Queenslanders in the AFL – Round 7

By Peter Blucher 

Dayne Zorko finished his 236th AFL game pretty much on one leg last weekend, while Charlie Dixon played his 195th AFL game pretty much on one leg from the start, yet both celebrated key milestones in Round 7 of the AFL season that continue to confirm their standing among Queensland football royalty.

Zorko played only 49 per cent game time in the Brisbane Lions’ 48-point Gabba win over Fremantle before being subbed out with a hamstring problem but did enough in that time to pick up three votes in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award.

Dixon, nursing a PCL injury much the same as that which sidelined Melbourne captain Max Gawn for three weeks, returned after a one-week layoff and hobbled through a match-winning contribution to Port Adelaide’s seven-point win over top-of-the-table St.Kilda at Marvel Stadium.

Moreover, Zorko picked up his 5000th AFL possession, becoming just the fifth Queenslander to make this mark, and Dixon celebrated his 100th AFL win, emulating the feat of just 13 Queenslanders before him.

Ironically, both would have been bittersweet moments for the Gold Coast Suns on a weekend when they, too, had a memorable win over Richmond at Marvel Stadium. Because both players are now flourishing in opposition colours after joining the AFL via the Suns.

Zorko, the 34-year-old former Lions skipper given up by the Suns for next to nothing, joined Michael Voss (6143 possessions), Jason Akermanis (5868), Marcus Ashcroft (5848) and Nick Riewoldt (5613) in the AFL’s 5000 Club.

Having debuted at 23 after being overlooked in four consecutive drafts, he is the oldest debutant among 168 players in AFL history to have reached 5000 possessions.

Dixon, who played his first five years in the AFL with the Suns, joins a 100-win honour roll headed by Jason Akermanis (197), Jason Dunstall (117), Riewoldt (168) and Voss (153). It also includes David Hale (142), Mal Michael (124), Gavin Crosisca (121), Sam Gilbert (112), Max Hudghton (110), Zorko (105), Kurt Tippett (104) and Che Cockatoo-Collins (100).

After enjoying a 30 per cent win rate at the Suns – 19 wins and a draw from 65 games – Dixon has gone 80-49 from 130 games with the Power at 62.3 per cent.

While his overall contribution to Port’s eye-catching win over the Saints of nine possessions, three marks and two goals was nothing special, his influence at crucial times in a game he would not have played but for the absence of Todd Marshall due to concussion was pivotal.

With Port down by 18 points at quarter-time Dixon slotted an excellent angled goal that sent them to halftime with a seven-point lead. After the Saints had pulled to within two points going into time-on in the fourth quarter he kicked the clincher from close range. And that after a crucial smother at full forward set up the Power’s penultimate major for Sam Powell-Pepper.

Despite his tough start at the Suns, Dixon’s 195-game journey to his 100th win isn’t the longest among the Queenslanders. Zorko was 228 games, and Ashcroft, a pioneer of Queensland footballers with the Brisbane Bears at Carrara, was 249 games.

Dunstall, who had enjoyed 148 wins by the time he played 195 games, had far and away the best strike-rate. The Coorparoo junior was just 123 games to 100 wins, and by that stage he’d played in four grand finals for three premierships.

Cockatoo-Collins, who posted his 100th win in his 159th and second-last game, was next quickest to 100 wins among the Queenslanders, followed by Akermanis (162), Michael (162), Tippett (173), Voss (178), Riewoldt and Crosisca (180) and Hale (185).

Round 7 was something of a celebration for Queensland football – it was just the fourth time since Gold Coast entered the AFL in 2011 that both Queensland teams had won two games in a row.

That they have both played on the same weekend 253 times confirms what an achievement it was.

This weekend, with the Lions away to Carlton on Friday night and the Suns at home to Melbourne on Saturday afternoon in Round 8, they will collectively be aiming at a shared three wins on the trot for just the second time.

The only occasion when that has occurred was Rounds 2-3-4 in the Covid season of 2020, when both clubs won their first three games after the season was shut down from 22 March until 11 June. Oddly, they played the same three clubs – all at home – Adelaide, Fremantle and West Coast.

Only two Queenslanders polled in the Coaches Association Player of the Year Award in Round 7.

Zorko was rated fourth-best in the Lions-Dockers game and polled four votes, while brilliant newcomer Will Ashcroft, who had 28 possessions and two goals, was judged second-best behind Lachie Neale and polled seven votes.

In the same game, Lions co-captain Harris Andrews continued his outstanding season with 20 possessions, the much-improved Jack Payne likewise with 14, while Charlie Cameron and Eric Hipwood kicked two goals apiece.

Hipwood’s double made him the 11th Queenslander to kick 200 goals behind Dunstall (1254), Riewoldt (718), Akermanis (421), Tippett (325), Cameron (323), Dixon (321), Voss (245), Zorko (220), Hale (217), and Cockatoo-Collins (215).

Oskar Baker, who played three games with Melbourne in 2020 and 2021 and none in 2022 at Melbourne, played his seventh game in a row to start his second AFL ‘life’ at the Western Bulldogs and he did it nicely in their 29-point win over Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium, collecting 20 possessions – one short of a career-best – and two goal assists.

Alex Davies returned to the Gold Coast for the first time since Round 1 and had 10 possessions and six tackles in their win over Richmond at Marvel Stadium. Lachie Weller had 18 possessions.

The Tigers’ Samson Ryan played his first game at Marvel and was far from their worst with 11 possessions, two goals and 12 hit-outs playing 90 per cent game time – behind only Tylar Young and Shai Bolton in the Richmond side.

Adelaide’s Ben Keays became the first player this year to go anywhere near negating rising Collingwood superstar Nick Daicos, playing a defensive role on him across the Pies half back line and holding him to a season-low 27 possessions. And still Collingwood won by a point.

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