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Match of the Day: A giant-sized performance from GWS

“That’s how you do it, mate”. Steve Johnson tells teammate Heath Shaw all about one of his six goals against West Coast. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Match of the Day: A giant-sized performance from GWS

Rohan Connolly    

For one brief moment just before half-time at Spotless Stadium on Saturday night, West Coast looked like it might actually make a game of it.

The Eagles had been completely outplayed by a harder, cleaner and more involved Greater Western Sydney, and had already slipped more than six goals in arrears.

Sam Mitchell pegged that back just a fraction with West Coast finally starting to make some repeated forward forays, yet still looking for some inspiration.

Josh Kennedy might have been the man, too. He charged at a seemingly inevitable GWS mark to spoil, picked himself up and bolted back towards goal, where he got inside 50 with Lewis Jetta streaming forward down a wing.

The pass was on. Instead, Jetta went to a pocket, and Jamie Cripps, who was effectively spoiled by the Giants’ Adam Tomlinson. Some staunch defence saw GWS win the ball back, bang it forward, where Toby Greene soared for a classic “hanger”.

His third goal, with just 90 seconds left on the clock before the long break, was the classic “12-point play”, and effectively quashed any remaining West Coast hopes there and then.

Which, really, was only what the Giants deserved. They had copped the rounds of the critical kitchen after a lifeless qualifying final effort, a game in which a raft of GWS stars seemed to sit back waiting for someone else to do the work.

This time, they were queuing up to get involved. Mainly, the GWS midfield, seemingly intent on restoring a collective reputation which had been put through the wringer after the loss to the Crows.

Not for the first time, co-captain Callan Ward helped set the tone. So did Tom Scully with some hard running and selfless team acts. Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio and Dylan Shiel were all creative on the outside, but significantly, diligent on the inside as well. Ditto Lachie Whitfield.

The writing was already on the wall, or the stats sheet, if not yet on the scoreboard, by quarter-time. GWS had already nearly doubled West Coast for clearances. Tackles as well, despite leading the possession count. They had a commanding lead in contested possession.

In the ruck, Rory Lobb, shouldering the burden alone in Shane Mumford’s absence, more than held his own. The Giants looked more than a little better in attack, too, despite the loss of Jeremy Cameron.

This was a forward set-up less cumbersome, more balanced, and obviously more potent, their 19.11 (125) their highest score in their last 11 games.

This looked for all the world like a team sick of having its work ethic and commitment questioned. And the determination to make a statement on that score stood out every bit as prominently as did the levels of precocious talent no one has ever disputed.

There had been almost 10 minutes of back and forth without any tangible reward for either side until Shiel broke the ice with a snap after Tim Tarranto had intercepted a kick-in.

The Giants fluffed a couple of chances after that through Jonathon Patton and looked briefly like they might pay when Nathan Vardy then Josh Kennedy had two on the board for the Eagles within three minutes.

That, though, for West Coast, proved more hope than anything founded on the tide of play, something GWS would prove with seven of the next eight goals.

With Jeremy McGovern again proving a thorn with his intercept marking in defence, the Giants found other avenues, one in particular, Toby Greene, who was running hot. The brilliant small forward bounced his first through after a damaging run from Scully. He’d add two more before half-time.

Scully himself had the next, Tarranto another, and skipper Ward, playing a ripper, really hurt West Coast with one right on the quarter-time siren.

And what were already obvious danger signs for the Eagles had become alarm bells less than five minutes into the second quarter.

The Eagles, trying to generate some run off half-back, came unstuck when Elliot Yeo and Brad Sheppard got themselves in a tangle, the resultant turnover allowing Matt De Boer to stroll into an open goal.

Nathan Wilson went long and found Harrison Himmelberg in way too much space and now it was an even five-goal gap, and more ominously, 14 scoring shots to just three. Greene effectively ended any doubt about the result with two more.

And then came party time. A senior citizens party, if you like, with Steve Johnson, relishing not only his return to the GWS line-up, but space being afforded him, booting four goals in the third term, his seasoned teammate Brett Deledio bolting in for one as well.

There were five more unanswered goals to take the lead out to a whopping 68 points. Johnson had his fifth on the board within 16 seconds of the start of the last term.

Not unsurprisingly, there was also a corresponding lull in what had been relentless GWS pressure, given the Giants now had their minds firmly on preparing for a preliminary final against Richmond next Saturday.

That let-up allowed West Coast to kick three in a short burst after having taken three quarters to manage five. It allowed veteran Eagles Mitchell, Matt Priddis and Drew Petrie at least half-an-hour to come to grips with the end of great careers. Mitchell in fact booted the final goal of the game to a generous hand.

But GWS didn’t completely put the cue in the rack. They lost the final quarter by just one point. The Giants certainly got the job done in the battle to win back any lost respect. And by the end, it looked like both form and confidence had been restored.

They now face one of the most lop-sided big crowds AFL football has ever seen. Richmond has waited for this moment a long time. A lot longer than the six-year history of the game’s newest club. The roar for the Tigers will be deafening, that for the Giants perhaps barely audible.

That in itself won’t worry GWS. This is a team which has never been short on self-belief. And the speed with which any loss of self-esteem was restored in this cut-throat clash suggests Richmond will at the very least have a decent battle on its hands.

GWS 5.4 9.7 15.10 19.11 (125)
WEST COAST 3.0 4.2 5.2 9.3 (57)

GOALS – GWS: Johnson 6, Greene 3, Patton 2, Shiel, Scully, Taranto, Ward, de Boer, Himmelberg, Deledio, Coniglio. WEST COAST: LeCras 2, Mitchell 2, Vardy, Kennedy, Shuey, Petrie, Darling.
BEST – GWS: Coniglio, Ward, Shiel, Whitfield, Kelly, Johnson, Patton, Corr, Wilson, Greene. WEST COAST: Shuey, Mitchell, Priddis, Hurn, Redden.

CROWD: 14,865 at Spotless Stadium

1 Comment
  1. Both Giants and Cats lost prelims last year. Wonder if that is just the motivation they both need to take the extra step.

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