A blitzkrieg eight goal opening term from Greater Western Sydney saw them utterly dismantle the Magpies and stake their claim as a genuine premiership contender.
In the absence of the injured Steven Coniglio and Josh Kelly, coach Leon Cameron opted to start Toby Greene and Zac Williams in the centre, their efforts proving invaluable as the Giants monstered their way to a 43 point quarter time lead. From there the damage was done and although Collingwood had a statistically and territorially dominant second stanza, they simply could not find enough avenues to goal.
THE DOMINANT PLAYERS:
He was back to his absolute best, working up and down the ground to lethal effect. After besting Jeremy Howe in the first half, Nathan Buckley sent Brayden Maynard to Cameron in the second but the result was the same (albeit Howe was freed up to play deeper in Collingwood’s defensive 50). Cameron won an abundance of footy up on the wing and was able to link up repeatedly as the ball transitioned forward.
Cameron kicked six classy goals, the best of them a running shot from 40 after his initial clearing handball found Zac Williams at the seven minute mark of the third quarter. At that stage the Pies had kicked a couple of quick goals through Pendlebury and Sidebottom, closing the margin to within five majors and giving the travelling supporters some optimism. It was quickly dispelled as veteran Brett Deledio set up Cameron and later intercepted an errant handball from Taylor Adams, with Cameron again the beneficiary.
With Cameron’s stats reading 20 Disposals @75%, nine marks, eight inside 50s, and six goals, he was easily the best player on the ground.
As Greene ran into the centre as acting captain it immediately conjured images of Mark Latham leading the ALP! A desperate choice in a time of crisis? Well, I needn’t have been concerned as the end result couldn’t have been more stark. The industrious little pest produced one of his finest performances, both in the middle of the ground and up forward where he slotted two classy goals.
In my eyes, Greene has had a middling season but this was a real breakout game full of grit, bravery and the obligatory eye for goal that has never deserted him. I thought his leadership was outstanding from the very first bounce with not a bungled handshake in sight!
With 27 disposals, five clearances, four tackles, four inside 50s, and two goals to his name, this captaincy business might suit Toby.
When I saw Shaw opposed to Jordan de Goey at the start of the game I was expecting to write a very different summary. The Collingwood star is a taller, heavier and more explosive package, all in a body 10 years younger than the GWS veteran. However, what De Goey doesn’t have is 299 games of footy guile and Shaw used every ounce of it to comfortably take the points and be among his team’s best performers. Shaw refused to engage in any test of strength, backing his teammates upfield to pressure opposition kicks, and his own ability to judge the ball in flight and make up ground.
Moreover, Shaw didn’t shelve the aggressive rebounding play that’s been a trademark of his since his debut, way back in 2005. Whilst Sam Taylor also spent time on De Goey it was Shaw who was opposed to him when the game was at its hottest.
26 disposals, 12 rebound 50s, and 10 marks are vintage Heater numbers.
Like Greene, Williams has had patches of good amongst the bad this season but the added responsibility of playing as a full time midfielder brought out the best in him today. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s almost the best game of his career to date.
Williams’ line breaking speed and clinical ball use was a constant thorn in Collingwood’s side, the sight of him regularly motoring out of stoppages correlating with the scoreboard operator working overtime to update the Giants’ tally. The inclusion of Williams gives a one-paced midfield a completely different look and I’d be surprised if he’s shifted back to defence permanently, or at least not used as an option when a bit of a change is required.
A big tick to Leon Cameron for having the confidence in him to do the job.
What can one say about Whitfield that hasn’t been said a thousand times? His ball use is exquisite off both feet, his decision making is elite and he runs just as hard in the final minute of a game as he does in the first. For reasons unbeknownst to anyone, the Collingwood coaching team seemed content to let him run around on his lonesome (which I can’t imagine any other teams doing this year).
Whitfield did as he pleased, finding space and opening up the angles with clever passes to teammates.
He had 29 disposals @79%, five tackles, five clearances, and four rebound 50s in another polished display.
Another GWS midfielder who thrived with the added responsibility. Taranto was the Giants’ most brutish inside mid, boring in at stoppages and winning first use of the footy. He wasn’t particularly clean with his clearance work but had a physical presence in the clinches, especially when Greene and Whitfield had a rest on the bench in the 2nd quarter.
With 31 disposals, a mammoth 14 tackles, six clearances, and six inside 50s, Taranto continues to be one of the biggest improvers and hardest working mids in the game.
If it wasn’t for Grundy the Pies may well have lost by 100 points. I’m not kidding! Time and again Grundy would contest the ruck (primarily against Mumford) and then clear the ball himself before haring down to the next contest. It’s probably instructive that I thought Mumford played to the limit of his potential today yet was utterly outclassed.
Grundy also kicked a stunning goal from long range that every wingman in the comp would be proud of. The complete game from the league’s number one ruckman.
He had 31 disposals, 10 clearances, nine tackles, four inside 50s, and a whopping 48 hitouts.
I see Adams as the heartbeat of his team and given the other organs were shutting down he had to work overtime today! Collingwood were actually the dominant side for the majority of the second term (though it didn’t translate to the scoreboard) and it was largely off the back of Adams’ clearance work in combination with Grundy.
The Pies Vice-captain was their only midfielder to produce a consistent four quarter effort (which is even more meritorious given it was his first game back from a serious groin injury sustained in round 7).
In a great return, he posted numbers of 32 disposals, 11 clearances, and seven tackles
I really liked Daniels’ game; he looked dangerous every time the ball was in his vicinity and hit the packs at top pace. Kicked a classic crumbing goal after an Ian Hill marking attempt and was thrown into a few stoppages to give the likes of Greene and Williams a rest. A dynamic, footy-smart youngster with a bright future.
16 disposals @93%, 5 Tackles, 4 Inside 50s
Was given the job of manning Mason Cox due to Phil Davis’ injury and completely shut him out of the contest. Kept him to a paltry four disposals and held him goalless.
Brown’s form has fluctuated a lot this season but he had a pretty serviceable game playing a difficult role. He managed to find dangerous pockets of space to kick two goals and set one up. Finishing off his good work has been a work in progress this year but Brown looked pretty accomplished inside 50 when others wilted.
17 Disposals, 5 Tackles, 4 Inside 50s, 2 Goals
THE NOT SO GOOD
Was completely anonymous and utterly outplayed by Sam Reid. What’s happened to the repeat leading, gut running, high leaping player of last season?
As mentioned above big Mason was taken to the cleaners by Lachie Keefe. It’s hard to believe this is the same player that tore Richmond apart in the prelim last year but that effort is a real outlier amid a string of poor performances this year.
Was repeatedly targeted by GWS forwards seeking a mismatch and was outmarked, outbodied and outclassed. Didn’t get the usual support from the likes of Howe, Roughead etc which didn’t help his cause.