Now this is what I want to see on Friday Night Footy!
A tight, tough and highly entertaining tussle between the Giants and Pies was highlighted by some Toby Greene brilliance, some Tom Green toughness, some Scott Pendlebury class and a devastating injury to one of the best defenders in the game in Jeremy Howe.
With their backs to the wall and staring down a 1-3 record, the Giants threw everything at one of the form teams in the competition, and for a little while, it looked as though it might not be enough in the game of the season to date.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
THE GREENE MACHINE
I may have to wipe up after I write this section… be warned.
I love watching Toby Greene play footy. I have sung his praises for ages now, even when he was kicking people in the face and supposedly gouging people’s eyes out. He is the kind of player you pay to watch play footy. When he is near the play, things happen. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but something happens nevertheless. Though I am sure there will be the litany of jokes about crowds being the same now as they normally are for GWS games… champagne comedy, by the way… Greene is the kind of player I would go to the footy to see.
He is a lightning rod, an elusive, ball-winning, supporter-infuriating, smug, arrogant, wonderful asshole! He is a character, a villain, a hero and an undoubted star of the game, and tonight we saw all facets of the Toby Greene show. It was a rollercoaster and like the massages Joe Ganino gets, it had a happy ending.
I’ve not seen Brayden Maynard beaten in a while, but when you see a bloke laying on the ground applauding the efforts of his direct opponent, you know, irrespective of how the media and/or umpires treat him, that Toby Greene has the respect of his peers.
He took contested marks, bobbed up and snapped goals, gave away handballs to people when he should have kicked his fourth… yeah, that was a mistake, but it was a team-first mistake. If you’re looking for the player that was the difference between the teams, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more influential than Greene.
In a game decided by two points, how important are three goals to one player? With players like de Goey and Cameron well held, it was Greene who stepped up when it mattered and made things work inside 50. Others had moments, but this was Toby Greene’s game.
We were blessed in this game to have some of the best intercept defenders in the game at either end.
Prior to his injury, Jeremy Howe looked as though he could go a long way to securing the player of the game award… which I don’t give out. So yeah, he could have won… nothing. But you get my drift. His presence across half back was telling as he slotted in to cut the GWS attack off at the knees several times.
At the other end you have this bloke named Nick Haynes. Last season he finally started getting recognised for the level of play he was maintaining week-in and week-out. Damn… it took long enough, didn’t it?
Tonight, he notched the rare defensive double-double. Oh… you don’t know what that is? That’s because you’re not a member and haven’t delved into my archives and found out about it.
The defensive double-double is when a player records double figures in both one percenters, which is basically spoils for a defender, and intercept possessions. With ten in each category this evening, that means that Nick Haynes was responsible for winning or killing 20 contest in this game. How’s that for solid defending!
Whilst Phil Davis and Sam Taylor did a heap of the heavy lifting, Haynes was able to zone off and impact contests all night long. He’ll probably be overlooked by many in terms of votes, but I thought he was wonderful. And hey… I get to give votes for our Mongrel of the Year award for this game. Guess I’m giving a little bit away, huh?
Finally, Darcy Moore. He was about five minutes away from a brilliant game against Jeremy Cameron, wasn’t he? But when Cameron marked and converted that wonderful 50 metre goal in the last quarter, it kind of took the sheen off his game just a little.
Moore had eight intercepts for the night, and looked like he had a handle on Cameron very early in the game. I am just old enough to remember his dad playing for Collingwood and Melbourne. He looked like a greyhound when he ran with the footy. It’s amazing how similar Darcy is.
Well, no… it’s not amazing considering he’s his son, but… I forget the point I was trying to make.
On a night where the big defenders made some huge plays, and the injury to Jeremy Howe will stick out in your mind, spare a thought for Nick Haynes. He had an incredible performance that will probably be ignored. Don’t ignore his game. Don’t be part of the problem. Defensive double-doubles don’t happen that often.
THE OTHER GREEN MACHINE
I’m glad the commentators picked up on how string Tom Green was over the footy in the last quarter. With all the attention heaped on Matt Rowell over the last few weeks, Green may fly under the radar a little, but this was a powerful performance for a young fella.
Green finished the game with seven clearances – equal high with Pendlebury, and picked up three of those vital take aways in the last quarter. Actually, if you go back and watch, which I am sure you will if you want to analyse the last ten minutes of the game yourself, you’ll see that Green picked up those clearances quite late in the piece. When the heat was on, he moved into the middle and won contests. That is bloody impressive!
Remember the draft when GWS were desperate to trade up to ensure they picked Lachie Ash before a bid came on Tom Green? Geez, that was such a smart move. Now they have two new stars to bolster their line up for years, and I have a feeling that by the end of next season, the discussion around Rowell or Green might just start rivalling the discussion around Rozee, Walsh and Bailey Smith that I am always trying to stoke.
At least I’ll discuss it, anyway.
THE DE BOER MAGIC TRICK
For Matt de Boer’s next trick, watch him make Steele Sidebottom completely disappear!
For the entirety of the first quarter Sidebottom was a phantom, with Matt de Boer absolutely destroying both in contests and out in the wide open spaces. I’ve got a question for Sidebottom down a bit further, but let’s focus on de Boer here.
After getting hold of Patrick Dangerfield in Round One, I questioned the way Leon Cameron used him against the Kangaroos in Round Two, moving him off Ben Cunnington (who he was clearly beating) and onto Shaun Higgins (who had only had two touches at that point).
In that game, the Kangaroos won on three fronts – the scoreboard, Higgins got off the chain against de Boer, and after the tag on him was released, Cunnington worked into the game as well. To put it mildly, it was a coaching cock up.
But Cameron made no mistake with him tonight.
Sidebottom went forward to break the tag and still had zero influence. Whenever he moved back into the middle, de Boer welcomed him with open arms… usually to tackle him.
This was a huge win for the Giants as Sidebottom has been one of the Pies’ best performers this season, and in Round Four, Matt de Boer picked up his second major scalp of the season.
Steele Sidebottom… you just made the list!
BIG MUMMY V GRUNDY
Now this was very interesting!
47 hit outs to Brodie Grundy in this one – only Todd Goldstein had had more in a game, from memory, but the efforts of Shane Mumford were wonderful in this game.
The stats won’t show it, but the way Mumford neutralised the impact of Grundy at stoppages was brilliant. Giving Grundy no separation at all, Mumford would be as close as he could possibly get at ball ups and throw ins around the ground. Whilst Grundy would get his hand to the footy, it went nowhere more often than not. Hit outs to no advantage, and when you’re playing against Grundy, you almost count that as a win.
Mumford refused to allow Grundy the chance to take the ball out of the ruck – usually a tactic that allows Grundy to secure several clearances per game. Tonight he had just two, and Mummy managed four of his own.
If you’re a stats man, you’ll look at this game and think Grundy went out and did what he normally does, but if you are a watcher of footy, and a someone who looks for a bit more than just kicks, marks and hit outs, you will appreciate the mountain of work Mumford did to negate Grundy.
It was a ripping effort by the big Mummy.
HEATER TAKES ON THE BIG JOB
At quarter time, it looked as though Jaidyn Stephenson was about to put on a show. Then again, it looked like that last week too, didn’t it?
Playing against Aiden Corr, Stephenson looked too quick off the mark to stop, and Leon Cameron was compelled to make a change. So over went Heath Shaw, once again taking on the big job.
Shaw completely shut down the enigmatic (another word for inconsistent?) Stephenson by matching him at the contest and playing largely a couple of metres in front of him. Once confronted with a different situation to deal with, Stephenson looked lost and Shaw was able to take control of the contest.
He was the equal number one player on the field in terms of Rebound 50s (with Zach Williams) and is deserving of some real praise in this game.
At 34 years old, Shaw is performing a role that he probably shouldn’t but he is still good enough to go toe to toe with any of the best mid-sized, or small forward in the game. he never, ever shirks responsibility and when all is said and done will go down as one of the best defenders in the history of the game, statistically.
If you get the chance, head on over to afltables.com and check out the all-time rankings in stat categories. You’ll come away with a new appreciation for Shaw and what he has been doing for years on end. He made the right decision to go round again…though I am sure Stephenson wishes he hadn’t.
BRODY TO THE RESCUE.
In a rare moment of insight, Brian Taylor really nailed his assessment of Brody Mihocek, who was being soundly beaten by Sam Taylor up until half time. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed as though Mihocek found himself in the right place at the right time and… viola!
Two goals in quick succession aided the Pies in erasing the Giants’ lead and just like that, Mihocek started looking like a dangerous player again.
It was something that was repeated in the last quarter with Mason Cox, as after being belted by Phil Davis, he started relishing the fact the former captain was off with an injury and clunked a couple of nice marks and converted a goal.
I was waiting for Jamie Elliott to bob up and do something similar, but for the Pies, those flashes of brilliance weren’t enough. They needed more of them, more often.
MOTOR RUNNING AGAIN
I’ve been a little critical of Josh Kelly at times over the last year or so. At one point this young season I started to wonder whether my expectations of him were just too high. I mean, he was obviously trying, but just wasn’t getting anywhere near the sort of run I thought his team needed from him.
It turns out I didn’t expect too much from him – he just wasn’t producing it. tonight, he turned that around.
Kelly was excellent in the second and third quarters as he powered up and down the wing to give the Giants plenty of drive. He gained 429 metres for his team and his 81% efficiency is exactly what the team needed from him.
I expect to see him rate really well in our weekly wingman rankings when I release them early next week.
STILL CHUGGING ALONG
As one who has toyed with the nickname of the Rolls Royce, Josh Kelly, sprinted up and down the wing for the Giants, the vintage model with plenty of miles on the clock showed he has lost nothing of his ability to get in and get dirty, and maybe pick up a few scratches to the paintwork in the process.
Scott Pendlebury had 17 contested touches in this one as he once again put the Collingwood midfield on his back. The leading disposal winner on the park, Pendlebury had seven clearances and seven inside 50 deliveries as the Pies made a real run at the Giants.
How many years can he do this for? How many years can he continually be so damn good?
I wrote above about how much I love watching Toby Greene play, but seeing Pendles out there is something I am really going to miss when he eventually hangs up the boots. Luckily, I don’t think that’ll be for a few years yet, and he will retire as the career leader in several stat categories.
He’s still a star – one of the brightest.
CAMEOS DON’T WIN OSCARS
This might seem harsh, particularly as I just gave Brody Mihocek a bit of a wrap for the five minute blast he delivered in the third quarter, but consistent performances win matches, and players that flitter in and out end up sitting on the sidelines.
Ask Daniel Rioli if that statement is true.
There were quite a few players that really went missing for long periods in this game.
Jeremy Cameron lifted his work rate in the last quarter, but he was obliterated in the first three stanzas.
Mihocek had his 15 minutes of fame, but was unsighted for the rest of the contest.
And Jaidyn Stephenson played one quarter for the second straight week.
These blokes are capable of being match winners. They’ve done it in the past, but to fade in and out of the game allows their defenders to worry about them a hell of a lot less than they normally would. In Cameron’s case, how do you think Darcy Moore was able to attack so many aerial contests? Cameron was working into positions where he was not dangerous. Moore knew it, and would go to where he knew he would impact the game.
Then there was Mason Cox, who looks like he has been taking marking lessons from Hawthorn’s Tim O’Brien – two hands to it and… nup, dropped it.
KNEES DON’T BEND LIKE THAT
If we were to name the All-Australian team right now, Jeremy Howe would own a spot on the half back flank. His defensive presence and willingness to back himself in contests has seen him as one of the most dominant defensive presences in the league this season.
Was he on track for a career-best season? I am not looking at the stats as I write this, but in terms of his impact on the game, I would say absolutely he was.
And now we wait to see what the diagnosis is for Howe, who had his leg bend sideways. While I have my fingers crossed, that looked pretty ugly.
One thing that was lost in the contest that ended Howe’s evening was the endeavour of Jacob Hopper, who went incredibly hard at the footy. His ferocious attack on the ground ball saw him beat the charging how to the contest. He went low. He went hard. And he won the contest. That fact should not be lost.
Howe’s absence, even for a week or two, will be a huge loss for the Pies. His intercepting has been incredible this season. His athleticism and marking prowess has been one of the highlights of this young season, and though the Pies are a solid team across the board, Howe has been one of the stories of the year. If you named a handful of players Collingwood would not want to lose, this season Howe would be right near the top.
I hope he recovers quickly.
SOFT 50 METRE PENALTIES
I am a big fan of doing the time if you’ve done the crime, but I hate harsh sentences for what would usually be a misdemeanour.
The 50 metre penalty against Toby Greene was probably there, but in a game like this, with the stakes so high, I am not sure a small bump in the back is worthy of a penalty of that magnitude. It’s like being sent to the colonies for stealing a loaf of bread.
The one later in the game was worse.
Jeremy Cameron clunked a mark on the wing and Darcy Moore put his hands in his back as Cameron marked it. The umpire then called for a 50 metre penalty stating that Moore had used a “professional push”.
The Pies were let off the hook when GWS botched their inside 50 delivery, as were the Giants earlier after Mayne missed the goal from the Toby Greene free kick, but I would hate to see one of these ticky-tack kind of decisions have an influence on the result of a game played so hard by all on the park.
We got away with it tonight and really, as it was one shitty penalty each, you could say it levelled out, but two wrongs don’t make a right.
IS STEELE SIDEBOTTOM SUSPECT WITH SOME ATTENTION PLACED ON HIM?
Pies fans, what do you think? The West Coast eagles used to unleash Mark Hutchings onto Steele Sidebottom whenever they needed the brakes put on him. In his stellar 2018 season, Sidebottom was tagged twice by Hutchings. He averaged 16 touches in the two games Hutchings went to him. One of them was the Grand Final, where he notched a season low 14 touches.
Tonight, the Giants opted to send Matt de Boer to him.
The result? 12 touches for Sidebottom and the kind of beat down around the footy that was so complete I am surprised there isn’t protests about it being organised as I type. Come on… surely we can get some Pies fans protesting about Sidebottom’s treatment at the hands of de Boer? It was pretty brutal.
HOWE OR HAYNES?
This was asked during the commentary and I thought it was a good question.
Of course, I am pretty sure no one answered it.
You’re putting together your team – which one do you take to win the flag this season? Assuming full health, of course.
Haynes really burst onto the scene in the minds of the AFL media late last year. We’d been banging the drum for him for two seasons prior at The Mongrel, but you know… I like to think we’re a bit ahead of the hive mind at times. His intercept marking and ability to put himself in the hole and control the defensive 50 is elite, but in truth, Howe probably hurts more with his touches.
With Howe, you’re getting both blue collar stuff with the occasional white collar screamer. He doesn’t spoil as much as Haynes, but he does look bloody good when he does what he does, and this season he was doing it better than ever.
It will be easy to be swayed by the injury to Howe, but again, assuming full fitness I would still take Haynes. He is all steak, whilst Howe is about 95% steak, and just a bit of sizzle.
I prefer to have a whole steak.
DID MASON COX’S TWO MARKS SAVE HIS SKIN FOR A WEEK?
I’m not sure – who are the other options on the list? Darcy Cameron will probably give you more of a contest at ground level – Cox’s missed diving/falling mark at the end of the second quarter was a coach killer. I would have backed Cameron to mark that one.
Ben Reid is still out for a few weeks, so it comes down to Cameron versus Cox for the marking target role.
I’m not sure a cameo appearance is enough for Cox, particularly as Cameron does some of the hard stuff too. He might get one more run, but if he doesn’t deliver, or at least drag down a five or so marks, I’d be going with Cameron.
HOW DID THE YOUNG BLOKES GO?
I already spoke about Tom Green, but there were some more kids out there having a run around.
Lachie Ash started well but faded really quickly. He finished with just four touches and the strength of some opponents seemed to worry him.
Tyler Brown was a non-factor. Eight touches and very minimal impact.
Josh Daicos has been good this season to date, but that form deserted him tonight. Just seven touches playing on the wing.
Callum Brown was better and did a couple of nice things in the fourth quarter. Was by no mean the Pies’ worst.
Jackson Hately had a pretty quiet one, particularly as we’ve seen what he is capable of. Eight touches will probably see him step aside next week.
I really liked the energy Jeremy Finlayson brought to the ruck when he relived Mumford in there. He was bouncing around, changing position and looking completely unorthodox. It is the sort of thing the Giants could deploy here and there to great effect.
I’ve got to almost the end without mentioning Lachie Whitfield who moved back to play a bit of wing in this game. Thank God! This is where he is at his best, and it makes it really tough to sit someone on him when he can use the space out there to run his opponent into the ground.
Zac Williams is a loss for the Giants in the short term, but geez I thought he was shaky by foot in the first half. It turns out he ran at 57% for the game, but early on he seemed to miss way too many targets and did the same last week.
Jordan Roughead gave away one silly free kick (sucked in by Finlayson) but for the most part he completely towelled up Harry Himmelberg and was once again one of the better defenders on the ground.
And that’ll about do for me. This was the game of the season thus far, and I hope I did it some justice.
The Pies move onto Round Five and a date with the Bombers which will no doubt receive a heap of press, whilst the Giants will host the Hawks. They’ll be looking to dispel the sour taste their last game against Clarkson’s charges left in their mouths.
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