Small men answer the call for Lions - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Small men answer the call for Lions

By Drew Cratchley 17/08/2008 12:07:06 PM Comments (0)

Going into their must-win match against the Western Bulldogs, Brisbane Lions coach Leigh Matthews spoke about the importance of his small forwards chipping in to help out the star pairing of Jonathan Brown and Daniel Bradshaw.

It's no coincidence then that the Lions, facing an early holiday with a loss to the third-placed Bulldogs at the Gabba on Saturday night, got over the line with the help of a few of their smaller men.

The Lions trailed for three quarters against the Bulldogs before kicking ahead early in the last term and hanging on for a vital 11-point victory.

Topping the goal kickers' list for the home side alongside Brown was Rhan Hooper, who by any measure has had a disappointing year.

But the 20-year-old answered his coach's call, booting three goals from three kicks.

"He's been a bit nought out of three lately, so we've been doing a bit of work with him on his finishing, and hopefully that will be good for his confidence," Matthews said of Hooper.

"We kicked 13, so there wasn't a whole lot of scoring going on, and that was an important contribution."

Hooper's third early in the last quarter gave the Lions the boost they needed, and they were soon in front for the first time thanks to a major from Luke Power, who finished the game strongly after a poor start.

When the Bulldogs hit back though, it was the effort of unlikely hero Joel Patfull that got the Lions home.

The 23-year-old defender was one of the home side's best, keeping Bulldogs half-forward Robert Murphy quiet all night.

It came a week after carrying out one of the AFL's toughest jobs - lining up on Hawthorn superstar Lance Franklin.

While clearly outpointed in that contest, Matthews said Patfull learnt from the experience, and the coach was delighted with the South Australian's contribution against the Bulldogs.

"To keep Buddy Franklin to seven scoring shots is a bit of a heroic effort to be honest. Usually it's about 12," Matthews said.

"But the Murphy matchup was always going to be a difficult one for us.

"I thought our defensive group was pretty solid, and Joel in particular, he was sent out to play on Murphy, the rest of the defenders defended who was there, and it was good that he actually ran forward too and had a shot at goal."

Patfull's goal on the run was impressive, and while time remained for a Bulldogs comeback, it seemed to deflate a Bulldogs side who were being overrun by a desperate Lions outfit.

With four losses from their past five outings, Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade faces a mammoth task getting his players back in form before they face the might of Hawthorn and Geelong in the finals.

"There's a few things we need to address internally, and there's a few players we need to get back into form," Eade admitted after the loss.

"You've just got to work hard.

"I think the belief's still there, I think the players after the game are genuinely disappointed. They've got a lot of pride, the guys, so I've got no doubt we'll bounce back."

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