In a fantastic advertisement for Super A-Mart, who had a wonderfully situated store right behind the goals at one end of the ground, the GWS Giants managed to hold off the Tigers en route to another pre-season win.

In what the Giants are hoping is a sign of things to come, their stars stood up, and some of their kids showed enough to indicate that the next generation of the Giants will be just as formidable as the current incarnation.

The Tigers looked as though they were poised to make a run, but two goals in a minute from Toby Greene put the game back on GWS’ terms.

Let’s check out some of the standouts from these two teams’ final pre-season hit out.

 

TOBY GREENE

My man.

You know I’ve been singing his praises for years now, but there is such an anti-Greene movement out there that I reckon a political party might be thinking about changing their name to avoid being connected with him.

Not me though – if Toby Greene ran for Prime Minister, I’d consider voting for him. He wouldn’t let us get Coronavirus, would he?

Greene was immense in this game. Playing 90% of the game as a forward, he looked dangerous whenever he went near the footy. Racking up 21 disposals, kicking five goals and dishing one off to his captain, Greene played the sort of game that people forget he is capable of.

Make no mistake, if he played at Essendon, or Collingwood, Greene would be one of the most famous faces in the game. Well, he kind of is, but it is more infamy than fame at this stage.

He has battled injury the last two seasons, but when he has made it onto the park, he has been a difference-maker. That’s what Toby Greene is – the difference between a good team making finals, and a great team winning it all. I’m hoping he gets a full season to stick it right up those who think he is little more than a thug. He is more. So much more.

 

STEPHEN CONIGLIO

32 touches and two goals tell the tale of the GWS captain, who oscillated between the midfield and deep forward in this game.

Coniglio’s presence inside forward 50 is something that has caught quite a few teams napping over the journey, and he was at it again today, finishing with two, and hitting the post on a third attempt late in the piece.

He is calm, in control and uses the ball beautifully, and what he adds to the GWS midfield is the ability to hold the ball for an extra second and make good decisions. You can see his influence on players like Jacob Hopper now. Hopper is a bull, and likes to funnel the ball out or get it forward quickly, but he is adding the awareness to stop, prop and dish to someone in better position now – that is what Coniglio does.

Hopper is learning from the best.

The GWS captain looked like a man on a mission in this one, and though it is just a practice match, would feel a little vindicated by the loss. The GWS team with Coniglio at the helm is a different beast. An improved beast?

Well, I guess we’ll soon see.

 

ISAAC CUMMING

Looks like they’ve found another one.

Isaac Cumming lost the player I was hoping he would combine with most in 2020 (A Bonar) in the off-season, but he has well and truly taken the bit between his teeth and launched a bid to become a regular part of this powerful GWS team.

His intercept marking in this game, as well as his cool head under pressure demonstrated that the GWS defence is in good hands, even when the old warrior, Phil Davis decides that he has had enough.

Cumming notched 22 disposals, ten marks and nine contested touches as he prowled the defensive 50 like a panther, eyes on the footy, and making contests his own. GWS have suffered plenty with the injury big in recent seasons, but on paper, take a look at their defensive tall options.

Davis, Haynes, Sam Taylor, Cumming and Lachie Keeffe could all slot into a key defensive role easily, and there would be teams that would kill for that sort of depth.

So, not a bad day at all for Isaac, huh? How about if I told you he only played 61% of the game…

 

THE TIGER DARE

Did you notice this in the third quarter?

Richmond have this habit of allowing 15-20 metres space between the immediate defender and the next option up the field. It’s the Richmond dare, and only the bravest of teams take the challenge.

Or the stupidest.

Where GWS sits on this scale of bravery/stupidity is probably best broken down in a pre-season game. Richmond allow the forward handball… they lull you in. Once, twice, three times… and whilst you get rid of the ball and gain ground, their web closes around you, and each forward handball becomes more pressured, more panicked, until the turnover occurs.

The thing is – Richmond know the turnover is coming. They’re set to go the other way, and the forwards are ready to pounce. The opposition believe they’re going to run the forward handball gauntlet and get through. It’s a rarity.

Richmond tightened the screws on the Giants in the second and third quarters. They asked the question of the Giants, and caused turnovers, and it is open to interpretation as to whether Richmond stopped asking questions, or whether GWS answered well enough to deter them in the last.

Whichever way you look at it, the Richmond capacity to pressure the footy has not evaporated over summer. But has the Giants’ ability to withstand it increased? We’ll get our answer in 2020.

 

DUSTY DIFFERENCE MAKER

Do you think Martin took the foot off the pedal in the second half? Maybe just a little?

At half time, the reigning Norm Smith Medallist had 16 touches and two goals. He added just eight touches in the second half, and a couple of times he looked as though the chasing aspect of the game was something he wasn’t interested in.

Such is the way of Dustin Martin.

He still applied great pressure when the ball was in his vicinity – his smother and resultant goal in the first quarter were vintage Dusty, but this was still a practice game, and you don’t go 100% in practice games.

Still, Martin was the only player on the park that was able to contribute double figures in score involvements. In short, when the ball is in his hands, good shit happens.

As if you needed to be told that, right? Thanks Captain Obvious…

 

COTCHIN LOOKS FIT

I know Tiger fans will argue to the contrary, but in terms of Trent Cotchin’s overall output, 2019 saw a decline. He would still do little things in moments to let you know he was still around, and those little things may have added up to some pretty big things (they don’t come much bigger than holding a premiership cup aloft) but in terms of consistent impact, Cotch was a little down last year.

Whilst he had just 18 disposals in this game (he averaged 19.8 last season – the first time under 20 since 2010) but it was the nature of his possession that impressed me. Over a quarter of his touches came under pressure in the centre, with five of his seven clearances coming at the centre bounce. He also added two direct goal assists to his name as he worked to the betterment of his teammates.

I like Trent Cotchin. I don’t know the bloke and I probably never will, but he strikes me as a genuine bloke. The vision of him cleaning the club rooms a couple of years back stuck with me (and my missus loved it). This is a captain who would bleed for this team and for those he leads; how could you not follow him?

 

THE CAMERON KNEE – THE LAMBERT HEAD

I don’t know who the commentator was in this game working with Dermott Brereton and David King, but it sounded to me as though he wanted there to be something more sinister to the knee from Jeremy Cameron to the head of Kane Lambert in the first quarter.

There wasn’t. It was an accident.

With the ball trickling over the line, Lambert and Cameron were chasing it down. Both went to ground, with Cameron dropping to his knees as the ball went over.

Enter Lambert’s face.

Cameron’s knee made contact and jolted Lambert. There was no malice, no ill-will – it’s a damn practice game, and if you believe that was intentional, I don’t think I could persuade you otherwise. Footy is still a contact sport, and there will be instances where contact to the head is made. If it is deliberate – penalise people. But if it isn’t, pay the free kick and get on with it.

I hope Lambert recovers quickly and is right for Round One.

 

RIOLI SHOULD HAVE, AND COULD HAVE

This should have been a four or five-goal game from Daniel Rioli, who fluffed a couple of easy chances early in the game, but still did enough around the ground in the first half to have a significant impact on the contest.

I have long thought that Rioli doesn’t do enough in his role across half forward, often going missing as players like Castagna, baker, Lambert and Caddy do the hard yards, but he was wonderful in the first half of this game, and provided both an option inside 50, and also ran hard up and down the wings to provide an option.

I am sure he has had bigger games IN bigger games, but Rioli started to show a maturity in this game, and a bigger tank, working harder both with and without the ball. He finished with 18 touches and two goals, providing an aerial option for the Tigers at points as well.

 

TWO EXCELLENT FULL FORWARDS – TWO DIFFERENT STYLES

It was wonderful to see Tom Lynch at one end and Jeremy Cameron at the other end in this one. These two may very well fight out the Coleman Medal with poor old Ben Brown missing out again) in 2020, and with Lynch kicking four, you’d be forgiven for thinking he had more influence, right?

Yeah, you would.

Whilst Lynch was very good, Cameron played more of a half forward role, venturing up to the wing and doubling back to earn touches, leaving space behind him for Toby Greene to work in.

It was a decent plan.

Cameron roamed around the Wagga ground, and picked up the lazy 22 touches and 12 marks. Not a bad day’s work for someone who only hit the scoreboard for two behinds. Cameron collected nine score involvements as he worked his way into the contest, and looks to be in ripping shape to start the season.

If you were having a bet on who will kick more goals in 2020, who would you take? Given Cameron just won the Coleman, your head might say him. But then why are so many choosing Tom Lynch? I am, and I reckon it is because he hangs out a lot closer to goal. Even on a quiet day, he can kick four goals, but that doesn’t mean he had more influence in this one than JC.

 

OTHER BITS

Haven’t really mentioned Josh Kelly in this one. Maybe I missed him… like he kept missing targets inside 50 today. Ooooooh, burn from the Mongrel! It was pointed out in the broadcast, but if Kelly is to be considered elite, he has to do more than hit the easy kick and the long bomb inside 50.

He had 34 touches but only three score involvements, indicating he did not hit targets going forward. Watch the tape of this game and learn, Josh.

Another nice outing for Jackson Hately, who knows how to find the footy. 29 touches, a goal and six clearances are the kind of numbers many mids would kill for. As good as he was, Tom Green had a moment in the last quarter where he won a clearance, faked the handball and hit Toby Greene lace out on the lead which would’ve made many GWS fans smile. There is a reason they wanted him so badly, and he has already displayed it in the Marsh Series.

How good is the sidestep to avoid a tackle from Marlion Pickett? Only natural footballers have that ability to change direction and completely lose a player chasing you, and if there was ever a natural footballer, it’d be Pickett.

Sam Jacobs in the ruck? He didn’t help at centre clearances, with the Tigers more than doubling the GWS mids, but he broke even around the ground. It was a good battle with Soldo, but Jacobs gets the nod due to far superior influence around the ground.

Oh, and this wasn’t bad at all from Sydney Stack, was it

 

Overall, a nice win for the Giants, but I don’t think anyone at Punt Road is losing sleep over it. There were points where the Tigers tightened their grip (the forward handball) and I reckon they know that pressure is still there. The Giants, though this is no cause for celebration, will like what they saw from some kids, and the form of some stars. A very entertaining game of footy.