What a finish, and for the sake of this review, let’s forget the first three quarters ever happened, and concentrate on the last quarter, because that was really the only part of this game worth watching.

As he walked off the ground Phil Davis uttered a statement that rang true.

“I feel sorry for those watching at home,” he said in regard to the ‘spectacle’ that was this game. Half way through the third quarter, I was taking notes and just wrote “this is shit!” And that’s because it was, but the desperation in the last quarter made the slog of the first three quarters worth it.

The Giants will walk away with four points on the road without playing good football, which is both a blessing and a curse, while the Power were just unable to get their nose in front at any stage – just hitting the front may have been enough to drive them home, but they were unable to get it done.

Let’s have a dive into this game and see what we can uncover with the good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

NICK HAYNES AND PHIL DAVIS

I’m a Lord of the Rings fan. Ever since I was a kid and my dad read the books to me (he skipped the shitty singing parts – those stupid elves always singing… shut up elves!) I have always gravitated to the story of the two towers.

As an adult I got to see the movies – again the two towers was the standout chapter for me.

And tonight, with the game on the line, I found myself thoroughly enjoying another performance of the two towers, this time by Phil Davis and Nick Haynes.

Can I start with Haynes? Earlier this season, we published out All-Underrated Team. It was a team put together by all the writers at the Mongrel, and there was Nick Haynes on the half back flank… and I was a little annoyed by that. You see, I rate him so highly that when I saw he’d been voted into that role by members of my team, I was wondering why they thought people didn’t rate him? Why guys? Why did you do that?

I think I was the only one arguing against him being in the team because I thought he should probably be in consideration for a different kind of team; the All-Australian team.

Nick Haynes is not flashy. I don’t think you’re going to see him doing Akermanis-style hand stands, or playing up to the crowd, but what you will see is a man with an amazing ability to read the play and a fearlessness in the air that borders on recklessness. Phil Davis may be the guy that gets the big jobs on the big forwards, but Haynes’ ability to zone off and render those forwards relatively useless is at the top of the AFL tree. I gave him three votes in this one.

And then there’s Davis. Yep, he made the All-Underrated team too, and I can understand why in relation to him. I was shocked that he has never been an All-Australian given the level of his defence over the last few years. He is all business, backs himself in the contest and was an absolute rock in defence all game against the Power.

With Charlie Dixon out, Davis gave himself a little more freedom to roam around the defensive 50 and pick his spots. He had eight intercepts among his 13 marks for the game as he put his stamp on it early. The GWS captain is the sort of player I would happily follow into battle. There are a couple of captains that, if forced to follow, I may look over my shoulder to plot my escape route, but not if I was following Davis – he is all heart, and you have to respect the way he goes about it.

THE INTENSE LAST QUARTER

The Power had their chances. Sutcliffe and Duursma both had shots at very gettable goals, and you got the feeling they were ready to make their move on the Giants… they just never got around to it.

With Haynes and Davis ruling the sky in defence, the Power looked to Robbie Gray to get them home, plonking him at full forward. Heath Shaw went with him. Jeremy Finlayson looked like a million bucks as he stiff-armed an opponent and wheeled to kick at goal. He missed and left the door open. Butters missed, Byrne-Jones missed… it was nail biting stuff.

But the players were spent and had little left to give as time wound down. As the siren sounded, Toby Greene held the ball in his hands, 60 metres out having convinced the umpire he was having a shot at goal, despite being zero chance at that point of making the distance.

It was smart by Greene who worked hard, but probably didn’t work smart with his kicking all game. Zac Williams stepped up after an average first three quarters. Lachie Keeffe was huge, laying a big tackle on Connor Rozee to win a holding the ball free kick, and injuring Rozee in the process, and Scott Lycett started building a one-man wall across half forward, determined not to let the Giants get out of their defensive easily.

There were only 27K at the game, but they were a loud 27K, and after enduring three quarters of absolute garbage, at least they got the ending they deserved, if not the ending they actually wanted.

BOAK IN THE VOTES AGAIN

I’m not sure what else Travis Boak can do. He has dragged this team, kicking and screaming, to the verge of finals and they simply refuse to take the final step to qualify.

I said we were going to concentrate on the last quarter and Boak’s efforts with the game on the line almost compelled his team to lift. His hands from half back to get the Power off and running were excellent, and his willingness to run through the guts gave you the feeling that he was going to get his team over the line, even if it killed him!

And now, as I sit back and look at this Power team, they are killing Boak slowly, because he is pouring his heart and soul into this team, and others are not.

He had 40 touches again tonight, and in difficult conditions ran at 83% efficiency. He was equal leader in clearances with seven, equal leader in inside 50s with six, equal leader in score involvements with seven, and had 27 uncontested disposals which he earned by running when no one else would.

It seems that I have written about Boak every time I’ve watched Port play, and for good reason – he is far and away THE standout player on their team this season, and would have to go close to giving the Brownlow a shake. I’m sure there are a few as deserving of the honour, but none more so than Boak – he has had a monster year.

HEATER V ROBBIE

One thing about Heath Shaw – he takes on the big jobs without fail. He’s never hid in defence, and has continually matched up on some of the game’s greatest small/mid-sized forwards. Cyril Rioli, Eddie Betts, Robbie Gray  – Heath Shaw puts his hand up to take them all on, and tonight, he got to reacquaint himself with the man some call the Power’s greatest ever player.

In a contest that ebbed and flowed, Gray and Shaw went head to head in an enthralling matchup.

Three goals to Gray would normally have me swaying to his side if forced to pick, but there was something about a couple of Shaw’s efforts to stifle Gray that made me second guess just how effective Gray was over the course of the game.

In game 300, Shaw gathered 19 touches and was one of the real drivers out of defensive 50 for the Giants, whereas Gray settled into the forward line and started looking right at home again after splitting time between the forward50 and midfield over recent weeks.

In the end, three goals in such a low scoring game are too much to go past. We’ve seen Gray have much better games than this, but this result was determined by a single kick, and three of Gray’s kicks registered goals. I have to give him the nod in their clash.

TIM TARANTO

This might sound a bit crazy, but if there was one midfielder under the age of 22 I could take as the number one pick in the league right now, it’d be Tim Taranto.

Simply put, he does it all.

He smothers, he tackles, he harasses, wins clearances, picks up a variety of possessions and he simply does not stop. Another 30+  touches for him in this game as he has just elevated his game to a whole new level this season. It was his third game in a row with over 30 disposals, and the tenth time for the season.

Let’s not forget that he has shared the spotlight with Stephen Coniglio and Josh Kelly at times, but overall, he has been the most consistent and durable midfielder in the team. Now at 28.3 disposals per game, he is fast becoming an elite midfielder, with several years before he hits his peak.

There has been so much talk about whether GWS will re-sign Coniglio, or whether Kelly would leave earlier in the year, but this guy… this is the one you want to sign to an extension way in advance. You don’t want to allow a talent like this to slip out of your grasp. With Taranto at the helm, the Giants’ midfield is in great hands for many, many years to come.

One thing I really loved about Taranto today – a tackle he laid on Scott Lycett. He basically lifted the big fella and dumped him – that is strength. You ever tried to lift someone who weighs 100 kg and has no intention of being moved? My mate Joe Ganino has had to move a few out of his bed over the years – he tells me it is not easy.

THE BAD

TWO ORDINARY RUCKS

If the Giants had lost this, I reckon there’d be plenty of people wondering why the hell Leon Cameron had two players incapable of doing much else than being big, and occasionally winning a hit out in the team.

I’m kind of making a joke about it, but both these blokes were terrible, and it really hurt the Giants around the ground for most of the contest. Combined, Shane Mumford and Dawson Simpson had nine disposals and two marks.

Yep, that’s it. They took two marks between them and could not top ten possessions.

Were they there to combat the two-headed monster of Lycett and Ryder? Yes they were, but what were the Giants giving up in order to have these guys out there. Would another run and carry player have been more valuable than a big bloke who had only one more disposal than he had free kicks against?

I don’t want to disparage either of these blokes, as  I really like Mumford, and how can you not like a bloke named Dawson? But having them both in the team is a liability right now. I understand that giving both game time is more than likely crucial considering either may be called upon in September, and the fact GWS walked away with four points wallpapers over it, but that decision to play these two almost cost GES the game.

I don’t think we’ll see both these big guys in the same team again for the rest of the season. If we do, and the Giants lose that game, then they should be open to criticism regarding their decisions.

THE UGLY

THE STANDARD

I remember watching a game last season that saw Freo take on Port – it resembled this one…only worse.

In this one, I watched player after player miss targets, fumble the ball, turn it over and fail to convert. It was like a virus, starting with one player and soon infecting the entire playing group of both teams.

There were some who seemed to have developed a small amount of immunity in the first three quarters – Zak Butters was one whose hands looked clean and disposal looked to be on. His hands in close were better than just about every other player on the park. The stats don’t tell the story with him – 16 touches at 75% efficiency. When the ball came his way, his hands were good.

The same cannot be said for others. I don’t know what was going on with Zac Williams, but his 23 touches were mostly useless, and his eight turnovers certainly contributed to his 52% efficiency. Sam Powell-Pepper looked as though he thought it was his job to grab the ball and run into tacklers – what the hell is going on with this guy? Some people said he was like a younger Dustin Martin! Maybe like the 13 year-old version.

Whatever spark he had, it is starting to get a lot less bright. Champion Data grades “effective” possessions very liberally. That SPP travelled at 53% is an indictment on his skills.

 

QUICK BITS

I know Dougal Howard is being tried as a forward, and I know he kicked a late goal to give the Power hope, but can you not see that having him up forward is a huge error? This is the guy who had a record number of spoils just last season… as in the most… EVER! So throw him up forward and see what he can do, right? Five disposals and two marks – meanwhile Jeremy Cameron was getting off the chain and so was Jeremy Finlayson.

Justin Westhoff had the ball on a string early on. With 11 touches in the first quarter, he looked set for a monster game, but Leon Cameron soon put a stop to his freedom. He finished with 20 for the game, effectively shut down after quarter time.

Loved Jeremy Cameron’s tackle on Robbie Gray. It was a tackle with sinister intent, and while he didn’t sling him of drive him into the ground, you can still hit someone with a great tackle and hurt them in the process if you do it right.

Of course, Steve Hocking has gone 23 minutes without stating he doesn’t like something about the game, so expect JC to be cited by the match review officer and be suspended for the rest of the season. I really think Hocking needs to think more, and speak less.

The loss of Sam Taylor may be significant for the Giants. He is one who has steadily improved this season to the point where his intercept marking and defence in pack situations are extremely valuable commodities.

Lycett losing his feet and allowing Cameron to swoop in and kick his second goal… I reckon Scott would like that few seconds over again. He went after that ground ball like I usually would – I have trouble below the knees these days. Getting old…

Saw plenty from Jackson Hately tonight, with the highlight being that great one-handed contested mark inside 50, and the lowlight was when he collected teammate, Jacob Hopper with a his and shoulder. Not really sure who he expected to get with that one, as Lycett was on the deck by the time Hately barrelled in.

What was going on with that botched score review? The ball was still in play, in Port’s possession, but because the goal umpire got a little confused, it was taken off Port and they had a ball up at the edge of the square – that could’ve been another embarrassing score review issue had GWS somehow manufactured a goal at that point. That aspect of the rule needs addressing quickly.

So, did we all see Jeremy Cameron go down like he was shot in the leg at half forward, only to bounce up and grab the ball to take a shot when it came out to him? Must have been just a temporary bout of acute pain in some part of his leg.

Harry Himmelberg – don’t bounce the ball 15 metres out when you can kick the goal. Here’s an idea – KICK THE GOAL!

No idea how Sam Powell-Pepper was not pinged for holding the ball when he was caught in a Taranto tackle after breaking a previous tackle. No crowd reaction, no cried of “balllll” and play on was called. Gotta be better than that.

Did Ryder do enough? Nup. That miss from 30 out right in front in the third was borderline unforgivable.

So next week the Power get the Bombers at Marvel Stadium. this is now “win or go home” stuff for them. I get the feeling they’re going to go home. They have all the talent but seem disjointed – both Adelaide teams do, actually. Must be something in the water.

And then the Giants get to welcome their cross-town rivals to Giants Stadium. I’m just annoyed that Buddy won’t be playing, as I’d love to see Phil Davis towel him up again.

That’ll do for me. Hope you enjoyed it, Giants fans… as I don’t think the Power fans will have.