Brisbane Lions under fire as 'alarm bells' emerge in loss to Bulldogs
Two losses in their first three AFL games this season have dented the Brisbane Lions' premiership credentials.
The Brisbane Lions have been accused of having 'too many passengers' after dropping to a 1-2 record thanks to their loss to the Western Bulldogs on Thursday night. In a game which saw the recently traded Josh Dunkley square off against former AFL side the Bulldogs for the first time, the Lions were wayward in front of goal and were far from the dominant side that defeated Melbourne in round two.
The 10.7 (67) to 7.11 (53) defeat left coach Chris Fagan frustrated, with the Lions now needing to dig themselves out of a hole with matches against Collingwood and North Melbourne to come. The forward line copped heavy criticism after the Bulldogs dominated the game from half-back, while Jack Gunston was the only Lion to boot multiple goals, with three.
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Their midfield, so often the Lions' ultimate strength, was also well beaten one week after a dominant performance against the Demons. Despite the addition of Dunkley, former AFL star David King told Fox Footy that between this loss and their round one thrashing at the hands of Port Adelaide, 'alarm bells' were ringing.
“They’re in a bit of strife now, Brisbane. I think they’re getting worked out a little bit by the competition," King said post-game.
“It rings alarm bells for the Brisbane Lions in terms of without Daniel Rich down back, they didn’t look like they could move the ball at all. There was no one prepared to take a big risk and when they did, it looked like they weren’t on the same page.”
The Lions weren't helped by wayward kicking from Joe Daniher, who finished with four behinds, while livewire Charlie Cameron was well held. Cameron, Lincoln McCarthy, Zac Bailey and Eric Hipwood combined for only two goals between them.
Former St Kilda midfielder Leigh Montagna agreed, saying the Lions had an identity problem. He suggested if an opponent could get on top of Brisbane's midfield, then they had few other answers.
“They’ve got some work to do. Who are the real Brisbane Lions? We’re still not sure,” he said.
“Too many passengers for the Brisbane Lions tonight – and that has been an issue when they have got beaten and sometimes why they get beaten pretty badly. They have guys that just don’t find a way to get involved when it’s not their night.
“It was a tough night for a lot of those Brisbane Lions, who need to have a good hard look at themselves. There have been fluctuations and it’s hard to put a finger on right now. They were a team last year that could move the ball, it was one of their strengths – and it’s fallen away this year.”
One of those frustrating nights @brisbanelions fans where in the end we didn’t take the chances we created and the opposition took theirs. A big challenge Easter Thursday now. Let’s pack the Gabba and support the boys against the Pies. #AFLBulldogsLions #GoLions
— Andrew Wellington (@AJWellytweet) March 30, 2023
Brisbane Lions 1-2 to start a season where a lot of people picked them to win it all. Its a long campaign and I’m confident they’ll make the eight from this point but they’re definitely making it hard for themselves. Life doesn’t get any easier against Collingwood next week #AFL
— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) March 30, 2023
this team is so unbelievably frustrating. talent everywhere but will never win a premiership.
on the flipside thought Dunkley was superb, Harris was great and loved Wilmot’s spunk esp in the last quarter.
— Ashleigh (@dizzyyet) March 30, 2023
Eight @brisbanelions have a total of five tackles between them, a bloke on north of $800K kicks 0/4 from six kicks, another key forward has six touches and two key mids go at 52% disposal efficiency. Give us a spell. #afldogslions
— BradWaters (@BradWWaters) March 30, 2023
First quarter cost us .. we kick those gettable goals and we take a lot of their momentum away .. instead we miss and keep them in the game
— Jamie Rule (@Rulemeister) March 30, 2023
Fagan said there were differences between the loss to the Power in round one and the loss on Thursday night, but didn't elaborate, saying he was equally disappointed in both. "It was an honest effort by us but we didn't play with any polish," Fagan said.
"A part of that was to do with the Bulldogs' pressure, but it was a high-pressure game. It was a finals-like game and lots of mistakes were made. I was really disappointed after the Port Adelaide performance and tonight I'm disappointed, but not for the same reasons."
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan fires Bulldogs to big win over Brisbane
While the Lions' forward line failed to fire it was the opposite story for the Bulldogs, who were lead by Jamarra Ugle-Hagan's five goals, getting a crucial win of their own. The first of 20-year-old's five goals was punctuated by him lifting his jumper and pointing to his skin, recreating fellow Indigenous player Nicky Winmar's famous act while playing for St Kilda at Victoria Park in 1993.
Ugle-Hagan's impassioned message was the major talking point as he responded sensationally to racist comments directed at him at the same venue just five days earlier. The 20-year-old Indigenous star slotted the opening goal of the night with a curling effort from the forward pocket and turned to the crowd, repeating Winmar's famous 'I'm black and I'm proud' gesture.
"I felt pretty proud going out there with all my mates that supported me throughout a tough week," Ugle-Hagan told reporters post-match. "Then to do that in front of everyone, hopefully it makes a stance and a moment and hopefully people look back on it 30 years from now and say nothing's happened since.
"Hopefully, no one cops anything that I've been through."
Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli (28 disposals, seven clearances) was best afield, willing his team to victory, with fellow midfielders Tom Liberatore (29, three) and Jack Macrae (30, three) also influential in the much-needed win. Bontempelli (16) had more contested possessions than anyone else on the ground.
Rory Lobb kicked two goals from just four disposals and was substituted out during a tight final quarter with a sore ankle in his first game back after surgery.
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