their strength is a great asset and they are reliable. Best of all for coach Leigh Matthews, there are two of them he can call on.

Tim Notting is emerging as a goalkicking wingman who cannot be taken lightly. He can take a big mark overhead and use his leg speed to run off most opponents.

David Clarke is most likely to man Notting this week but he will have to work hard in the air to get the ball to the ground where it's a 50-50 contest.

Geelong's backline has been firing of late, surrendering only six goals in each of its past two matches. Not only are the Cats coming up against quality forwards this week, the delivery from further afield will be far better than that of the St Kilda and Freo matches.

Brisbane is big and strong up forward. It has Jonathan Brown - the next Wayne Carey of the competition - and the not-so-chronically fatigued (any more) Alastair Lynch, who seems to be playing better than ever.

Brown's single biggest asset is his work rate in getting to the number of contests that he does. Tom Harley's in form and is the obvious choice for him.

Let's presume that Matthew Scarlett will take Lynch, leaving Daniel Bradshaw as the third marking forward. He is the player who I believe is becoming Brisbane's most consistent goalscorer. I don't think he's any less talented than Lynch or Brown but he seems to get the third best defender each week. He escapes the pressure which usually falls upon a player of his quality.

This week Daniel Foster, another of the Cats' young guns, will be asked to fill a big role in limiting Bradshaw. His strength is his marking and even if there is a pack of 10 forming, if Bradshaw goes for it, Foster has to be in there spoiling.

So good is the Lions' team balance, they also have some of the best small forwards in the game. Even without the suspended Jason Akermanis and injured Luke Power, there's Craig McRae and Shaun Hart who will need to be watched closely.

The number of players you need to nullify at the Lions just seems endless.

Like every team these days they get good numbers behind the ball. But what makes them exceptional is their superior ball use. They force the ball wide, squeeze the opposition until they make a mistake and are clinical on the rebound.

West Coast won last week because they created a 50-50 contest all over the ground. If Brisbane players ran behind the ball, they went with them.

To be any chance of winning, Geelong must adopt the West Coast game plan. It's a tactic we know works and even if they fall short this time, they can learn from it because they meet again later in the year.

This weekend will give a true indication of just how far the young Cats have come in recent weeks.

They should be looking forward to the challenge. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.