What a game of football…

The Giants had their chances to put it beyond doubt, and the Swans had a chance to pinch it. And that’s what is great about a contest like this – teams taking, or wasting their chances.

When Jesse Hogan hit the post twice in the third quarter, it left the door open for the Swans to make a run. When the Swans missed their chances in the last quarter, with that damn post involved again, they left the game on the table. Even the great Buddy Franklin failed to convert in the last few minutes, allowing the Giants one more opportunity to own the footy and own the game.

In the end, it was one final act by the polarising character, Toby Greene that put the game beyond doubt. With the ball in dispute, Greene attacked the contest against the oncoming Tom McCartin. He put his head over the footy, took the high contact he knew was coming, and alleviated the pressure. The Swans’ charge was halted at that moment, and the first genuine upset of the 2021 Finals was complete.

The stars stood up in this one – Franklin, Heeney, Papley, Parker… Kelly, Taranto, Taylor, Greene, Hogan – in a fantastic game of footy befitting a finals clash.

The Mongrel has the Big Questions stemming from the game.

 

 

IS TOBY GREENE IN TROUBLE?

For which thing? The shot to the chin of Justin McInerney or the contact with the umpire?

There is never a dull moment when Toby is concerned. After starting the game like he’d been shot out of a cannon, his second half… well, there were some indiscretions that may be costly.

The punishment for the McInerney incident has already been dealt – the ball was taken from him, the Swans went forward and gave Isaac Heeney a chance to hit the scoreboard. His shot failed, but it was one of those heat of the moment type of incidents that have plagued Greene’s career, and it could have been a lot worse.

The big one, and the one you’ll see replayed over and over until it is dealt with, will be the action of making contact with an umpire. I don’t know the umpire’s name and I don’t care to, but the AFL have been strong on protecting the umpires and it appeared that Toby made zero attempt to avoid him, making contact with his shoulder and chest as he passed him. Yes, it “appeared” that way.

But let’s have a closer look. Watch with two eyes, okay? On the supposed contact, look for the daylight… I feel like Gandalf.

 

 

Uh oh… did the narrative just change? Was it not as bad as everyone pointed out at the time? Appearances can be deceiving, can’t they?

And then this angle emerged.

 

 

It was a good story while it lasted. Greene was pissed at that point – you could see it in his body language in the moments before and after. He was still angry from the turnover resulting from the McInerney incident and wanted to let the umpire know all about it.

But it was not going to do any good, and at this stage of his career, he should have been aware of that. As many have argued against him, Greene should have known better, and perhaps he did… but he still got perilously close to the umpire and gave the haters ammunition. Once the second angle came to light, things changed again.

It is interesting to gauge the overexcited reactions to what was a very minute incident – I have read some people calling for several weeks suspension – Brad Johnson seemed a little too eager to throw Greene under the bus. I reckon that may be due to the name attached to the incident than the incident, itself. Yes, it was dumb to put himself in that position. Yes, it was unnecessary, but worth weeks? I don’t think so.

Other incidents that have seen players make contact with an umpire have seen fines in recent history, but this is Toby Greene – there is often one rule for everyone else and another for him. Lachie Neale received a fine for his contact with an umpire earlier this season. For mine, a fine is all it is worth and one of the league’s best players should run out next week to take on the Cats. That would be the ideal outcome.

Of course, me… the run of the mill footy fan… does not factor into a match review or tribunal decision.

Some will clutch at their pearls and ask you to think of the children who look up to Toby. How will they be influenced by this callous attack of… glancing contact at best? Others will blow it off as nothing. I sit in the middle – it was dumb, it was unnecessary to be in that position, but it is hardly worth throwing a guy on the sidelines for.

Give him the fine or let him off, and let’s play footy. I want to see the best players on the park in finals.

 

AND THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF HIS GAME?

You know you’re travelling well when Scott Pendlebury tweets that you’re the best player in the game. I mean, he’s never done that about me… not even once!

Toby Greene’s first half was mesmerising. His clean handling of the footy, opportunism, and ability to create something out of nothing aided the Giants in establishing a lead that would remain just one point too many for the Swans to reel in.

I have written a lot about Greene in 2021 – so much so that I feel that anything I write about his overall abilities would just be repeating myself, but the one thing he does better than anyone in the game is draw heat. He is a lightning rod for defensive attention to the point it makes all around him better as a result. This season has seen him add a second All-Australian selection to a career that has drawn as much focus on the negative as the positive, but there is simply no way you can watch him go about his business in the first half of this game and not come to the realisation that he is one of the best pure footballers you’ll ever see.

He sees things a little quicker, reacts just that bit better, and gets to the right spot more often than not.

And then there was the conclusion of the game.

We could turn it into a drinking game – how many contests did Toby Greene get to and cause a stoppage? Skull a beer for every one. He knew what was coming – knew he’d be tackled with that little bit extra that opponents save to dish out to him because he is Toby Greene. And he continued to barrel in, get both hands to the footy, take possession, open up his body, and take what was coming to him.

In the process, he took time off the clock, and then did it again, and again. A beer for every time Toby Greene was at the bottom of the pack in the last quarter… you’d wake up with a bit of a hangover tomorrow.

In the final act of the game, it was Greene again, making the play, taking the hit and earning the free kick. Again, he knew what was going to happen – Tom McCartin was going to make him pay – and he put his head over the footy anyway. Taken high, Greene hit the deck, the clock ran down and the Giants won the game.

They did not win because of Toby Greene – I should state this without hesitation. But he sure as hell helped them on the way, and any errors he made along the way were paid back in full in the frantic intensity of the final quarter.

When it was his turn to go, he went. No hesitation. No reluctance. That is what people fail to see about Greene – he never, ever shirks an issue. It is simply not in his nature.

 

HOW GOOD WAS THE SAM TAYLOR V BUDDY FRANKLIN CLASH?

I would pay money just to watch these two.

Amazingly, at half time, Buddy had three goals and loomed as the match winner, yet watching the pair, Taylor was more than a match for the soon-to-be 1000-goal kicker.

At half time, Taylor had compiled ten one-percenters and seven intercepts, as he anchored the Giants’ defence and prevented the Swans from finding their big target inside fifty.

Buddy was good when on the move, but in the air, Taylor was his master. I guess that’s what is special about Franklin though, right? He can be beaten and still find a way to have a big say in proceedings.

Buddy’s three goals were just about the only thing keeping the Swans in the game as we headed to half time. Actually, scrap that – Papley was fantastic as well. But Franklin’s ability to make the most of limited opportunities was fantastic.

One of the spoils early in the game from Taylor was absolutely spectacular. He looked gone for all money with Franklin on the lead, but a desperate, lunging spoil saw the ball pop out of the Franklin marking attempt.

Earlier this season, Franklin caught fire against the Giants, and gave Taylor a bit of a hiding in the second half. People had Buddy in the votes and lauded his press – and why not, right? He’s Buddy! Hwoever, they really forgot how good Taylor was in the first half of that contest, completely shutting Franklin down until the main break.

In this one, the battle see-sawed, with Franklin afforded the opportunity to deal what could have been the killing blow in the last quarter. He missed, finishing the game with three goals – none in the second half.

Does that final goal attempt sway my opinion? Maybe a little, but in a real clash of the titans, the defensive Giant was pretty bloody impressive in this one.

 

HOW MUCH DID MATT DE BOER HURT THE SWANS?

We’ll allow recent history to be our guide, shall we?

Matt de Boer was deployed in a role that is hardly ever utilised in the modern game – that of a defensive forward. Watching the rebounding defenders this season, I have often wondered why coaches don’t deploy a stopper on players such as Daniel Rich or in today’s case, Jake Lloyd.

Lloyd has been a ball magnet, averaging over 28 touches per game. Whilst many have talked down his impact on games, the bloke has owned the footy in the back half and barely ever wastes it. To see Matt de Boer go to him is both the worst thing that could have happened to Sydney, and a huge compliment to how important Lloyd is to the Swans’ structure coming out of defence.

The GWS tagger did an admirable job in restricting Lloyd, who was limited to just one touch in the second quarter as the Giants tightened the screws and stopped the Swans’ run and carry game. De Boer also switched onto Justin McInerney at points, and was able to nullify his rebounding ability as well.

Over the past four games, Lloyd was averaging 31.2 disposals. McInerney was at 23.2 over the same period. Today, they combined for 35 touches. That’s -19 touches between them. A great move by Leon Cameron, and a great game from Matt de Boer, doing what he does so damn well in a slightly different capacity.

 

WAS THIS THE PERFECT WAY TO USE TOM PAPLEY?

He looked like the potential difference in the first half, didn’t he?

Splitting time between the forward line and the middle, Papley was hitting the footy hard, and later got hit hard, himself, by Shane Mumford. He was clean with the footy and presented the GWS defence with a real issue. Isaac Cumming, who has been excellent in his role with the Giants this season, found Papley a tough matchup, and was constantly caught out either sagging off the small forward, or beaten off the mark.

In his defence, Cumming’s main weapon this season has been his timely intercept marking, and I am sure he was looking to give Sam Taylor a hand with Buddy should the opportunity arise. The issue with this is that Papley knows how to remain dangerous, and did just that whenever Cumming dropped off, even just a little, to help a teammate.

The Swans looked well-drilled in this regard, spotting Papley up numerous times, which left several GWS players looking around to see who was covering the drifting Cumming. The answer was “nobody”, and soon enough, Connor Idun was handed the sole responsibility for the elusive Papley.

Speaking of Cumming, it was Brian Taylor, fresh off close to the worst play-by=-play commentary effort of his career in the Friday night fixture, that uttered the line “Cumming swallowed all of that one” in an effort certain to have thousands of teenage boys… and Mrs Mongrel giggling for days.

 

HAS ISAAC HEENEY MADE THE TRANSFORMATION TO SUPERSTAR IN 2021?

With Franklin locked in a titanic struggle with Taylor, and Papley spending his time in the middle, the Swans needed someone to stand up in the second half and give them some bite in the forward fifty.

That man was Issac Heeney.

With four goals after the main break, Heeney looked every bit the superstar he has been threatening to be for the last few years. He really put it all together in 2021, and when you look at the 2020 Swans team and what they were missing, he left an enormous hole as a forward with brilliant hands. You just don’t replace someone with his skill set – it cannot be done.

Yes, Sydney lost Franklin as well in 2020, but the loss of Heeney was just as important.

The thing about Heeney that is undersold is that he flat out refuses to lose his feet. Other players seem happy to go to ground in a contest, but Heeney makes a concerted effort to stay in the contest and have second and third efforts.

So, is he a superstar? Hmmm… not quite yet. Not for me, anyway. He is on the precipice of greatness right now, but after one full season without a decent injury, you’d like to see him repeat the dose and continue to stand up for Sydney when called upon. He has been left in the forward line to refine his game this season, and averages of 16 touches and 1.7 goals per game tell the story of a man who has well and truly found his niche with Sydney. At 25, 2022 looms as the season he makes that final step and ascends to the throne as the number one option inside Sydney’s forward 50.

 

DID JESSE HOGAN JUST EARN EVERY CENT IN THIS GAME?

I’m not sure what he is on, but it has been quite a while since I saw anyone have their way in the air with the Sydney defence.

Coming into this game, I was not sold on Hogan at all. He is a vastly different player from the aerobic beast that played so well for the Dees back in 2018. Three years later, he looks heavier and slower, and is now playing very close to goal every time he wears the charcoal and orange (best kit in the game, by the way – I am tempted to grab a Sam Taylor guernsey… a 40+ man rocking the Sam Taylor guernsey… I might drive sales down!)

Hogan dragged down six contested marks in this game, his hands looking like a vice as he continually beat both Tom McCartin and Lewis Melican in reading the flight of the ball. Hogan’s size and reach made it extremely difficult for the Swans’ defenders to reach over the top, and his ability to protect the space before launching at the footy gave the Giants a winner when it came to the get out of jail kick.

As mentioned in the intro, Hogan had the opportunity to put the game on ice in the third quarter, but hit the post twice before slotting a goal late in play to give the Giants a handy lead heading into the last. He had four of his six contested grabs in that third quarter when the Swans were trying and failing to make a run, and I have to admit… the bloke I thought may be their weakest link in today’s game certainly stood up when it mattered most.

Hogan finished with two goals, should have had one or two more, and added a couple of goal assist to his evening’s work. Good to see him make good again after a horrible run in Freo.

 

WHAT NEXT FOR GEORGE HEWETT AND JORDAN DAWSON?

I’ve been told by a few Swans fans that Sydney aren’t a side to be rushed when dealing with contracts, but with both Jordan Dawson and George Hewett unsigned for 2022, you would hope that they get a wriggle on and put pen to paper in the very near future.

Hewett was really effective in limiting the influence of Jacob Hopper in the first half, then Tim Taranto in the second, as John Longmire switched up his targets dependant on who was having an impact.

Hopper had 13 touches in the first half, but his clearance work was way down, picking up just one from the stoppages in the first half. Taranto had a very solid first half, but was held to ten of his 25 touches in the second half, with Hewett in hot pursuit. Importantly, Hewett also halted the Giants’ progress at stoppages in the second half, limiting Taranto to no clearances after he registered five in the first two quarters.

Dawson was named among the best for the Swans, but his impact from the wing was nowhere near as pronounced as it has been in other games. Between them, the pair offer Sydney a great mix of inside/outside footy, and if one, or in the worst case scenario, both are eyeing the door, it would be a great loss to a team that is definitely looking at contending in the next couple of seasons.

 

HOW DID WE SEE THE RUCK CONTEST?

Tom Hickey really lifted his work rate in the last quarter, and I want to put this out there – he bloody needed to!

For a bloke that was viewed as a liability a couple of years back – a view that saw him walk off into retirement, Shane Mumford has returned with a bang… and not just in the way he lays waste to the bodies of his opponents. If you go back and look at the first half, the majority of GWS goals come from first half stoppages, and it was the Mumford v Hickey clashes in the ruck that helped set them up.

These two are about as far as apart as you can get in terms of the way they attack the game. Mumford is an animal. He craves the tests of strength and the clash of bodies. He wants to try to punish his opponent and make them hurt. Hickey is more a cerebral ruckman, using leverage and footwork to manoeuvre into position to make the best of the stoppage.

As the game entered its final moments, both big men had great moments – Hickey with two big intercept grabs at half forward, and Mumford with a big free kick and towering mark in the space of thirty seconds as the Giants clung on for dear life. Both had their moments throughout the game, as well, but sitting on the outside looking in, it appeared as though there were points where Hickey did not want to engage Mumford in ruck battles – not the ones at a throw in, anyway. It was as though Hickey refused to engage in a test of strength with Mumford, which in theory, is probably wise, but it also allowed Mumford to have his way.

Given the Giants’ ability to score from stoppages in the first half, I have to wonder whether that attack against the GWS big man was the wisest decision?

 

WHO WERE SOME OF THE UNSUNG HEROES?

Zach Sproule – Great hands, and that booming kick to start the third quarter and put a bit of space between the teams was a real highlight. That was as sweet a connection as you’ll see.

Jake Stein – Started like a rocket, and was integral in halting the Swans’ forward forays early in the game.

Lachie Ash – Absolutely underrated! Bit off the tough kicks and hit them on several occasions. Backed his skills and reaped the benefits. Probably won’t make anyone’s best players list, but his ball use under pressure was exquisite.

 

GOT ANYTHING ELSE, MONGREL?

Of course I do… I always do.

The in-close hands of the Giants in this one were brilliant, particularly through the middle of the game across half back. As the Swans applied the pressure. Taranto, Kelly, Hopper, Green – they’re all one-touch players, and their ability to glove the footy and dish to a teammate as a first option made it incredibly difficult for Sydney to bottle the ball up.

How much did the Swans miss Josh Kennedy and Callum Mills? They were huge losses, but the one aspect they were truly missing, and this was particularly evident in the first half – was someone to take the game on and break lines. They really missed Nick Blakey.

Sure, he has been caught a few times, but his willingness to get and go forces defences to break structure in order to contain him. Without him back there, the Swans played a slower, more predictable style of game, and that worked to the Giants’ favour.

You would be hoping the Giants start getting more from their captain in a hurry. He had a couple of nice moment, but his best moment came basically from getting in the way to allow Jesse Hogan to mark in the third quarter. His worst came when he got caught throwing the footy in the last. The captain needs a big second week of finals!

The adventurous handball was one weapon I haven’t touched on. You know the one? Out in space in front of a running player to hit him stride? It can break a game open and did so in this one. One came from Toby Greene to Matt de Boer in the second and set up a goal to Jack Sproule. Another from Whitfield at half back set up Sproule’s second goal to open the third quarter. These types of handballs force the issue and compel a teammate ti start running. The forward handball can be dangerous when the pressure comes the other way, but when it works, it is a thing of beauty.

Loved the game of Luke Parker again in this one. I’m not sure there is another mid in the game that does everything as well as he does.

Gotta give credit to Lachie Whitfield for getting straight up from that Parker shoulder charge, as well. I still feel that opposition mids take whatever chance they get to line Whitfield up – it takes some guts to continue to put yourself in harm’s way like that.

 

And guys, that may just do me. Really sorry to see the Swans bow out – they have been fantastic to watch this season, but they ran into the form team of the last month, and that spelt trouble.

To our members, thanks so much for your support. GWS get the Cats next week, and the Swans… we have a heap of off-season content for you guys as well – free agency, draft, trade… you name it. – HB

 

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