Marking forwards Daniel McStay, Oscar McInerney and Hipwood have combined for only three goals from their past three matches – not good enough. That the Lions beat the Tigers in contested possessions by 12 and inside 50s by 11 (they had a 23-6 advantage by quarter time but only a 12-point lead) showed it was a lack of composure more than anything that cost them victory. Dayne Zorko is another who needs to lead the way inside attacking 50.
How big a loss is Mitch Robinson?
If you had even posed this question when he was escorted out of Carlton after the 2014 season, it would have sparked a chuckle. But Robinson has turned his life and career around since heading north, and his absence because of a hamstring strain is significant. The Lions need to find a replacement on the wing, someone willing to bang bodies and be a physical presence. As coach Chris Fagan said this week: “He’s a unique beast in that way – I don’t think any club in the AFL, if they had a Mitch Robinson playing for them, his style, could replace him because he is quite unique.” This game shapes as being won or lost through the midfield. The two teams rank No.1 and No.2 for scoring from stoppages, and Robinson’s presence will be missed.
What’s key for the Giants?
Their pressure inside attacking 50 against the Western Bulldogs was a revelation – and something that wasn’t there when those teams had last met on the eve of the finals. The Giants had a 9-5 advantage in forward-50 tackles last weekend, and this helped to ensure repeat shots at goal, while also denying the Dogs from generating as much run as they had hoped. They also need to find a way to curb Lachie Neale, who had a team-high 31 disposals against the Giants in round 16, and Hugh McCluggage. Sam Reid shapes as getting one of the jobs, having silenced Lachie Hunter last week.
Who goes to Charlie Cameron?
The speedy forward has had a tough time of things against the Tigers in his past two matches, so will be glad to be free of shut-down king Dylan Grimes. Cameron managed only two goals when the teams last met, in Sydney, in what was a 20-point Lions’ victory – and something of a break-out result for a club that has known nothing but misery in recent years. The Lions had 11 goal-kickers (for 14 goals) that afternoon and will gladly take an even spread again. What the Giants may also need to do is find a way to drag Lions’ key defender Harris Andrews out of the action. Andrews’ robust spoiling and rebound has been pivotal this season, so whoever he goes to – perhaps Jeremy Finlayson – will need to be selfless, allowing Jeremy Cameron the space to do what he does best.
What can we expect from Toby Greene?
Fagan said the controversial Giants’ forward was a “terrific player” and he was “glad for him” that he was playing this week. Some would suggest he was lucky to escape with a $7500 fine at the tribunal for vigorously rubbing the face and pulling the hair of Marcus Bontempelli last week.
He avoided the more serious charge of eye-gouging or scratching Bontempelli’s face. Why the super forward needed to find himself in such a position is bewildering, but that is why Greene is something of a villain, having been found guilty of 17 offences and fined more than $25,000 through his career. The Giants need Greene to be a factor inside 50 and when pushing up the ground. Few would remember he had 20 touches and three goals against the Bulldogs. His ability to create, deft passing and goal-kicking are what Giants supporters want to remember him for.
Prediction: Tough call. Lions by four points.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.