The question hanging over both the Brisbane Lions and Adelaide Crows ahead of their clash at the Gabba on Saturday was the same: are either of these teams for real? The Crows, after a lost 2018, had won their last four and sat comfortably inside the eight. The Lions are coming from further back, but are likewise making a finals push.
You wouldn’t count out either after a free-wheeling yet physical tussle in which both sides went hammer and tongs, each holding sway at different times. But in the last quarter, it was the Lions who hung on win by a point, and with four victories from their five games at home, they look increasingly assured of their first finals berth in a decade.
The game was distinguished by another immense performance by Lachie Neale, who started on Rory Sloane at most centre bounces and at half-time looked a chance of a 50-possession game. Up forward, Charlie Cameron ran hot and cold, missing easy shots, slotting the hard ones, but his three goals were vital.
Mostly, the Lions outworked the Crows, particularly at ground level, where they laid 80 tackles. And their leaders – Dayne Zorko, Daniel Rich, Harris Andrews – were all superb, Andrews marshalling the defence in the absence of Luke Hodge, Rich continuing his best season, and Zorko making a dozen of those tackles himself.