The Lions and Crows go head-to-had at the Gabba this Saturday afternoon in what promises to be one of the most exciting clashes of the season. With a top-four spot up for grabs, expect to see both teams bring heat to the contest and leave it all out on the park.
Brisbane go into this one favourites, boasting an impressive 3-1 record at the Gabba this season, with their one loss at the venue coming against premiership favourites Collingwood.
With another year of maturity under their belt and the boom addition of star midfielder Lachie Neale, these Lions are roaring more than ever before. Neale has exploded out of the gates this season, leading the league in total disposals (266) and ranking top three in contested possessions, effective disposals and clearances.
The former Docker has been better held the last few weeks as opposition teams finally put more work into nullifying his influence. While teams haven’t necessarily put a hard tag on the 25-year old, they have keeping him accountable at stoppages, which is when Neale is most effective.
Neale averaged 38.7 disposals from round’s 1-4 this season and has since gone at 27.7. Putting attention into Neale has freed up gun utility Dayne Zorko, particularly over the last couple of weeks. Zorko was particularly damaging in Brisbane’s loss to the Western Bulldogs on Saturday, tallying 28 disposals, two goals seven marks, seven tackles, seven inside 50s and seven clearances.
Those two, plus youngsters Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry makes up one of the more damaging midfields in the competition. And don’t count out Mitch Robinson too, who brings a tough edge to the inside group. He believes there are exciting times ahead for the Lions.
“Our best footy’s ahead of us, and I still feel like I’ve got a couple more years in me to experience some finals success here,” Robinson told themecury.com.au ahead of their loss to the Dogs.
Despite being favourites, the Lions still present good value in AFL betting. But they’re going up one of the deepest onball brigades out there.
Adelaide’s midfield is a key strength of theirs which has powered Don Pyke’s side to four-straight wins. Led by Rory Sloane and Crouch brothers, The Crows’ inside bulls are about as tough as they get.
However, Adelaide will be sweating on the fitness of Matt Crouch after he suffered a knock to his hip during the second quarter of Saturday night’s Showdown win over Port Adelaide.
The 24-year old tried to play through the injury but eventually sat out the majority of the second half. The Crows are confident he will be fit to take on the Lions.
“We expect him to make sufficient progress to be available for next week’s game,” Crows Science and Medical Services Coordinator Steve Saunders told afc.com.au.
Crouch’s availability will have a huge bearing on the result, who is averaging 31.2 disposals and 4.2 clearances per game this season.
Alex Keath’s rise to prominence is another reason for the side’s turnaround in form. He received the Showdown Medal on the weekend to cap off what has been an excellent season for the former cricketer so far, ranked first in the league for intercepts and being labelled an All-Australian contender.
Coming into the back six to replace Tom Doedee, Keath has helped round out arguably the best defence in the AFL alongside Rory Laird, Daniel Talia and Brodie Smith more than anyone could have expected.
Despite being dubbed the underdog, the Crows will fancy themselves when they make the trip up north this weekend.