Three months after the Geelong Cats won a close but controversial Round 2 encounter at Kardinia Park, the Brisbane Lions will get their chance at revenge when they welcome last year’s beaten grand finalists to the Gabba to kick off Round 15 of the AFL.
In the final minute of that match, Zac Bailey was denied his chance at glory when a tackle on Mark Blicavs went unrewarded by the umpires, meaning the Cats escaped with a one-point victory while the Lions were denied a chance to break an 18-year hoodoo in Geelong.
Bailey would ultimately have his shot at glory the following week, when he kicked the match-winner after the final siren to give his side a one-point win over Collingwood at Marvel Stadium.
Since then the Lions, who dropped three of their first four matches of the season, have reasserted themselves as premiership favourites, and will get their chance to further flex their muscles against the Cats at the Gabba this Thursday night.
Last Saturday night, the northerners shook off a determined challenge from North Melbourne to win by 23 points in Hobart in what was Chris Fagan’s 50th win as coach, in his 100th match in charge. Only Leigh Matthews (142) has won more matches in charge of the club.
They now occupy fourth place on the ladder, behind Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and the Cats – teams they’ve already lost to this season, including the aforementioned second round match in Geelong as well as to the Dees at Giants Stadium in Round 12.
The Cats, meantime, were kept on a leash by the Western Bulldogs at home last Friday night where the greatest margin was no higher than eleven points all match.
In the end, it was left to Gary Rohan to take his shot at glory after taking a mark inside the final 30 seconds, giving him the chance to kick the match-winning goal after the final siren, with the Cats down by five points.
He converted successfully, becoming just the second man after Barry Hall (for St Kilda in 2001 and the Sydney Swans in 2005) to kick an after-the-siren winning goal for two different clubs.
Rohan had also kicked the match-winner for the Swans against Essendon in 2017; coincidentally that one was also on a Friday night in Round 14.
His match-winner gave the Cats their sixth straight win, having not been beaten since Round 7 when Jeremy Cameron was denied a shot at goal at the death against the Sydney Swans at the SCG.
Speaking of Cameron, after missing the first five rounds of the season due to a hamstring injury, he has performed impressively for his new club, and he could be the missing piece in the Cats’ premiership puzzle which remains unsolved since the club’s most recent flag in 2011.
The Cats’ trip to Brisbane on Thursday night will mark the first time they step foot on the hallowed Gabba turf since last year’s grand final, which they lost to Richmond by 31 points after upsetting the Lions by 40 points in the preceding preliminary final.
That result denied the Lions the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete for a flag on their own home soil, the club having been the biggest beneficiary of last year’s COVID-affected season which saw the league shift their on-and-off field operations to the sunshine state.
Notably, it will be the first time Cameron and Harris Andrews match up on each other in a regular season match at the Gabba since Round 14, 2018.
Their upcoming clash will mark three years and one day since the first-quarter incident in which an errant elbow from the then-Giant to the head of Andrews saw Cameron sent straight to the judiciary and suspended for five matches.
After he copped that mammoth ban, the Dartmoor native sent a text to Andrews that said: “You’re going to be a champion mate.”
It was his second major on-field indiscretion against the Lions within a three-year period, after he broke Rhys Mathieson’s jaw during a pre-season match in 2016; for that, he copped a four-match suspension.
True to form, Andrews has since become the number one fullback in the competition and the last time he matched up on Cameron, in Round 7 last year, he earned the three Brownlow Medal votes as the Lions downed GWS in Sydney.
There was no match-up between the pair in Round 2, due to Cameron being sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Another marquee match-up that we were denied in the earlier season clash was that between Patrick Dangerfield and reigning Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale, after the former was suspended for three matches for a bump on Adelaide’s Jake Kelly in Round 1.
Since returning from suspension, Dangerfield has performed solidly for the Cats, while Neale has only just returned from an ankle injury which saw him sidelined for five matches.
Reinforcing the good old saying that “there is no I in team”, the Lions won all five of those matches without him in the side, including thrashing Port Adelaide and Richmond at home in rounds seven and ten respectively.
These two match-ups may go a long way towards deciding not only who wins at the Gabba this Thursday night, but also, who moves ahead in favouritism for this year’s AFL flag.
And with no NRL action this weekend save for the second State of Origin match at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night, the Brisbane Lions will be the hottest ticket in town, as they have been for the past few years.