A dominant midfield performance from GWS, combined with a fantastic lockdown effort from their back six, saw the Giants cruise to a 67 point win, sending them back toward the bottom half of the ladder in the process.

The clinical efficiency at stoppages from Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper and Callan Ward rendered the Adelaide midfield to the role of spectators as the Giants won the clearance battle 41-17 – I have not seen a result like that in a long, long time. As a matter of fact, I am having trouble remembering a more one-sided belting at stoppages than this one.

This was a flex by the Giants; a tap on the shoulder to the rest of the competition to remind them that they are far from a spent force.

The return of the running man, Lachie Whitfield, combined with the running power of Josh Kelly gave them a huge advantage out wide as the Giants quickly made up for some early inaccuracy to stampede over a flat-footed Adelaide team.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

 

THE GOOD

 

A RETURN AND A DEBUT

When I’m not on long service leave (a man of leisure at the moment), I work with families in a community setting, and I often marvel at how just one family in the mix can change the dynamic of the whole service. Attitudes change, moods change and reactions change – sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse.

The addition of Jesse Hogan and the return of Lachie Whitfield to the GWS line up were always going to have an impact. Whitfield has always been the engine room, running and carrying between the arcs for the Giants when they’re at their absolute best, and with GWS looking to run and gun in this one, Whitfield found himself in his element.

I may be a bit nit-picky here, but early in the game, Whitfield found it difficult to hit a target, with just four of his eight touches finding a man, but after that brief reintroduction to the senior team, he was off and running. He finished with 30 touches at 73% efficiency, whilst racking up a game-high 706 metres gained playing back on the wing.

And then there was a bloke up forward who has had question marks over him since 2019.

Jesse Hogan debuted for the Giants and immediately displayed both his footy nous and work ethic, combining marks inside 50 with run up to half back on occasion to offer an outlet for his defenders. Hogan received some great service from his new teammates – the kick from Toby Greene to set him up for goal early in the last quarter was a brilliant piece of vision and he seemed to display a nice connection with his midfield as well.

Picking up Hogan was viewed as a risk by many. He didn’t just burn bridges in Western Australia, he also peed on them once they flamed out, but with a fresh start and a renewed focus, he may have found the situation where he can flourish.

Four goals is a fantastic return on debut for the club. After a couple of weeks in the seconds, displaying good, if not brilliant form, he received the call up and provided a good presence inside fifty to combine with Harry Himmelberg, and the feisty and petulant Jeremy Finlayson. This version of the three-headed monster will give some teams plenty of headaches.

Hogan finished with 15 touches and five marks to go along with his four snags and with a game under his belt, he will only get better from here.

 

TAYLOR V TAYLOR

After having a goal kicked on you in the first 30 seconds of the game, one could be forgiven for thinking it was going to be a bad day at the office.

That’s what happened to Sam Taylor, as Tex Walker marked and goaled to give the Crows a flying start. Luckily, Sam Taylor does not think that way, and for the next three and a half quarters, he went about his business to score a resounding win over the form-forward in the competition.

Tex was restricted to just eight disposals and three marks, with the close checking of Taylor providing the Giants with something almost every other team has been unable to conjure to date – a weapon to curtail the brilliance of the former Adelaide skipper.

Taylor was all over Walker, using his elite closing speed to make the ground and athleticism to snare 12 spoils and eight intercepts in a spectacular defensive performance.

I’m quite sure Taylor will not receive the credit he deserves for his work on Walker – there were moments where it looked likely that Walker was going to gobble up the footy on the lead, or in a contest, only for the young GWS defender to close the gap and get a fist on the ball at the last moment. He drew free kicks against an increasingly-frustrated Walker.

In his defence, Walker didn’t do a hell of a lot wrong – he was presenting well, crashing packs (and Matt Buntine’s exposed ribcage) and generally made the play – it’s just that Sam Taylor was so damn diligent in restricting his ability to get his mitts on the footy.

Tex finished with two goals for the game, but he met his match in this game.

Sam Taylor continues to emerge as one of the best young defenders in the game and Is probably one more good game away from putting his hand up for All-Australian consideration. When you factor in that both Phil Davis and Nick Haynes are out of this side, he has taken the necessary steps to declare that he is more than ready to be the number one defender at Western Sydney.

 

STICKING TACKLES

Just last week I wrote about the concern I had that Tim Taranto was no longer doing the tough stuff, which included sticking his tackles.

Going back to 2019, Taranto was shaping as one of the best two-way midfielders in the caper, winning disposals at will and adding a defensive side to his game that saw him average 6.3 tackles per game. Last week, he looked like a shadow of that player, able to stick just two tackles as the Dogs ran away with the game.

At the time, I speculated whether there were any lingering effects of the shoulder injury that hampered him in 2020, and whether he was perhaps a little unwilling to risk injuring it again by really throwing his whole body into tackling an opponent.

Tim Taranto answered my concerns emphatically in this game, notching an equal game-high seven tackles to go along with 35 touches and seven clearances in a complete midfielder’s game.

The 2019 Best and Fairest winner looked back to his best as he cracked in to win contested footy, and spread well to receive from his teammates as well. The continued form of players like Taranto is one of the keys to the GWS machine. With him humming along, things seem to start falling into place more readily.

It is his work that kick starts the run of Josh Kelly and Lachie Whitfield, and in concert with Jacob Hopper, those two can wreak havoc on an opposition set up. The Giants have the Bombers next week, and the attack of Taranto at the contest will be vital in the Giants establishing an advantage over a susceptible Bombers on-ball group.

 

THE OTHER GREEN MACHINE

Spoiled for choice in the midfield, the Giants unveiled a new string to their bow against the Crows, throwing Tom Green forward to have an impact.

The second-year man floated between the midfield and the forward line, using his clean hands and good judgment to continually create scoring avenues for his team. Green finished with 11 score involvements as both he and Jacob Hopper moved the ball quickly and effectively to the open man to set up shots at goal.

Tom Green’s CV billed him as a future inside mid, but with Taranto, Ward and Hopper in the middle, the midfield squeeze at the Giants is a never-ending story. Rather than drop his head or start eyeing off a chance to move elsewhere, Green strikes me as the type of player who will eventually make one of those spot his own. In the meantime, he is doing the little things that cannot help make Leon Cameron and the GWS hierarchy take notice.

He is as clean below his knees as anyone in the league, powerful through the hips and with the ability to take one-grab overhead marks, he has all the tools to be one of the top mids in the game. However, until that time comes, he is filling any number of roles for the Giants, and filling them well.

 

DOEDEE

The stand-in Crows captain can hold his head up high in this one.

Recording 12 intercepts, Tom Doedee was a pillar of strength in a defence that was under siege at points in this game. The three-headed monster of the GWS forward line was causing all kinds of headaches for the Crows, but the presence of Doedee prevented things from being much worse.

Putting himself in the right spots on multiple occasions, Doedee relieved the pressure on the Crows with his ability to pluck the ball out of the air, and his one-on-one skills saw him add six spoils to the mix as well.

Doedee has been earmarked as the next captain of the Adelaide Crows. He plays with a belief in his own abilities and a passion that is infectious (not like the way Joe Ganino’s passion is infectious… I mean the good way). He will be a big part of this team when the Crows are contending again.

 

THE BACK SIX

I know I singled out Sam Taylor, and rightfully so, but it is important to recognise the maturation of this GWS back six in the absence of Phil Davis and Nick Haynes.

Connor Idun, Isaac Cumming and Jack Buckley are starting to shape into a very cohesive unit in defence. Throw in the presence and hard run of Lachie Ash, and you have a set up that can trouble teams, particularly when Taylor is able to get control of his one-on-one contests.

My worry is that they’re still relatively inexperienced, so having one of Haynes or Davis back there as well would be beneficial, but in terms of the next 7-8 years, this GWS defence is looking better and better.

 

TAKING THE WEAPON AWAY

This was covered off a little by the commentary team, but it deserves a little more attention.

The ability of Toby Greene to force the matchup he wanted was something quite remarkable. The Crows wanted Jake Kelly to take the match-up, but Greene basically decided that it was going to be Brodie Smith that was to be his opponent. The ensuing little game of blocking and switching saw Greene get his way, and after about the first ten minutes, the Crows permitted Greene to have his way.

Now, this is where it gets interesting.

Brodie Smith has been a running machine for the Crows from half back. His average metres gained over the last four weeks prior to this game was a mammoth 769 per game. In having to cover Greene, the Giants were able to extract Smith from both taking the bulk of kick ins and from having his way running off half back – they identified that Smith was dangerous and gave Greene the job of, not only being a weapon in his own right, but confiscating the Crows of one of their weapons in the process.

How did it go?

Well, Smith was -329 in metres gained compared to that average, and -9.25 in disposals.

Did the Crows simply give in to the demands of Greene? Or was it always the plan to send Smith to the GWS match-winner at some point?

Greene finished with 1.3 in another inaccurate performance, but his 19 touches and ten score involvements tell a more vivid story of his role in this one. Leading up around half forward, Greene was instrumental in the structure of the GWS forward line, leaving the space behind him for Jesse Hogan and Harry Himmelberg, who combined for seven goals.

GWS seem to have the forward line mix right now. Their three talls can all be very effective, but it is the work of Greene that allows this all to work. My favourite player to watch, and not by a close margin.

 

LET ME SHOW YOU HOW IT’S DONE

You know we have a weekly wingman rankings, right? Every week, in a members-only column, we have the best outside runners in the game ranked in a race to crown our Wingman of the Year.

Anyway… I like it, and if you’re interested, join up as a member to access it.

One who has been prominent all through the young 2021 season is the Crows’ Lachie Sholl. His hard run and stamina have been a standout, whilst on the opposite side of the square, we have watched Paul Seedsman excel to the point he has slotted in at the number one rank in the last two weeks.

This week, Leon Cameron must have looked at those two and allocated a task to his own runners, in Josh Kelly and Lachie Whitfield.

And they responded.

I’ve covered Whitfield already, and whilst Seedsman was good, he was nowhere near as prominent as Whitfield. It was on the other wing that the majority of my interest lay. There, Josh Kelly looked as though he took it as a personal affront that Sholl’s name was being discussed as one of the best runners in the game. Standing side-by-side, Kelly went to work and was one of the Ginats’ absolute best.

Not only did he provide run and carry – his defensive efforts were first class. Smothers, tackles, hard run and chases, Kelly did it all en route to 27 touches and ten score involvements. He was dangerous, potent and looked as though he relished the challenge from the young star.

To his credit, Sholl was far from disgraced. He had 21 touches of his own, but seemed to spend more time in the defensive half to aid his back six this week.

Kelly looked like the player so many teams eyed off when he was last out of contract in this game, and this is the kind of form the Giants need, and should be expecting from him more regularly. He was huge in this one – close to the perfect game on the wing.

 

THE BAD

 

OPPORTUNITIES LOST

GWS do not get off the hook here – they squandered multiple opportunities in the first quarter that left the door ajar for the Crows, if they were good enough.

As the siren rang to end the first quarter, the Giants had just one goal from nine shots, as they struggled to accurately assess the wind at one end of the ground. A scoreline of 14 points to two was not reflective of the domination they had with the ball in hand.

Toby Greene missed a couple, whilst Tom Green, Lachie Whitfield and Brent Daniels all failed to convert shots they would have normally gobbled up.

Of course, all’s well that ends well, right? But against a better opposition, those are the types of quarters that come back to haunt you. This should have been a 100-point win to the Giants – the type of win that people look to as the moment the club clicked and put it all together in 2021. It still may be regarded that way, but when they led by 14 points, it very well could have been a six-goal lead and the game could have been over.

Adelaide made the Giants’ efforts look okay in the second quarter, by missing several gettable shots at the same end, but ti does not excuse some of the misses from GWS. Yes, they ran away with the win, and yes, I may be labouring a moot point because of the result, but any team in the competition is capable of punishing you when you don’t make the most of your opportunities – GWS left plenty on the table, but the Crows forgot they were on clean up duty.

Also, a couple of goal line misses to the Crows didn’t help them much, either…

 

INVISIBILITY

I was unaware that Shane McAdam had a super power, but in the first half, he was obviously using his power of invisibility to its greatest effect, as he managed just one touch for the half.

I know a lot of people throw this kind of comment around to the point it doesn’t mean much, but I legitimately did not know he was playing until he took a mark on the wing in the third quarter and he received the Bronx cheers from the frustrated Adelaide fans in attendance.

What made matters worse was that McAdam also failed to provide any sort of defensive pressure on the dominant GWS defence, allowing the ball to release outside 50 with relative ease. His stats of one disposal and zero tackles to half time were indicative of his effort, and a far cry from the form he displayed in 2020 when the Crows were down and looking for someone to stand up.

He came to life in the third quarter, with five touches to his name – no doubt his lack of impact in the first half did not go unnoticed by the coaches, and he looked to make amends, but after fluffing a shot from 20 metres out, he was rarely seen again until missing a shot at goal from 40 metres in the last quarter.

McAdam is a player that could be termed “enigmatic” but having extended periods where you have no influence on the game, either offensively or defensively, means that everyone else has to work hard to cover the shortfall, and in a game where you are being beaten all over the park, no one has the damn time to be covering for you.

The Crows head into the Showdown next week on a downer. After a strong start to 2021, this game was their worst performance by a long way. There will be quite a few who will be under the microscope as we head into the big clash, but none more so than McAdam. After a flat performance like this one, I’m not even sure he should pull on the guersney.

 

THE UGLY

 

THE SLAUGHTER IN THE MIDDLE

The Crows would be desperate to regain the services of Rory Sloane next week to add some toughness to their inside game.

It was comprehensively exposed against the well-drilled and systematically brilliant GWS line up, with Rory Laird and Ben Keays flying the flag as well as they could, but against players like Hopper, Taranto, Green and Ward, they were just outbodied and outnumbered. The expected lift from the work of Jackson Hately did not eventuate, with the former Giant failing to have any influence at all. Five of his 11 touches resulted in turnovers, and he was relegated to the wing in the second half to allow someone else a crack at the middle.

Paul Seedsman was thrown into the middle, but his wheelhouse is the outside, so it started to look as though the Crows were trying anything to break the momentum. It didn’t work. They tried… and they failed.

Mumford negated the expected advantage the Crows thought they’d have through O’Brien, outworking him around the ground and nullifying him in the air, which gave the Crows mids no chance at all.

A 41-17 clearance deficit was indicative of the powerful performance of the GWS midfield. Adelaide ran headfirst into a buzzsaw in this game, and they now have the scars to prove it. It was a complete beatdown, from start to finish.

And now they just have to contend with Boak and Wines next week… fun times.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

IS JEREMY FINLAYSON EVER HAPPY?

I haven’t seen someone so annoyed at got getting the footy, even when his teammate kicks a goal in the same play.

I know the commentators commented on him spraying teammates, but the times I found of interest were when the Giants were in control and you had one player get the ball with options, dish to the one he thought best, and you could see Finlayson crack the shits in the background.

I mean, it shows that he is determined to have an impact, but when the team is enjoying success, it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t you slotting the goal, big fella.

 

IS THERE A FLAW TO BOBBY HILL’S GAME AT THE MOMENT?

Yeah, there is… and if I have to be the one to point it out, so be it.

Yes, he is exciting and yes, he is a highlight machine, but when the opposition gets the footy, he needs to make sure his man does not run off him. He was minded by David McKay at times in this one, and when the opportunity arose, McKay took off and found plenty of space.

Hill remained at home inside 50.

The result was 23 touches for McKay whilst Hill had eight touches for the game. Yes, he did look dangerous, but when he is not hitting the scoreboard, he needs to do the hard stuff to increase his value. Allowing his opponent free rein does not aid his team.

 

IS THE SECOND FORWARD ISSUE THE BIGGEST AT THE CROWS?

Yep, right now it is.

Fogarty hasn’t worked. Frampton hasn’t worked and today, Elliott Himmelberg didn’t work. They need someone to take the heat off Tex, but until one of these blokes puts his foot down and makes the role his own, they are going to be stuck with blokes who are undeserving of a spot in the side getting a spot in the side. Tex needs help. I am not sure they’re the right people to give it to him.

 

OTHER BITS

 

So, this leaves the Giants at 3-4 and back in finals contention. They get Essendon next week, followed by the Tigers at the ‘G (the scene of the crime) and Eagles back at home. They need to go 2-1 in that period to stay in the hunt. Right now, you’d think the Eagles are vulnerable, so wins against them and Essendon will all be part of the plan.

But man makes plans and God laughs…

The Crows take poor form into the Showdown and would be long shots to get close to Port. Following that, they have the Eagles in WA and have the Dees visit. Tough run, and they’ll need some cattle back to contend with the power of these teams.

Before I wrap up, big shout out to Ben Keays, who continues to dig deep for this Adelaide unit. His commitment to the cause, and ability to fight his way into contests is commendable and I don’t know why, but I have a real sense of… is it pride? Yeah, I kind of think it is. I have a sense of pride watching him become a player these Crows can start to rely on. He’s done a mountain of work and I am so pleased to see him playing good footy.

 

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