The Sydney Swans asked some questions of their own of the GWS Giants as the two Sydney-based teams took their Derby to Western Australia, and the Giants are still searching for answers, hours after the conclusion of a comprehensive belting.
Right from the outset, the Swans looked ‘on’, attacking the football with the kind of commitment that quickly exposed which of the Giants teams had shown up. I’ll get into it a bit more later, but the difference between the best of the Giants and the worst is the most marked of any team in the game.
And Sydney knows that.
The Swans applied the heat and the Giants got the hell out of the kitchen early, peaking around the corner at times to see what was cooking, but in no way, shape or form willing to enter into any serious kind of battle for control.
They were beaten pointless everywhere, with the Swans 41-point win probably nowhere near reflective of how much better they were.
The Mongrel has the big questions stemming from a great night for Sydney, and a very dirty night for the Giants
IS JAMES ROWBOTTOM THE NEXT STAR IN SYDNEY?
He seems to have a fair bit going for him, the young fella. I loved the way he attacked the footy in the first quarter. Whilst he was opposed to Josh Kelly, it was the young Swan who threw his body into contest after contest to win the footy.
Whilst his opponent reached for the footy, Rowbottom body-lined it and made it his. I have a little decision further down you can make for yourself, but having watched Rowbottom go to Steele Sidebottom a couple of weeks ago and do a good job, I was really keen to see how he travelled here.
The answer was good… he was very good.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that he blanketed Josh Kelly to the point Kelly was rendered useless – that would be a lie, but when the game was hot early, it was Rowbottom who got the ball going the Swans’ way. Eight of his 20 touches came in the first quarter as Sydney established their dominance, and four of those eight came in the form of clearances.
HAS JOHN LONGMIRE FOUND THE KEY TO UNLOCK NICK BLAKEY’S TALENT?
I’ve written about Blakey a couple of times in 2020 and to be completely honest, not much of it has been positive. He has looked completely lost at points this season, running to the wrong spots, dropping marks he should take and missing goals he should kick.
He needed this game, and more than that, the Swans needed him to have this game.
Blakey was moved onto the wing in the first quarter and relished the wide open spaces of Optus Stadium, dropping the hammer a couple of times and tearing away from half-back and providing a direct avenue inside 50. His second-quarter gave an indication as to the player he could be, and the player he was seemingly on track to become last season, as he had seven touches and snagged a couple of goals.
The thing is, he didn’t kick these goals after leading out from deep forward; he got them running across the face of goal, receiving handballs and converting. He played to his strengths – uncanny agility, the ability to change direction and step out of trouble… it was as though John Longmire flipped the switch and the lightbulb went off over Blakey’s head, reminding him that he can flat out play this game!
Blakey’s 18 touches and two goals are far and away his best return this season. He did fade after half time (three touches in the second half) but his work to set up the Sydney win was excellent.
Maybe he’s turned the corner, and if he has it means plenty of good things are in store for Swans fans.
DO THE GIANTS HAVE ENOUGH MONGREL IN THEM?
In a nutshell, no they don’t.
They were bowled over too easily and had nothing to fire back with. They were timid at times, and you could put a bit of that down to some inexperienced players on the park, but the Swans had the same issues… and they took no backward steps.
With Toby Greene on the sidelines, GWS play very differently. They have very little in the way of swagger or personality without him. Mrs Mongrel often likens Jeremy Cameron to one of those cleaning product superheroes… “need us to fight grime… we’ll do it!”
No, we need you to get a kick and put your big body into some contests to knock a few players over. That’s what we need.
Cameron did throw his weight around a little, headlocking someone in a tackle at one point, but that is garbage. His strength should be measured by whether he splits a pack here and there. Today, he didn’t take one mark.
He was absolutely trampled by Dane Rampe and didn’t give a yelp. He had a heap of friends, as well, but these friends don’t get the tag of superstar.
HOW DOES A TEAM WITH THREE VERY CAPABLE TALL FORWARDS OFFER NO COMPETITION IN THE AIR?
Well, firstly, a lot of credit has to go to the defence – Rampe, Melican, Cunningham and Mills were excellent and continuously led their opponents to the footy. However, the kicking inside fifty by the GWS midfield was astonishingly poor and they have to shoulder a lot of responsibility as well.
That said, can you recall Jeremy Cameron getting out of third gear in this one? I don’t remember seeing him drop the hammer and attack the footy with everything he had. He put in a couple of chases late in the game once the ball was being cleared from his area, but on the lead, or attacking the pack, he was in cruise control.
Early on, it was the Swans in position to take marks in the Giants’ forward fifty, and on some occasions, they did that uncontested, which is a cardinal sin in footy. If someone is dropping into the hole, you make them pay – no one on this Giants team made anyone pay. The Swans wanted it more and GWS allowed them to take it.
WAS WILL HAYWARD THE PERFECT OPPONENT FOR NICK HAYNES?
It certainly seems so, and credit must be given to John Longmire here. With Phil Davis out and their fantastic young interceptor, Sam Taylor on the road to recovery after some weird illness I was reading about last week (sorry for being vague), a lot fell on the shoulders of Haynes to hold this defence together. His intercept marking has foiled many teams in recent seasons and if allowed to roam around the defensive fifty unchecked, could have easily brought the Swans undone.
Enter Will Hayward.
Hayward had a ripping 2018 season and looked as though he and ben Ronke would form part of a dynamic Sydney forward duo at the feet of Buddy Franklin. How times change…
Whilst Ronke has definitely not progressed the way the Swans would have liked, Hayward has been experimented with this season. No anal probes… that I know of, but just some different roles for him. They’ve played him in defence and then swung him forward, but tonight he had a specific job, and it was a job he looked determined to do.
Haynes had six intercepts in this game but took just two marks for the game. With Hayward locking down on him, it left the GWS defence rudderless, and it took Leon Cameron way too long to address the situation, dropping Harry Perryman to half-back to help out. By the time that occurred, the game was over.
Hayward stuck to his guns all game and although this isn’t the sort of thing mainstream media celebrates, people who love the game will recognise how effective his role was for his team. Haynes usually controls the air – tonight, Wil Hayward and John Longmire took that away from Leon Cameron and left him searching for a Plan B for way too long.
A huge tick to the Swans here.
WAS HEATH SHAW THE RIGHT OPPONENT FOR TOM PAPLEY?
Look, the scoreboard says yes, I suppose, but it was not as though Tom Papley didn’t have his chances to punish the Giants.
Heater seemed to go to ground a little too readily for my liking, and on a couple of occasions, it was only some good team defence that corralled Papley and/or caused a miss. He kicked 0.3 and though on the surface, you look at that and call it a win for Shaw, Papley’s contributions were varied and may not show up on the stat sheet so readily.
His desperation in providing deft tap ons or all-or-nothing lunges at a loose ball to knock it to a teammate are the sort of acts that will be replayed in the reviews and Longmire will single him out as an example.
Too often, players who become the centre of attention stop doing the little things and just want to do the big things. Whilst I am under no illusion that Papley would have loved to snag a couple of goals, the little things he did in this game were just as important to his team.
And vitally, they were very important to those players around him. Paps shared the love in this one.
WHOSE GAME WOULD YOU RATHER – ROWBOTTOM OR JOSH KELLY?
Here’s your question.
Josh Kelly ran around and picked up 31 touches in this game, but he ran at just 45% efficiency – much less if we’re just counting the kicks. He had nine clearances, seven inside 50s and gained a whopping 576 metres for the Giants.
But was he as good as Rowbottom? Did he add more value with +11 disposals than the bloke who took it up to him in the first quarter?
Rowbottom had eight clearances – five of them in the first half – and helped shape the game to the benefit of the Swans. Whilst Kelly made an art form of grabbing the footy and kicking it forward in hope, Rowbottom’s touches seemed to have more impact. He went at just 50% efficiency, himself, but it was the nature of those possessions that swayed me to his side.
Sometimes rolling around in a Rolls Royce would be lovely… or I think it would – I’ve never been in one. However, I prefer a unit that’s a little more solid, a little more able to handle some rough terrain, and a little more likely to get a few scratches and dents.
GWS had the Rolls Royce pick up 31 touches, but I preferred the 20 touches from the off-roader, personally.
Interested to hear what you guys think.
DANE RAMPE – ALL AUSTRALIAN?
He really didn’t do much harm to his chances this evening, did he?
He gets nowhere near the credit he deserves and his past few weeks, battling on with his broken hand – he has been incredible. I thought his game against Hawthorn was some of the best defensive football I’ve seen – he basically beat my team with one hand, but he has continued to play the kind of footy that holds this team together down back.
There is some real competition for the key defensive roles in the AA team with Harris Andrews, Jacob Weitering, Tom Jonas and Darcy Moore all legitimate contenders, but to leave Rampe’s name out of the mix would be irresponsible.
We’re naming our second rolling All-Australian team after this round – it is a composite team made up of the teams submitted by ten or so writers, and my jury is out as to who I name in the back six until I watch each and every game this round. It’s that tight, and Dane Rampe is right in the mix.
WHAT DOES THIS DO TO THE MINDSET OF THE GIANTS?
Not a lot. I don’t think so, anyway.
They were abysmal, but it’s not as though they haven’t been here before, is it? Remember last year against Hawthorn, playing in light snow? It’s been about 12 months since that game and they went on to have this inspired three weeks of footy in September before falling over spectacularly against the Tigers.
They are capable of digging themselves out of this hole, but by the same token, they’re capable of digging to the point they just cannot climb out as well. The chasm between their best and worst is so vast that they can stick together to beat Geelong or Richmond and then fall in a heap against the Swans.
Are they mentally fragile? Well, aren’t we all in some way?
This team simply cannot play this poorly again in 2020 – that’s the deal in a nutshell. Not if it wants to have any say whatsoever in finals. This has to be the last time we see a midfield kick in hope instead of actually kick to the advantage of their forwards. And this has to be the last time this season we see forwards meandering about like they’re out for a Thursday night stroll.
One more slip up like this, and I reckon they might be cooked. Then… that’s when we’ll see who is staying at this club and who is looking elsewhere.
WHAT SORT OF WEAPON COULD JORDAN DAWSON BE?
A very potent one.
His two early goals were daggers in the heart of the Giants, but it was the handoff from Foot (sorry, had to) and the booming kick from 50 that caught my eye.
Longmire has this bloke with a booming kick at his disposal, and playing him solely in defence means that an attentive forward can stifle him in terms of getting forward and hitting the scoreboard.
But playing him on the wing, then moving him forward and back… it creates a bit of chaos and disorder in terms of whose responsibility he is. This allows Dawson to float down and take the handball from someone who may be struggling to make the distance.
Dawson is not going to struggle with anything around the 55-metre mark.
Port Adelaide currently employ this tactic with Kane Farrell, Hamish Hartlett and Trent McKenzie on occasion. If they can work them loose, they become a threat outside 50. Longmire using Dawson like this shows that he is still picking things up and learning how to use his players to their maximum potential.
Again… good coaching tonight.
WERE ANY OF THE FREE KICKS THE GIANTS RECEIVED IN FRONT OF GOAL LEGITIMATELY THERE?
The last one wasn’t. Dylan Stephens didn’t fall into Zac Langdon’s back and should not have been penalised, but at that point, few other than Stephens and Langdon cared too much.
The hold on Jeremy Cameron was technically there, but if we’re talking technicalities, it was technically the softest technical free kick I saw all night… technically.
Finlayson’s goal round the corner came as a result of another iffy decision. I would not have paid it.
So, really… had the decisions been a little more well thought out, we may have seen one goal for the Giants in this one.
And even that was a line-ball decision. Pathetic, really from a team with that kind of talent.
SO WHO WAS BEST ON?
It’s hard to go past Luke Parker. I’m not sure his best footy is in front of him, but in a team without Josh Kennedy, he was huge in this one and was fierce both at the contest and the opposition. 15 of his 29 touches were contested, providing a great balance of inside/outside work and his six tackles topped off a nice night.
I said he’d be hard to go past, but I just might… and I might go with Dane Rampe.
Jeremy Cameron kicked one goal – a charitable effort from the umpire to gift him such an innocuous holding free kick within range, but Rampe was not to be deterred. He stuck to his task and completely owned his match-up with the reigning Coleman Medallist, restricting him to just five touches for the game. My mate, Joe Ganino gets more touches than that in the change rooms at the City Baths in Melbourne. Or at least he used to when we were in high school… that was a weird place.
Callum Sinclair was excellent against Sam Jacobs, as well. I really liked the way Sinclair competed against Brodie Grundy a couple of weeks back, and he has carried that form into this week as well. I thought he had the best of Jacobs both in the taps and around the ground, using the ball well for a big bloke.
They’d be my top three, but I just cannot settle on the order.
DID THE GIANTS SCREW UP BY GOING AFTER SAM JACOBS?
It’s pretty hard to think otherwise.
Unless Jacobs is saving himself for the finals… which the Giants may not make, he looks slow, lethargic and… I hate to say it; like the game has gone completely past him.
If Jacobs was the answer to the GWS ruck questions… I’m not sure they were asking the right ones.
WERE THERE ANY GIANTS THAT COULD HOLD THEIR HEAD HIGH?
Well, not high, perhaps, but at least they could look Leon Cameron in the eye.
Zac Williams was good with his run off half back. He looked like he actually gave a shit, which is ironic as he is probably the one who will leave the club after this season.
I liked the effort of Harry Perryman as well. He put his head over the footy every time it was his turn to go, took the hits and kept working. You have to respect that.
And though Josh Kelly hacked it, there is no questioning that he continued to work hard all game.
That’d be about it, however.
WHO WAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE KID ON THE PARK?
I’m going to leave Rowbottom out of this, okay? He is already playing like a man at 19 years of age.
I really liked what I saw from Dylan Stephens and not just offensively. He led the Swans in tackles and refused to be brushed aside by bigger opponents. That he got to sneak forward and snag a goal was a bonus.
HEY, WHAT’S YOUR PODCAST LINKS?
Good question. Here they are. Give us a listen and subscribe to… to make me feel good about myself I suppose.
CAN THE SWANS MAKE A LATE-SEASON RUN?
At finals? No, I don’t think so. They were fantastic in this one, but they were playing a soft team. With four wins from 11 games, I suppose they are a mathematical chance, but absolutely everything would have to go right for them to make it.
And everything won’t go right – it never does.
With a bit of luck, and a hell of a lot of similar application to tonight, they could knock over a couple more teams and instil a winning mindset in some of the kids coming through. Do that, pick up a top five pick in what will be a wild and crazy draft this season (even more hit and miss than ever) and keep building.
IF THE GIANTS MISS THE FINALS, IS LEON CAMERON DONE?
I’ll tell you what – there is an experienced coach doing media right now that would be looking at that lineup and thinking “wow… what I could do with that team…”
If the Giants miss the eight, I’m sorry, but that would be the tipping point. He’d be out.
So there we go – a massive win by the Swans and a disappointing night for the Giants. If you have any questions of your own, feel free to add them in the comments below, or hit us up on our socials and together, we’ll work them out.
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