Who wants a spot in the Finals this year?
If you’ve looked at both Greater Western Sydney and Melbourne in recent weeks, you can easily argue that neither side have played football deserving of a top eight spot. The Giants were dominated around the ground by a wooden spoon-bound Adelaide during the week and Melbourne have lost games against Sydney and Fremantle in their last two outings – games that they should’ve won.
On this night at the Gabba however, we saw one of the games of the season. It was a game befitting of two teams that were fighting for their seasons. Bodies were thrown on the line and players were willing to take the game on. It didn’t look pretty at stages, but it kept me on the edge of my couch nonetheless.
For Melbourne fans, they can breathe a sigh of relief as their finals chances hang in the balance for another week. For the Giants, well it’s now put their season in jeopardy and makes their game against St. Kilda next week such a crucial game in the context of shaping the Finals.
Here’s all the bits and pieces from a fantastic game in the review.
Was Dropping The Captain The Right Call?
This is arguably the biggest talking point from this game, and it didn’t even happen on game day – that’s how huge this call is now with the result now in, it needs to be scrutinised. To be fair to the Giants, that loss to the Crows on Tuesday night was ringing alarm bells from all angles and they needed to make a statement at the selection table this weekend.
However, this was not the right call to make.
I’ve been a big critic on the decision to name Stephen Coniglio captain since the appointment. The whole thing just stinks as a bolt-on that came with that lucrative seven-year deal. He has had a very indifferent year and does not look like the kind of player that leads by example the way that Phil Davis and Callan Ward did in years gone by.
However, clubs always need to stand by their captain and this verified just how broken the Giants have been this year. It’s an amazing fall from grace to their September run last year, which saw them make the Grand Final from sixth.
Now they’re in serious danger of missing finals altogether – what a difference a year makes.
However, if you’re forming a counter-argument for this, look at the work of one of the inclusions for this game in young Tom Green.
He’s was highly-rated in last year’s draft class and it still astounds me how he was allowed to slip as late as pick 10 – he’s going to be a fine player if he isn’t already. He led all players in disposals with 30 for the match, with 21 of those being contested. Let that sink in for a minute. 21 contested possessions for an 18-year old – that’s incredible stuff.
He also had four clearances, but the couple of knocks that he’ll get from this was that he only had eight kicks and his disposal efficiency went at 46 per cent. They are viable arguments, but that’s he showed the kind of effort that his older teammates should have brought to the game, he was the man that won the footy from the source at the Giants and kept them in it.
The Way The Game Was Played
I hate listening to the television commentary, so I like to listen to the radio as I watch the game unfold. Tonight Daniel Harford – AFLW coach and a man who I have great love and respect for – said this on 3AW:
“Both teams are desperate and are prepared to fight for it tonight… This is good for footy”
Harf, you are a man of wisdom, no wonder the Blues are trekking so well in the AFLW. He identifies exactly the kind of game this was tonight. If you’ve watched the game, you’d see how many players were willing to put themselves in harm’s way to have the footy in possession of their team.
Neville Jetta hurt himself putting his body on the line in defensive 50 in the final quarter. Toby Greene put his head over the footy in a contest against Christian Salem. Nick Haynes was holding his mid-section after flying in to spoil to bring the ball to ground.
Combine that with both teams’ trying to run the corridors and producing scores from inside 50s more often than not, it really is good for footy, because it’s had some rotten games this year.
To quote a song from one of my favourite rock bands, The Dire Straits: “He got the action, he got motion, yeah, the boy can play.”
The boy in this scenario is Trent Rivers. He has all the tools to become a bloody good player in the competition, it’s actually puzzling to think that he was taken as late as pick 32 in last year’s AFL Draft. When I was doing my mock draft last November, he was thereabouts inside the top 20 players.
He showed in his first six games that he can run well with the footy and his delivery is nice and crisp at either half-back or on the wing. What he showed on Saturday night however is that he can stand up and deliver up forward. He nailed a big set shot in the third quarter after copping a clumsy (or deliberate if you ask this guy) hit from Shane Mumford. Then he came up big time with a snap in the closing stages of the final quarter.
Yeah, the boy can play.
The Demons That Stood Up In The Final Term
That final quarter was arguably the most important quarter for Melbourne this season. The previous two quarters were controlled by the Giants, but poor execution and brilliant offensive transition by the Demons kept them in with a sniff. But they managed to match the Giants in contested ball and played as if they wanted to feature in Finals.
Max Gawn dominated Shane Mumford in the hitouts all night, but the Giants’ big man had limited his input around the ground in both the second in third quarters after a strong start. But the bearded one showed up in the moments that mattered. He won important clearances, hitouts, possessions and took a big intercept mark in that final term.
Christian Salem had a big second half, but his composure with the footy was needed in that final term seven of his 19 disposals came in that final quarter and went at 85 per cent. He was also working hard without the footy, laying three tackles in that final term. Also, props to Clayton Oliver, who had a strong game overall, capped off with a solid final term.
Charlie Spargo kicked a big goal in that final term and helped set up scoring opportunities, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver were strong at the source and Jack Viney and Jake Lever had a couple of important plays in defence.
I watched him miss a simple set-shot from about 15 metres out with not much angle in the game against Sydney, and then completely slaughter another opportunity which went up the other end to seal the win for the Swans. I was thinking: What use is recruiting a guy, who is supposed to run and create on the wing if he can’t bloody use it??
Well, this game showed exactly why Melbourne brought him in. Yes, his disposal efficiency is still a problem – he did go at 56 per cent – but he got himself into so many good positions between the flanks and worked his rear-end off – 19 disposals, nine marks, four score involvements and four inside 50s and 462 metres gained, only Steven May had more for the Demons.
It might be one of his best games since crossing over from Fremantle, and it came at an important point of the year.
The Sleeping Giants
It goes without saying, the Giants should be in amongst the fight for the top four, given what happened last year. But instead find themselves fighting for a spot outside the eight. To be honest, they don’t deserve a spot. Their use of the ball going forward is abysmal and there is just not enough players pulling their weight.
Toby Greene – 0.3 from gettable shots, on his day that is 3.0 and probably finds room for a fourth.
Matt De Boer – Was he tagging anyone? Otherwise, nine touches is shithouse.
Shane Mumford – Would’ve dragged him at quarter time. Is an absolute liability if he’s not belting blokes.
Sam Reid – Not an AFL-standard player.
Harry Himmelberg – Five disposals, passenger.
Jeremy Cameron – Had Joel Smith wear him like a glove all game long and had little impact, sans for a nice goal in the third term.
Nick Haynes – Was made accountable by Bayley Fritsch all night. Full credit to the Demon forward, but Haynes has to be influential in the defensive half.
Adam Kennedy – What’s happened to him? He always used to be so sure of the footy, but now he just makes a meal of it.
Tim Taranto – Had good moments in this game, but didn’t do enough of them – yes I get he has had a limited pre-season, but he’s still out there.
Harry Perryman – Lots of hack kicks and fumbles – has dropped off the pace significantly from the start of the year
Players like Lachie Keeffe and Daniel Lloyd had moments in this game, but they are not best 22 players for GWS going forward, but purely role players and it showed tonight.
A lot of these blokes were important for them at this time last year, hell even Mumford in the Preliminary Final was huge. But this is where the giant step backwards starts and Leon Cameron’s two-year contract extension the other week is where it ends.
A More Positive Spin On Things For The Giants
I feel like that last section was just a shooting gallery for the Giants, so let’s talk about some of the players that did pull their weight.
Along with Green, I thought Josh Kelly was the best player in Orange on the night; he worked as both an inside midfielder and out, and finished with 24 disposals, 13 contested, as well as 10 inside 50s, six score involvements, five intercepts, five tackles and four clearances. A very good game from him.
Zac Williams looked like he cared about the team ‘supposedly’ playing for Finals. 18 disposals, four tackles, four marks, kicked a pair of goals and looked willing to take the game on at every opportunity, which is the crux of this particular game, with a lot on the line.
Brent Daniels; gee whiz he came up with some big moments in this game. His three goals all came at important stages of the game, The first is a sure-fire contender for goal of the year – a dribbler from over 45 metres out from the boundary, haven’t seen the replay yet? Go and watch it, it’ll be on YouTube somewhere by the time it gets published. The second a kick whilst being tackled and under pressure and the third coming with 33 seconds left in the game to get the Giants back to within a kick.
The Other Bits
Kysaiah Pickett, how good is this kid going to be if he can brush up on his finishing? He kicked 1.2 and didn’t trouble the scorers with another set shot. Could’ve easily had three or four in this one and stamped his authority on this game. But still, he worked hard all game long – lots to love about him.
Whilst on the younger blokes, Oskar Baker will be a very nice player for the Dees. He kicked two goals from very difficult angles early in the piece and bobbed up here and there as the game progressed. Finished with five score involvements, four intercepts and 14 disposals.
Jack Buckley on debut looks like he’ll be a handy player in the years to come, a bit like Riccardi. Tall, agile can float around both as a forward and a defender. Took a couple of strong intercept marks, had a few tackles and a number of intercept possessions.
Steven May’s second quarter was huge, taking four intercept marks, he’s been in superb touch over the past month and a bit – I feel that a Finals appearance may be all it takes to seal that All-Australian team slot.
Jacob Hopper’s contested work I liked – 13 of his 21 disposals were contested possessions and had five clearances to go along with that. But, as much as I like that, his work around ground still leaves a lot to be desired.
Can we get a campaign to get the old Melbourne Demon logo back as the official club logo? I thought that looked very cool on the Melbourne guernsey on Saturday night. Maybe that’s just the nostalgia side of me talking.
And on that trip-down-memory-lane side of things, it’s time to put this review to pasture.
Melbourne must win their game next week against Essendon and could essentially lock down a spot in the eight. GWS’ game against St. Kilda is a must-win for both of those sides – dependant on percentages, the loser of that game will be knocked out of the eight for good, with the Western Bulldogs facing two games that they are slated to win in the next week.
But in a season of topsy-turvy results, who knows who occupies those last few slots in the top eight.
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