Monday, 7 September 2015
Justin Leppitsch should have learned his lesson after Brisbane defeated the Western Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon.
The Lions won by eight points against the Dogs at the Gabba and they did it in style. After an insipid display in the first quarter, Brisbane played quickly, directly and instinctively.
Errors aplenty were made by Brisbane in the first quarter and the Western Bulldogs scored seven of their first eight goals from turnovers.
That display in the first quarter summed up the seasons of both teams. Leppitsch’s side was slow and indecisive and the disposals were going sideways and backwards. On the other hand, Luke Beveridge’s side were attacking at pace and disposing the ball with great accuracy.
From the second quarter onwards, Brisbane players were hitting their targets and they didn’t look lost and confused. They played with purpose, direction and flair. It also helped that Leppitsch actually had his players in roles that they could perform.
Justin Clarke played as a back pocket instead of a tall defender and the youngster was vital in the final quarter, making some good spoils and taking a mark near the goal-line in the dying minutes of the game.
Daniel Rich was excellent in midfield with three assists and 13 score involvements. He is a superb passer of the ball and it makes you wonder why he plays in the backline in some games. Rich’s vision is as good as any elite midfielder in the AFL.
Pearce Hanley got 35 disposals and scored two goals, including one scored with the outside of his boot in the third quarter. The Irishman is a ball magnet but he provides dash and spark when Brisbane goes forward. He too is another player that needs to be near the forward 50.
The change in game style worked to the advantage Lewis Taylor, who scored three goals and got 28 disposals. He has suffered second-year blues and has had a tendency to run in circles but on Saturday he played like the player who won last year’s NAB Rising Star award, demonstrating his pace and goal-sneak abilities.
Stefan Martin starred in the ruck with 32 disposals and 50 hit-outs and the Lions must do whatever they can to keep him. He can ruck alone and he is a fantastic player around the ground.
Brisbane played with two key forwards in Daniel McStay and Jonathan Freeman and although they only kicked three goals between them, they provided reference points in the Brisbane attack. Their presence allowed the likes of Josh Green and Jed Adcock to run free and score goals.
Both Green and Adcock scored four goals each and the former showed that he can be one of the league’s best small forwards. Adcock was playing in his final game for Brisbane but he has shown in recent matches that he can be a useful medium-sized forward.
The result may have been too little, too late and Brisbane could miss out on recruiting promising youngster Josh Schache in the draft this year but the Lions avoided the wooden spoon and played some footy that was delightful to watch.
Hopefully Leppitsch noticed that players should play in roles that suit them and the team should play with attacking intent. With this in mind, the 2016 AFL season shouldn’t be bleak for the Brisbane Lions.
Monday, 20 July 2015
Justin Leppitsch is not the right man to take the Brisbane Lions forward and his future as the coach of the Lions needs to be questioned seriously.
He was a great player for the Lions but he looks out of his depth as a coach in the AFL. It is easy to use excuses like he hasn’t always had a full strength team to choose from or he needs better players but he hasn’t been able to work with what he has at his disposal.
The Lions play with fear and confusion. There isn’t a clear gameplan present and the team lacks purpose and direction. Worst of all, a majority of players are placed out of position or they have change roles constantly.
Brisbane has had a habit of turning the ball over by hand and foot, moving the ball sideways or backwards and taking time to make decisions.
Are the Brisbane players as poorly skilled as they are made out to be?
No. Last year some of Brisbane’s smaller midfielders were labelled “The Mosquito Fleet”, which was a nickname also given to Carlton’s midfield in the 1970s. Surely these Lions players haven’t lost their skill in the space of a year and there are other good players on the Brisbane list, not just in midfield.
Tom Rockliff and Dayne Beams are prolific ball-getters. Lewis Taylor, Pearce Hanley and Josh Green are quick and nippy players who can provide some spark. Dayne Zorko and Daniel Rich are talented midfielders who can also go forward and kick goals.
Stefan Martin is as good as any ruckman in the league when he is given the responsibility. Daniel Merrett is great spoiler of the ball, Harris Andrews and Marco Paparone are tall defenders with great mobility and Justin Clarke has shown that he is better at being a running defender than playing as an old-school key defender.
Brisbane does lack great tall forwards but if Daniel McStay could stay in the forward 50 and not drop back, he could develop better. Matthew Leuenberger lacks the courage to play on the ball but if “Leuey” modelled himself of Jarryd Roughead or past players like Simon Madden or Paul Salmon, he could be a decent forward.
So what are the issues?
This team lacks mental strength, structure, and a playing philosophy, which is different to a gameplan.
The Lions players must not be limited to playing in a role or restricted to a system. They need to have the confidence to make their own decisions and be confident to take the game on. A player can follow a gameplan to a tee but he needs to be more daring at times.
Brisbane is clearly not the power it was in the early 2000s but it does not mean that the current list should be a bunch of quitters or lack determination.
These players are playing at the elite level and they should have an inferiority complex regardless of who they play against. If they are playing with fear and they aren’t willing to make changes, these players should play at a lower level.
Leppitsch’s Brisbane side lacks structure and he has too many players out of place. Hardly anyone players one-on-one footy at the AFL level these days so people should not expect to see a team with six defenders, three midfielders, three on-ballers and six forwards. Players should still play in roles that suit their characteristics though.
Teams need to look at the style of football or the philosophy that they want to implement. Brisbane lacks a clear gameplan or style. What the Lions usually do is move the ball slowly and they chip the football along the wings. If not, the Lions constantly handball through the midfield before turning the ball over.
The Lions need to be quicker in their decision making or be more instinctive. Instead of constantly moving the ball down the wings lethargically, they need to move the ball quickly down the corridor and rely on kicking as opposed to handballing.
Traditionally teams would kick the ball long into a contest and perhaps that won’t work too often in the modern game but it is still a useful concept. Even if a player can’t kick to a contest, he should kick it into a space in which a teammate can run into.
Under Leppitsch, there have been very little signs of improvement. Regardless of what Brisbane does in the trade period and in pre-season, “Leppa” doesn’t look like the man to take the Lions forward. Having better players won’t be enough to make him a successful coach.
He needs to resign or the board need to give him the sack.
Thursday, 11 June 2015
Chris Judd announced his retirement on Tuesday and media and fans alike were quick to find a place where he ranks among the best footballers of his era.
I have decided to do a Top 10 list of the best AFL footballers that I have seen. Although I started watching football in 1993, I really started watching the game week-in, week-out in 1999 so I will only include players from that year until today.
Due to the criteria, players like Gary Ablett Snr, Jason Dunstall, Greg Williams and Tony Lockett miss out but due to the size of the list, eligible players such as Jonathan Brown, Anthony Koutoufides, Jimmy Bartel, Dane Swan and Matthew Pavlich unfortunately miss out.
This list will raise eyebrows but enjoy reading.
10. Steve Johnson – Geelong (2002-present)
Honours: AFL premiership (2007, 2009 and 2011), Norm Smith Medal (2007), Geelong leading goalkicker (2008 and 2010), All-Australian (2007-08 and 2010)
“Stevie J” has been the player that provides some X-factor in the Geelong forward line. Mark “Bomber” Thompson had Cameron Mooney and Brad Ottens as marking targets and Paul Chapman was a tough small, forward. Johnson was and still is the mercurial goalkicker who can make the hard things look easy.
9. James Hird – Essendon (1992-2007)
Honours: AFL premiership (1993 and 2000), Brownlow Medal (1996), Norm Smith Medal (2000), W.S. Crichton Medal (1994-96, 2003 and 2007), Anzac Day Medal (2000, 2003-04), All-Australian (1995-96, 2000-01, 2003)
“Hirdy” was a man for the big occasion as his Anzac Day Medals and Norm Smith Medal illustrate. The heart and soul of Essendon in the 1990s and 2000s, he was a superb half-forward flanker before finding more time in the midfield. Injuries possibly halted him back from being even more devastating.
8. Chris Judd – West Coast and Carlton (2002-15)
Games: 279 (134 with West Coast, 145 with Carlton)
Goals: 228 (138 with West Coast, 90 with Carlton)
Honours: AFL premiership (2006), Brownlow Medal (2004 and 2010), Norm Smith Medal (2005), All-Australian (2004, 2006, 2008-11), John Worsfold Medal (2004 and 2006), John Nicholls Medal (2008-10), Ross Glendinning Medal (2005 (twice), 2006)
“Juddy” was a ball magnet and a superb athlete. He had great strength, stamina and pace. Although he is highly-regarded by football fans and media, I found his style to be rather plain. He used his physical attributes to great effect, especially with his ability to weave through packs but there were players even in his era who were either tougher, more graceful or had more flair.
7. Adam Goodes – Sydney (1999-present)
Honours: AFL premiership (2005 and 2012), Brownlow Medal (2003, 2006), AFL Rising star (1999), Bob Skilton Medal (2003, 2006 and 2011), All-Australian (2003, 2006, 2009, 2011), Sydney leading goalkicker (2009-11)
Goodes has been a graceful mover around the ground, especially for someone of his height. A player who is comfortable as an on-baller and in the forward 50, his athleticism and agility have made Goodes a tough player to stop in full flight.
6. Luke Hodge - Hawthorn
Honours: AFL premiership (2008 and 2013-14), Norm Smith Medal (2008 and 2014), All-Australian (2005, 2008 and 2010), Peter Crimmins Medal (2005 and 2010)
A tenacious player but one with great skill and versatility, Hodge is a player that feels comfortable wherever he plays on the field. “Hodgey” can play as a ‘sweeper’ in defence, become a ball magnet in midfield as well as do the gritty stuff, and he can also chip-in with his share of goals.
5. Robert Harvey – St Kilda (1988-2008)
Honours: Brownlow Medal (1997-98), Trevor Barker Award (1992, 1994, 1997-98), All-Australian (1992, 1994-99, 2003)
These days, people are in awe of Gary Ablett Jnr getting more than 40 disposals a game. The game has changed in the millennium but in the 1990s, it was remarkable for someone to regularly get over 30 disposals a game. Robert Harvey used to do that. He was a ball magnet and he could run all day. Despite injuries, he still managed to play in the VFL/AFL for over 20 years.
4. Michael Voss – Brisbane Lions (1992-2006)
Honours: AFL premiership (2001-03), Brownlow Medal (1996), All-Australian (1996, 1999, 2001-03), Brisbane Best and Fairest (1995-96, 2000-01, 2003)
“Vossy” was tough, courageous and skilful. The captain of Brisbane during the Lions three-peat, he was a great leader and he was an outstanding performer in a midfield blessed with talent.
3. Jason Akermanis – Brisbane Lions and Western Bulldogs (1995-2010)
Games: 325 (248 with Brisbane, 77 with the Western Bulldogs)
Goals: 421 (307 with Brisbane, 114 with the Western Bulldogs)
Honours: AFL premiership (2001-03), Brownlow Medal (2001), Merrett-Murray Medal (1999 and 2005), All-Australian (1999, 2001-02, 2004), Brisbane leading goalkicker (2004), Western Bulldogs leading goalkicker (2009)
“Aker” was known for his colourful personality but he was a phenomenal footballer. He had big mouth but his talent was even bigger. A mercurial player, he did things most other players could dream of. Great with both feet, Akermanis could snap goals from anywhere and he could score from the most impossible of angles.
2. Wayne Carey – North Melbourne and Adelaide (1989-2004)
Games: 272 (244 with North Melbourne, 28 with Adelaide)
Goals: 727 (671 with North Melbourne, 67 with Adelaide)
Honours: AFL premiership (1996 and 1999), All-Australian (1993-96, 1998-2000), Syd Barker Medal (1992-93, 1996 and 1998), North Melbourne leading goalkicker (1995-96, 1998-2000)
Although he wasn’t as good as he was in the new millennium as he was in the 1990s, he was a genuine match-winner. North Melbourne had stars in its team but Carey was head and shoulders above the rest. He made marking and kicking goals look so easy even if he had defenders on him.
1. Gary Ablett Jnr – Geelong and Gold Coast (2002-present)
Games: 270 (192 with Geelong, 78 with Gold Coast)
Goals: 361 (262 with Geelong, 99 with Gold Coast)
Honours: AFL premiership (2007 and 2009), Brownlow Medal (2009 and 2013), All-Australian (2007-14), Geelong leading goalkicker (2006), Carji Greeves Medal (2007 and 2009), Gold Coast Club Champion Award (2011-13), Gold Coast leading goalscorer (2012 and 2013)
If this was a debate about who was the better Ablett, Gary Snr would get my vote. Gary Jnr is still an amazing player though and he has played well in a great team like Geelong and in a struggling team like Gold Coast. A great player at ground level, he can rack up at least 40 possessions in game effortlessly.
Monday, 2 February 2015
Australia was the worthy winner of this year’s Asian Cup after it triumphed on home soil against South Korea on Saturday night.
There were doubts before the Asian Cup because Ange Postecoglou’s team underperformed in the pre-tournament friendlies but Australia played well throughout the tournament.
Although other nations had players with greater technique or flair, Postecoglou regularly stuck to his principles and the Socceroos played with skill and attacking intent. When his high-possession game wasn’t working though Postecoglou’s side were able to work hard or be pragmatic to win matches.
The Socceroos outclassed Kuwait and Oman in the group stage but then they lost 1-0 to South Korea in the final Group A match. It didn’t matter because Australia had a couple of solid wins against China and United Arab Emirates in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively.
Australia nearly blew it in the Asian Cup Final after Son Heung-Min cancelled out Massimo Luongo’s first-half goal but James Troisi was the hero, scoring the winner in extra-time in what proved to be a hard-fought encounter.
Many players stood-out in this Australian team. The dependence on veterans like Mark Bresciano and Tim Cahill was not particularly heavy and the new generation of Socceroos emerged in the Asian Cup.
Mat Ryan was a bit shaky at last year’s World Cup in Brazil but he was very reliable at the Asian Cup, making some fine saves and he also charged out of his box at the right time. The 22-year-old is proving to be an ideal sweeper-keeper and a quality replacement for Mark Schwarzer.
Under Holger Osieck Australia had an ageing defence but Postecoglou has relied on younger defenders since his appointment in 2013 and now he is seeing the benefits.
Ivan Franjic, who played under Postecoglou at Brisbane Roar, and Matthew Spiranovic were fine performers in the tournament at right-back and centre-back respectively.
Trent Sainsbury also played well at centre-back but his performances will be remembered more because of his first goal for Australia against UAE and also because his sublime through-ball allowed Luongo to turn and score the opening goal in the final.
Jason Davidson replaced Aziz Behich at left-back in the latter stages of the Asian Cup and his performances were very impressive. He created Cahill’s second goal against China and he scored the second goal against UAE. Under Osieck he looked jittery and nervous but the son of Socceroos great Alan looks very confident on the ball these days.
The midfield was not constant but everyone was able to perform their roles when an opportunity arose. Mile Jedinak was the anchor in midfield, Matt McKay and Mark Milligan were energetic box-to-box midfielders and Luongo surprised everyone by becoming the Player of the Tournament.
Luongo had great stamina, great ball-winning ability and superb ball control and demonstrated that he should be playing at a much-more prestigious club than Swindon Town in England’s third division.
Cahill still provided moments of brilliance and scored vital goals for Australia but the attack showed that it was not too dependent on him over the course of tournament.
Robbie Kruse scored an excellent goal against Oman and he showed some decent dribbling skills. If he passed more or shot earlier, he could have been more dangerous.
Mathew Leckie failed to score a goal but he impressed people with his pace and energy. With better positioning and ball control, he could really tear defence apart.
Tomi Juric usually came off the bench but he sealed the 4-0 win against Oman and set-up the winning goal for Troisi in the Final.
Troisi himself also scored against Kuwait and performed well as a sub throughout the tournament. After flopping in Italy, Troisi was given a chance to shine at Melbourne Victory by Postecoglou and now he is taking his chances for Australia.
Although the players performed admirably, Postecoglou deserves praise for his coaching. Instead of playing ultra-defensive or relying on long-balls, he has encouraged his players to play a short-passing game.
He has also forced the retirements of former Socceroos stars but he has discovered young Australian talent playing around the world and Socceroos fans now have a new generation of heroes to cheer on.
Thanks to Postecoglou and these emerging stars, Australia showed that it deserved to win the 2015 Asian Cup.
Friday, 17 October 2014
Although most of the action occurred in the closing days, there were many positives to take out of the 2014 AFL Trade Period.
My impression is that many quality trades were made over the last fortnight and the players who moved can make great contributions for their new clubs.
Brisbane will probably be the most satisfied of all the 18 clubs after recruiting Dayne Beams from Collingwood and Allen Christensen from Geelong.
The Lions already have quality midfielders like Pearce Hanley and Tom Rockliff, emerging youngsters like Lewis Taylor and James Aish and players like Matthew Leuenberger and Daniel Rich will return from injury.
Beams adds more star quality to the Brisbane midfield and so does Christensen. The former Cat can also play as a small forward so if he can shake off his injury concerns, he can add more pace and flair to Brisbane’s forward 50.
The Beams move to Brisbane allowed Collingwood to get Travis Varcoe from Geelong, Heritier Lumumba moved from the Pies to Melbourne and Mitch Clark was traded from the Demons to the Cats.
Varcoe has battled with inconsistent form and injuries during his time at the Cats but he can provide some spark in Collingwood’s forward line which has been missed since the retirements of Alan Didak and Leon Davis.
Lumumba is another proven player that Melbourne needs and he will give more run out of the Demons defence.
Clark has battled with depression, but if he can overcome his personal battles, he can form an excellent key forward partnership with Tom Hawkins. “Tomahawk” is a more traditional key forward who relies on his physical strength and “Clarko” can depend on his athleticism and mobility.
A move that would have raised eyebrows is Tom Boyd moving from Greater Western Sydney to the Western Bulldogs and Ryan Griffen going in the opposite direction. Both players wanted to leave but Boyd going to the Bulldogs for $7 million for seven years has left some people scratching their heads.
The move wasn’t a straight swap but both clubs can still feel happy about the move. Boyd is an unproven player but the next Western Bulldogs coach can build the forward line around him and he should get plenty of game time.
GWS still lack stars and there are too many unproven players on its list but Griffen is the type of player the Giants need. He is an experienced player and a star player at that.
Ruckman Luke Lowden was traded from Hawthorn to Adelaide. He made an impressive debut this season with the Hawks but he has not played since his three-goal haul against West Coast.
Lowden can provide support for Sam Jacobs in the ruck and he can also help Taylor Walker and James Podsiadly with the goalscoring load at Adelaide.
Now 23 years old, Lowden has been in the AFL system for five years but he has struggled to gain playing time ahead of David Hale, Ben McEvoy and Jonathon Ceglar at Hawthorn. Playing for the Crows should give him the opportunity to shine at the AFL level.
One of the last moves completed was Paddy Ryder’s move from Essendon to Port Adelaide. He will take the pressure off Matthew Lobbe in the Port ruck and Ken Hinkley’s team should fancy themselves for the premiership.
The Bombers have got Jonathan Giles from GWS as a replacement for Ryder and they have also got midfielder Adam Cooney from the Western Bulldogs.
The ASADA supplements scandal will play a huge part in which players the Dons can use in 2015 but despite the loss of Ryder, they now have a promising ruckman and an experienced midfielder who can fill the roles of players who might be suspended.
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Belgium is out of the World Cup after losing to Argentina in the quarter-finals but a lack of experience as well as a lack of ideas played a part in Rode Duivels elimination from the tournament.
Marc Wilmots’ team had won all four of its World Cup matches it had played at Brazil 2014 until facing the Albiceleste.
A solitary goal from Gonzalo Higuain was enough to give Argentina the 1-0 win but the scoreline does not reflect the gap in quality between Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella and Wilmots.
Both Sabella and Wilmots had great players to work with but Wilmots had the younger roster at his disposal. Belgium had the third-youngest team at the World Cup with an average age of 25.5 years.
It was Sabella who played his cards right when the two teams played against each other in Brasilia. Even when Higuain scored after eight minutes, he looked happy to keep that lead.
Argentina could have won by more goals if it really wanted to or if luck went its way. Higuain hit the crossbar in the second half and Lionel Messi was denied a goal at the end after he was one-on-one with Belgian goalkeeper Thibalt Courtois.
Belgium, on the other land, was slow and predictable whenever it had possession and despite trailing throughout the match, the Rode Duivels lacked urgency. There is no doubt that Belgium has some gifted individuals but they could not provide the magic needed to get a result for their team.
This game had probably exposed the shortcomings of Wilmots as a coach. Throughout the tournament, he relied on his substitutes to change the game for his team and against Argentina, it did not work. Argentina was solid at the back and goalkeeper Sergio Romero was not forced into making any breathtaking saves.
There has been criticism of Wilmots’ usage of four natural centre-backs in defence and that there weren’t any natural full-backs used by him. Jan Vertonghen can advance from defence from his natural role at centre-back but he did not do too much as a left-back at this World Cup.
This is where Wilmots should have used the rigid four-man defence to his advantage. The defenders could have stayed back and his forwards could have stayed in the final third and press the opposition defence.
Kevin De Bruyne was a fine performer as an attacking midfielder and Dries Mertens was more suited to a super-sub role instead of being a starter but the Belgian attack lacked great flexibility and movement throughout the tournament.
It’s debatable if anyone else had better wingers to work with than Wilmots. Aside from De Bruyne and Mertens, Wilmots could count on Kevin Mirallas, Eden Hazard, Adnan Januzaj and Nacer Chadli to provide trickery or pace down the wings. For a team with many wingers to work with, the Belgians were too slow and unimaginative.
Wilmots was the assistant coach of Belgium for three years before getting the head coaching role in 2012. Since taking over, he has been credited for uniting the Walloon-speaking players and the Flemish-speaking players in the team.
Wilmots may be good at being a man-manager but he has shown a lack of tactical nous. If he is going to coach Belgium at Euro 2016, he needs to make changes to his squad or tactics.
If he keeps relying on his star players to constantly create chances out of nothing, Wilmots could end up being the coach that prevents this team from being great instead of being the one to properly nurture its talent.
Friday, 27 June 2014
The suspension that FIFA handed out to Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez was too lenient.
Suarez has been banned for nine competitive fixtures for the Uruguayan national team and he has also been banned for another four months from any type of football activity. FIFA also gave Suarez a fine of 100,000 Swiss Francs (AU$118,763.90).
It is a very soft punishment by FIFA after he had bitten opposition defender Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay’s 1-0 win against Italy at the World Cup.
This is not a new thing for Suarez because he has committed this offence on two previous occasions at club level.
In 2010, he had bitten PSV Eindhoven midfield Otman Bakkal when he was an Ajax player. The KNVB suspended Suarez for seven Dutch Eredivisie matches and he was labelled by the Dutch press as “The Cannibal of Ajax”.
Last year Suarez had bitten Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in an English Premier League match and he was suspended for 10 matches by the FA.
Before the sentence was handed down, there were reports that said Suarez was going to be banned for two years for biting Chiellini.
A lengthy suspension like that would have been appropriate because it would mean that FIFA would be taking a real stand against this sort of behaviour.
FIFA likes to promote “fair play” and place great emphasis on it. A two-year suspension for Suarez would have been FIFA’s way of saying that the concept of fair play is something it takes very seriously and that the bite on Chiellini is the antithesis of fair play.
Sports athletes are meant to be role models for young children and there is nothing conventional or saintly about the way Suarez acts. His actions send a wrong message to children worldwide.
Italian kids could assume that it is a common act for opposition players to bite them. Uruguayan kids could believe that biting an opponent is OK as long as it helps your team to win.
Then there are the developing nations in Africa and Asia who are still trying to learn more about the game. If a child from one of those continents saw what Suarez did, he/she could think that it is just a part of the game.
Biting offences aren’t the only wrongful deeds that Suarez has committed. He was sent-off in the 2010 World Cup Uruguay v Ghana quarter-final for saving a shot like a goalkeeper on the goal-line. Asamoah Gyan missed the resultant penalty in extra time and the Celeste won the game on penalties.
He was suspended for eight EPL games after racially abusing Manchester United’s French defender Patrice Evra and he was also suspended for one match after sticking his rude finger up at Fulham fans.
It is disappointing to see that someone as talented as Suarez needs to resort to this kind of behaviour. He is a match-winner thanks to his prolific goalscoring but he has that “win at all costs” mentality too.
Regardless of how talented a player is, he should not commit acts of cynicism or anything that is downright despicable.
FIFA should have taken a stand against Suarez so he could stop committing such distasteful acts on the football pitch. A nine-match suspension is soft.