To end a Saturday on the Easter Weekend, Melbourne put on an absolute defensive clinic, accounting for a lacklustre Giants side 19.6 (120) to 7.11 (53)

For the Giants, their midfield worked hard but were absolutely stonewalled by the defence of last year’s grand final winners. Melbourne booted 13 goals to four after halftime to decimate the Giants, who came back in the second quarter to get within 14 points. However, the comeback was over just as it was beginning. Let’s take a look at how this one played out.

 

GAMEPLAN

Plain and simple, Melbourne set this game up with their outstanding zone defensive scheme, often allowing a plus-one at the stoppage to allow the overlap run in defensive 50 once the ball hit the deck. Often going through the corridor on the rebound, they sliced up the Giants with their running game, the quintessential defence to offence strategy. Focusing more on their kick-mark game, they forced their opposition to cover a ton of defensive ground, and open up the type of space usually reserved for when the legs become heavy and the defensive intensity falls away. The Dees were able to do this from early in the game.

GWS worked hard around the stoppages but were often forced wide or had to kick to areas of the ground they did not want to. The power of the Demons’ talls made the aerial game an uphill battle right from the first whistle. The Giants were rarely afforded space, and in terms of clear matchups they used Lachie Ash on Ed Langdon for a while, which proved ineffective. They had great results early with Coniglio as the defensive forward on Jake Bowey, but that was inexplicably dropped after halftime. Despite losing by a massive amount, the inside 50 count had only a deficit of four – the quality of the Demons’ entries were so much faster and more precise.

 

MAY-DAY OUT

Steven May was in complete control of Jesse Hogan in this game. The key defender had 24 disposals, eight intercepts, 11 rebound 50’s and eight one-percenters. The stats don’t tell the full story – in two aspects, as yes.. 11 of his disposals were “kick play ons” so that brings his “field possessions” back to a more accurate 13, however, he also engaged Hogan at every opportunity, allowing his teammates an easy run at the ball. I’m not sure what the final tally was, but eight minutes into the game, Melbourne had taken four intercept marks when GWS were targeting a May v Hogan contest.

With May, never trust the stat sheet to tell the full story. Genuinely watch him play before judging his game. Hogan had a forgettable game against the team that drafted him with a number one pick, tallying 1.1 from six possessions (three kicks) and a single uncontested mark. May has been elite for a long time, however, it seems to have only been noted once he had moved from the Suns.

 

LAND OF THE GIANTS

I’m not sure how many of the readers will agree with this, but here goes.
The best ruckman on the night was not “The Unicorn” Luke Jackson
It was not Max “Google” Gawn
It was Matt “Monster” Flynn

Flynn played a tremendous game, outnumbered and outmatched against the best ruck tandem in the game. With the Giants having to go into this game with Braydon Preuss doing what he has been known for in his career (not playing), Flynn was unfazed and stuck to his task in a way that holds him in great stead and makes me believe he will one day be a premier ruckman of this competition. Before you jump down my throat and point to the Melbourne duo kicking 3.0 between them, allow me to point out that two of those three were as a resting forward, playing on Lachie Keefe. Remember him?

That said, Gawn did boot a great goal from a deep stoppage taking clean possession against Flynn and snapping truly from close range.

Flynn had a game-high 27 hitouts vs Gawn’s 25 and Jackson’s 10, however, he was also able to negate a lot of Gawn’s tap work, which helped his side to win the clearance count by eight. Flynn tied Josh Kelly for total clearances for his side with seven, and had a match-high five centre square clearances in an encouraging performance. In comparison, the Demons duo combined for five total clearances.

 

STOPPAGE PRESSURE

I’ll touch on the GWS midfield quickly, as despite the high numbers, they rarely had the time and space to slice and dice in the same way the Demons did. In the context of things, it might sound disrespectful to not put more time into talking about Kelly, Green, Taranto and Ward, as the quartet combined for 130 disposals, however, when we break it down, we can start to see a bigger picture.

They combined for 54 kicks and 76 handballs, with the Demons locking down and forcing the GWS engine room to have to use extra disposals in an attempt to break through the press. This press not only closed the ground up, but gave the Demons much more time for their zone setup. Kelly often had to venture down into the backline to find any room to operate, as there was no space forward of centre, while Green went head to head with Oliver, and again, largely had to operate in confined space.

Melbourne were simply more explosive when it mattered, whether it was a tackle break by Oliver, a hard-ball get by Viney, or a big play from the bloke donning the number 5. Melbourne basically went about it the way they always have. When they managed to win the clearance, they were much cleaner and direct, giving their forwards legitimate one-on-one contests. They played their game but they were very solid, if unspectacular.

 

TAG THAT DID TAG THAT DIDN’T

As mentioned, GWS went with two interesting moves. First off, starting former skipper Coniglio on Jake Bowey not only showed some form of a defensive gameplan, yet also gave a glimpse of how highly the AFL world ( or at least the Giants hierarchy) rates Bowey.

Coniglio looked switched on early, with 11 first-quarter disposals playing as a high half-forward, sucking Bowey into the play and keeping him to five disposals (four handbells). Inexplicably, Cameron decided to abandon ship with the matchup after Coniglio goaled in the second quarter, and while Bowey didn’t exactly set the world on fire he still managed to end up with 21 touches and a goal, while Coniglio was shifted around and was largely ineffective after his role was adapted, as Bowey was taking him to the ball and Cogs was right there to capitalise.

The second tag was with Lachie Ash on Ed Langdon. A few weeks ago, Ash assisted in tagging Suns co-captain Touk Miller out of the game in an outstanding performance, as he was able to cover once Miller “got on his bike”.

This tag failed, as Ed Langdon never gets off the damn bike. Langdon absolutely obliterated the tag, covering a whopping 16.7km without a breather (of course), and while deciding to go for a run, Langdon decided to find a bit of the footy as well, accumulating 25 disposals, 20 uncontested possessions, six marks and five score involvements. Not only was the tag ineffective, but Cameron did not explore a plan B, even with Lachie Whitfield at his disposal, who to be fair seemed to incur some type of abdominal injury during the game, but he played through it.

 

DEMONS SMALLS CAUSE HELL

When on, the tandem of Kozzy Pickett and Bailey Fritsch will cause headaches. Pickett started in the centre, showing a bit of physicality before returning to his customary half-forward role. As if he wasn’t a handful already, he seems to have elevated his endurance, indicating he could rotate in to spell the engine room. Pickett energised the home crowd with two first-quarter goals (4.1 for the game) but he showed an all-out sprint effort to kick a goal in the second half, with his side in control (I’ll touch on this again shortly)

As for his running mate, Fritsch did his usual thing of cycling between facilitator and finisher, collecting seven marks and 4.0 from 11 disposals with seven being score involvements and two goal assists. Just warming up….

 

YOUNG GIANTS GROW

There were five bright spots for GWS – all of them are young players that a future can be built around, I’ve mentioned two with Green and Flynn, allow me to speak on the other three

Sam Taylor – He was absolutely tremendous in an under siege defence, threw himself at everything aerially and still seemed composed with the rest of his defence decimated. This man is the best young key defender in the AFL right now and will be a perennial All-Australian. 15 disposals, five marks, five tackles, eight intercepts and a whopping 13one-percenters. Might be a bold call but I would make this guy the next long term captain of the Giants

Bobby Hill – Already showing flair since arriving, he has quickly matured, assuming the number one small forward role while Toby Greene completes his suspension and Brent Daniels recovers. He has dealt with the opposition’s best small defender for the first few weeks, but watch him really explode when the superstar Greene returns. He does the spectacular well, but the basics very very well. With 2.0 from 12 touches and four marks, including a ripping hanger, he played his role well.

Finn Callaghan- Great debut from the number three draft pick. Deployed on a wing, his silky smooth skills came to the fore mainly in the second half. He kicked a great goal at the end of the game, however his best kick- arguably the possession of the game was a sizzling 45m dart switch that was centimetre perfect to evade a charging Max Gawn at centre half back. He was also very clean below his knees, and while I feel the Bontempelli comparison is spot on, he also reminds me of Jack Macrae with his ball use – watch and you might see what I mean. Callaghan also contributed two big smothers, showcasing a great desire to compete without the footy.

 

THE WHISTLEBLOWERS

There were a few interesting moments in this one.

Melbourne had two free kicks paid against them and also a 50m penalty for disputing umpire calls. GWS managed to infringe twice on the 6-6-6 ruling twice

The most controversial moment came when Petracca had a goal disallowed by a free kick paid for a push from Langdon who was trying to edge Ash over the goal line to allow the ball to go through. While the old school key forwards like Brown and Riewoldt were up in arms about the call, I’ll do something different here and commend the call… I know what you’re saying “that’s crap – they never call that”. Well, as a guy that played full back from under 15’s all the way to league footy I completely disagree, as the goal square shouldn’t be an area where, suddenly, all the rules go out the window. I hope it’s the start of a new trend, as forwards have it was too easy in the game. Good on her for having the balls to make that call (metaphorically)

 

BRETT’S BLAST – Lachie Ash

The effort from Ash was generally ok, however, there is one effort he will want back. With 12 and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter Pickett gathered at half-back and went for a run and bounce, with Ash is in pursuit. Pickett kicked the ball onto a 1v1 at half forward, Idun spoiled to ground and Pickett swooped and gathered for a goal. In the 30 or so metres between the kick and the gather, Kozzy put 20m on Ash. Sure, he did run past another Giant as well, but Ash is nowhere to be seen, just appearing to give up on the chase and doesn’t signal to cover if he cannot keep up.

 

QUICK TAKES

Absolutely outstanding diving effort by Tom Sparrow late in the game to kick deep inside 50 chase down the ball and fly through the air like… like some kind of bird, a pigeon perhaps, to knock the ball goalward for his side to capitalise on. Bringing back memories of Wayne Harmes, Sparrow was clearly inside the field of play with his outstanding effort- which was made all the more special considering the game was as good as done.

GWS got some handy midfield minutes from Tanner Bruhn, though I’d have liked to see the move made a little earlier, he has some real “grub” in the way he goes about it – not in a disrespectful sense, but in the fact that if he is in the vicinity he will make you earn absolutely everything.

Nick Haynes couldn’t get going in this one, the only way I can describe it was that he was simultaneously all over the place while also “nowhere to be seen”

Very good game from Sam Weidemann, will make the decision hard for Simon Goodwin once Ben Brown becomes available again.

Another great game from James Jordon on a wing, this guy just goes about it and slips under the guard week in and week out. One of the most underrated ball users in the game, also knows where to be before he has to be there

If Callaghan’s switch was the possession of the game I also have to give a close second to Whitfield’s switch from half forward to 30m out at full pace in the first quarter. GWS need to get the ball in his hands at every opportunity. As his running power has faded with injuries and a role change was on the cards, he has always had a very elite disposal- which somehow seems to have been forgotten over time

 

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get it!