The Giants exorcised some Demons in more ways than one, effectively ending whatever slight chance of playing finals Melbourne may have held, and dispensing of the media-driven narrative that they can’t win at the MCG… remember them whacking Collingwood there last year?
The score line flattered the putrid Melbourne Football Club, who look a shadow of the team that went within a game of making the last day in September in 2018.
But we’ll get to how bad Melbourne were soon enough.
If you’re one of those idiotic supporters who don’t pay much attention to GWS because “they’re the AFL’s lovechild” or because they’re “a manufactured team” maybe it’s time you pulled your head out of your backside, because this team is as potent as it gets, and despite a few hiccups this season, and a last quarter to forget, they are the real deal, and move right into contention with this win.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
THE FERRARI IN HIGH GEAR
Call it what you like – the orange tsunami, the giant wave… the orange and black attack (I just made the last two up), but when GWS gather at half back and run forward with seven or eight options available, it is a scary sight.
It certainly looked like it changed the colour of the Melbourne players’ underpants today.
I’ll get to Josh Kelly in a moment, because I thought he was far and away the best player on the ground, but the rest of the GWS mids deserve a lot of credit as well.
Jacob Hopper is as hard as nails, and he simply does not shirk the issue at all at ground level. Tim Taranto has grown into the kind of player Essendon wish Andrew McGrath was. The former pick two is making Giants supporters quickly forget about Dylan Shiel, and it is interesting to look at the two side by side this year.
Shiel is averaging 27.9 disposals, with 12.2 contested touches among them. He’s also continued his stellar accuracy at goal, with his 12% conversion rate something GWS was not sorry to lose.
Taranto is sitting at 28.1 disposals, with 10.9 coming in the contest. He is running at 61% efficiency and is at 47% accuracy at goal, with seven goals to Shiel’s two for the year.
The big difference is in the defensive stats, where Taranto lays over six tackles per game, whilst Shiel is a little more bruise-free with four per game. It is amazing how easily Taranto has elevated his game to cover for the loss of Shiel, and it is a big reason GWS supporters weren’t all that upset when Shiel opted to join the Bombers.
Then you throw in guys like Lachie Whitfield, who can destroy teams when given time and space, and Stephen Coniglio, who struggled a little after copping a corked thigh early in the game, you’re looking at a finely tuned machine, capable of blowing teams off the park.
And that’s what they did today. The GWS Ferrari fired up, hit top gear and left the old clunker known as Melbourne in their dust.
Yeah, he deserves a spot all by himself.
There are three players in the AFL who get the “Rolls Royce” tag. One is Scott Pendlebury, another is Shaun Higgins, and the third is Josh Kelly.
I watch a lot of footy, and I truly believe that only two actually deserve the moniker. Those two are Pendlebury and Kelly. The difference between those two and Higgins is that both Kelly and Pendlebury know how to fashion a kick to hit a moving target, and do it instinctively. Higgins is hit and miss and is often lulled into going long and flat in hope that someone will be in the vicinity.
But Josh Kelly doesn’t do that. Even running at top pace, he is able to pull a kick and put just enough length on it to get it to the advantage of his forwards. He doesn’t over kick it, he doesn’t under kick it. If his kick were in a fairytale, it’d be the baby bear’s breakfast… juuuust right. It is a skill that is vastly underrated in a league that seems to value clearances (of which Kelly had three) and contested touches (he had 11).
Kelly had nine score involvements, and has this ability to receive the ball, feign the handball to buy space and then change direction and deliver the ball. He is as close to Pendlebury as we’ve seen, and I’ve always thought Pendles should’ve had a Brownlow.
I hope I’m not thinking that about Kelly in ten years. Hopefully he’ll be able to stay healthy and have one by then…
… in orange and black.
Shane Mumford is no slouch, but he was dominated early by Max Gawn, who was the only Demon firing a shot in the first half.
Look, there is a part of me who got sick to death of seeing Gawn’s mug all over the place in 2018, and when Lycett, Ryder and company got stuck into him in Round One, I may have had a little smile.
But there has always been a grudging respect for Gawn, and that was enhanced today as he constantly put himself in positions to relieve the pressure on the crumbling Demon defence. Once again, he was also able to prop up a midfield that look as though they need to be spoon fed to be effective.
The only time Mumford was able to have an impact at stoppages came with Gawn on the bench getting taped up in the third quarter, where he had two beautiful hits to advantage (both to Coniglio) to get the Giants running.
Gawn finished with 25 touches, six clearances, eight marks of which four were contested, and 13 contested possessions. Whilst Brodie Grundy has been excellent, the last month or so of Max Gawn has been brilliant to watch.
If only some of his teammates would come along for the ride.
The last two GWS games I’ve covered, Nick Haynes has been absolutely fantastic. In the last one he was the undeniable best on ground, and whilst he didn’t reach those heights today, his ability to read the play and position himself to take intercept marks early in the game was instrumental in the Giants getting on top.
Haynes is the kind of player that will eventually surprise the entire competition. Unsung by everyone other than the GWS faithful, Haynes not only owned the defensive skies in the first half, but was also the man the Giants looked for to ignite their run through the middle.
When he gets it, good things happen.
He had 20 touches at 85% efficiency
for the game, but in truth, his cue was well and truly in the rack by half way through the third quarter, and rightfully so. His job was done by that stage. It was no coincidence that when Haynes was making Petracca’s acquaintance, the Melbourne forward could hardly get a touch.
I know there is a lot of competition for the All-Australian half back position, but it must be about time that Haynes’ name was thrust into some very serious consideration.
MATT DE BOER
Can we fit a stopper into the All-Australian squad?
After completely destroying the “untaggable” Patrick Cripps last week, GWS’ number one stopper moved his gaze to Clayton Oliver, and in the process, delivered one of the most comprehensive defensive midfield displays you’re likely to see.
Oliver is a ball magnet, and relishes the contest, but I think it is safe to say he might be relishing contests a little less than normal after running into de Boer this week.
We have to go back to 2016 to see Oliver’s numbers anywhere near where they ended today. He gave away 50 metre penalties in frustration, couldn’t get time and space at any stage, and had his best quarter as part of the Demons “last quarter heroes” group, who decided to show up once the game was out of reach.
I had to laugh when someone had a go at me for giving de Boer votes last week for his defensive job on Cripps. Well, I’ll prepare the flak jacket and get ready for the barrage again, because his stopping work on Oliver was as influential as anyone on the park this arvo, and he deserves recognition.
So if you left the letter ‘G’ out of his name, you could probably sum up his entire game with one word.
Brayshaw ran third in the Brownlow in 2018 and didn’t get an invite to the night. After today’s performance, the AFL probably shouldn’t invite him again. In one of the most insipid displays from a midfielder considered elite by many, Brayshaw opted to show up in the second half.
After the game was decided.
If there has been a bigger decline in a player in 2019, I’d like to know who it is. His season averages look similar, but his impact on games has been minimal. He is looking for the easy ball, and his clearance work (one today) has dipped back under four per game. In a team that was struggling today, Brayshaw needed to step up his game, but what he did was step away.
Matched up on Josh Kelly at times, he was often left dragging his feet as Kelly worked harder, powering his side forward as Brayshaw ran to the wing to get the next possession. Those possessions didn’t eventuate.
He was stuck at half back several times during this game, but looked lost, and is playing like someone without confidence or belief.
He is a shadow of his 2018 self, and deserves a spot all by himself in this section separate from the other ineffective mids we’ll get to soon enough.
Next week, I think Melbourne should run through a banner compiled of derogatory descriptions of his first half. They may want to invest in some extra crepe paper… it’s going to be a big banner.
THE LAST QUARTER HEROES
Let’s pay homage to the brilliant last quarter from the Dees, shall we?
Wow, what a display, powering home with seven goals as the Giants simply couldn’t match them.
Christian Petracca was brilliant, obviously having conserved all his energy from the previous three quarters. Petracca once again demonstrated why Demons fans are so buoyed by his ability to turn it on when it really matters – in tight last quarters at the home of football. Built like a bull and moving like a flatulent cow, Petracca was at his pushing, shoving and kick-shanking best.
Clayton Oliver capped his worst game in recent memory by getting into an altercation with Toby Greene who appeared quite amused by the undoubted hardness of Oliver, Gawn and company, who really took it up to the Giants in the physical stakes once the game was put to bed. We’ve already touched on de Boer’s complete ownership of Oliver, but far out, Clayton, your biggest contributions to this game were giving away 50 metre penalties. His dumping of Toby Greene in the second quarter was all kinds of stupid, and resulted in Jeremy Cameron having a shot at goal downfield. Pull your head in and have some humility.
Tom McDonald. Great quarter by Tmac, padding those stats to make it look as though he had anything but an absolute mare. He had eight touches for the game, as Phil Davis and friends helped him continue the kind of run that would make Dees supporters pine for the “good old days” of Jesse Hogan. But hey… two goals out of ten, and a goal assist is a great day, right? He’ll be proud.
And then there’s “Jeffy” Garlett, who crept around like a thief in the night, but all he stole were the hopes and dreams of the Melbourne supporters that he would actually do something of merit when it actually mattered. The VFL beckons.
Jayden Hunt, who looked like he might actually do something in the third quarter before shanking the most gettable goal of the day from 25 metres, tried his hand at playing hard man in the last quarter. It’s probably best left to blokes who look like they’re not still going through puberty.
Charlie Spargo… what a soccer goal! Incredible, and fitting that he just got a boot to it to score a goal, considering he barely touched the footy with his hands for the rest of the game.
Loved how the commentators started talking up the “lift” of Jack Viney in the second quarter. They adore this bloke, but he was so poor in the first quarter, I’m not sure he could’ve got any worse. Yes, he was serviceable after quarter time – not great, but okay, however you would think the sun was shining out of his backside the way the commentators spoke about him.
I’d have had four GWS mids above him – Kelly, Hopper, Taranto and Whitfield all had better games than Viney, but I’m not sure any of them got more love on the microphone.
How much of a luxury is it to have Jeremy Cameron, Jeremy Finlayson and Harry Himmelberg all wandering around that attacking 50 metre arc? Initially it looked as though it was going to be Finlayson who got hold of the Dees, but it turned out to be Himmelberg, with Cameron moving up to high half forward for a while again this week.
As messy as the scoreboard was at quarter and half times, it should have been even worse for Melbourne. Early on, GWS wasted so many opportunities, and I started to wonder if this was a case of those missed opportunities coming back to bite them at some stage. However, so comprehensive was their dominance of Melbourne, that even when they stopped to a walk in the last quarter, all those misses didn’t matter.
Still, I have the sneaking suspicion Leon Cameron would not be happy with the winning margin in the end. That was a 100-point win waiting to happen.
Only genuine highlight for Melbourne outside Max Gawn was the signs that Oskar Baker might be a player. Good lateral movement and he seems to have a really good footy brain about him.
Okay, throw in Marty Hore as well when he gets a bit of space. Still, when he gets isolated, it’s still a real worry.
Nice defensive game from Heath Shaw again, though his kicking maybe wasn’t at its normally high level. Still, his ability to slide back and zone off his man to take an intercept mark is such a luxury with Zac Williams out.
I suppose we should throw Melbourne a bone here and cite their injury list? Lever… who was gone most of last year when they were fantastic. May… who wasn’t there last year. Neville Jetta, who is actually ultra-important, Jake Melksham, who has been their best forward all season, and Christian Salem, who has been their best running defender.
Yeah, let’s highlight them, but to use them as an excuse is an absolute cop out. Richmond are struggling with soldiers, and you would never question their endeavour. Collingwood were cruelled by injuries in 2018, and made the grand final. Hawthorn lost the Brownlow medallist and they’re in the eight at the time of writing. No excuses, Melbourne, injuries or otherwise – you deserve your lowly spot on the ladder the way you’re playing.
And that’ll do for me. We’re getting close to the bye rounds, and the Giants will host the Suns next week in a game they should have in hand. The Dees get the Crows in Darwin, where they absolutely smashed them in the corresponding game last year. They’re a very different team this year, though.
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