If there was a big, big sound coming out of South Australia this week, it was the sound of GWS sinking their boots into the collective backsides of the Adelaide Crows.
In a brilliant first half, the Giants rode some powerful forward craft from Toby Greene, Jesse Hogan, and even Stephen Coniglio to lay waste to the Adelaide defence and cruise to a ten-goal lead. It was a lead they maintained throughout the second half to run out 59-point winners.
The Crows looked flat-footed and lacked strength in the contest, as the Western Sydney Bull, Tom Green crashed and bashed his way to first-half best on ground honours, and the smooth-moving Josh Kelly continued the assault in the second half, with sublime skills and wonderful vision.
For Leon Cameron, this was his team rallying around him just days after Captain Positive, Caroline Wilson, labelled his position untenable. This was the Giants giving a middle finger to everyone who said they were a spent force, and this was a club that, with their backs to the wall, gave themselves a shot at making something of a poor start to the season.
For the Crows, the highlights were few and far between, with Rory Laird once again performing at a high level in the middle and Ben Keays doing the hard yards but letting himself down at times with his disposal.
I get the feeling it was always going to take a little more than the Adelaide Crows to stop the Giants in this one. The Crows ran into a hurricane.
Here are The Mongrel’s Big Questions.
HAVE WE SEEN BRAYDEN PREUSS BECOME A LEGITIMATE AFL RUCKMAN THIS SEASON?
There were always question marks hanging over the head of the big man from GWS. He was a backup at North, moved to become a backup at Melbourne, and then went down injured before he could start his GWS campaign last season.
I will readily admit I joked about his lack of… hmmm… availability over his first year with the Giants, but in watching Preuss this season, it is obvious that he is fast becoming one of the more formidable big men in the league.
I have a lot of time for Reilly O’Brien – he has worked incredibly hard to improve his work and become a very reliable AFL ruck, but he was beaten by Preuss in this one. Sure he had six clearances of his own, and yes, he had more touches, but it was the in-close work from Preuss that impressed me.
Whilst ROB id his regular work around the ground, and was a presence, almost by necessity, in defensive 50, the ability of Preuss to provide a marking target for his teammates saw him drag in five contested grabs and provide the GWS mids with some deft ruck taps that enabled them to break from stoppages without breaking stride, gave him the advantage.
A few of my fellow Mongrels see Preuss as a bit of a sideshow attraction – not in the same way everyone sees Mason Cox – but more in that he is this monster that really shouldn’t be able to get around the park.
Well, he did more than that in this one. He stood tall (ugh) and gave his onballers every chance to burn their opponents off.
And they did.
Quite a few of them will be shouting Preussy coffees this week.
WHERE DOES ISAAC CUMMING RATE AMONGST THE LEAGUE’S BEST HALF-BACK FLANKERS
You never bloody hear about him.
Oh look… you might have someone yap on about him during commentary, but when you tune into an AFL show – say On the Couch, how often is the work of Isaac Cumming highlighted?
That’s right – never. And it’s a bit of a crime.
He dominated the first quarter of this game, picking up six intercepts as he tore up contests all over the ground before settling back into his traditional role in defence as the game wore on. With Connor Idun re-signing with the club during the week, the Giants now have the services of him, Cumming and Sam Taylor under wraps until 2026, 2025, and 2024 respectively.
That’s how you secure the most important parts of your defence.
GWS always seem to get a bad wrap for their list management, but with these three under contract and with nothing to worry about in defence, I have no qualms about the way they’re going about it.
WHERE WERE THE CROWS LACKING IN THIS ONE?
No class ball users providing teammates with time and space. That’s it in a nutshell.
The only bloke to stand up and win the footy and distribute it to teammates was Rory Laird, and even then, it seemed as though he was constantly waiting for teammates to make space in order to dish off.
David King banged on about him handballing too much, as though he hasn’t watched Laird since he moved into the middle at all. Laird may have seen his handball to kick ratio swing a little more toward the former, but as a clearance and contested ball-winner, he has always looked to dish off to those running past. He is not going to win a foot race – he wins the footy and gets others involved. Do your homework, David.
Outside him, their runners – Lachie Sholl, Brodie Smith, and Brayden Cook were all subdued. Of course, Smith was subdued due to knocking himself out whilst taking a huge hanger in the third quarter, but Sholl has not found his feet this season after such a promising start to his career, and it is a bit much to expect too much from Brayden Cook at this stage.
What that leaves you with is players like Ben Keays and Matt Crouch, who, with all due respect, couldn’t kick over a jam jar if it was laying on its side. With Jordan Dawson deployed in defence again, I felt that getting him back out on a wing would have given the Crows some drive through the middle of the ground, but it seems Matthew Nicks has settled on him playing defence for the time being – a shame, as Dawson’s versatility is something that sets him apart from others.
In stark contrast, the quality ball users from GWS were afforded way too much space to operate – Kelly was dominant, Whitfield found the ball in the open, Taranto was good, Ash was working hard, and Ward demonstrated some surprising acceleration at times to open the game up.
The Crows are a very good combative team in close, but if you limit their outside run, to put it bluntly… they’re screwed.
WHEN ALL GUNS FIRE, DO GWS WIN THE WAR?
I wouldn’t want t be standing across from the battlefield from them with the firepower they have.
For a long while, we have heard people talk about the talent in the GWS lineup and whether they can go from being a team of champions to a champion team. Well, I tell you what – when they play with this type of application, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that they could not.
I’ve covered Josh Kelly, Toby Greene, Tom Green, Isaac Cumming, and Sam Taylor elsewhere in this article, but when you have names like Harry Perryman, Cal Ward, Lachie Whitfield, Nick Haynes, Tim Taranto, and Stephen Coniglio all on the books, you quickly understand that GWS keep the guns that fire often.
The ones that misfire too often – well, there seems to never be a shortage of takers for their services.
And when they make the deals, the Giants load up again with the next batch of potential stars.
Speaking of stars…
THE BEST HANDS IN THE BUSINESS.
I watch Tom Green with a bit of a sense of awe.
I am not sure that there has been a contest this season where I have seen him approach the footy and I haven’t expected him to win the footy. Such is my confidence in his ability to win his own ball, I start looking for those making position around him to receive the release handball – you just know he is going to work his arms free and find them to release the pressure.
How many times have you seen this bloke fumble?
His hands are like vices, clamping down on the footy and refusing to have it dislodged until he is damn well good and ready to let it go.
At 21, he may be the best “can’t miss” player in the game right now. His stats of 24 touches don’t do his game justice. When the whips were cracking in the first and second quarters, it was Tom Green continually getting his hands on the pill and distributing whilst one, or two tacklers hung off him, trying in vain t drag him down.
By halftime, Green had amassed 16 touches and five clearances, aiding the Giants in building their huge lead. He was quieter in the second half simply because he could be. I get the feeling that if Tom Green wants the footy, he will find it.
Oh, and before I forget – some nuffie on the radio was asking if Green had a case to answer for Ned McHenry being subbed out of the game. I’ll tell ya what – if he cops a suspension for contesting – and winning – the footy, I reckon it might be time to give it away.
THE PERFECT INSIDE/OUTSIDE MAN
There have been times when I have just wanted to see Josh Kelly given the space he needs to work his magic.
When he played on the wing at points in 2020/21, I sat back and marvelled at how perfect he was in the role. He knew when to run and spread, would take the game on, and his delivery inside 50 was magnificent.
However, there is more to his game than just running the footy down the wing, and if ever a bozo like me needed proof of that, this game was it.
Kelly’s presence at stoppages combined perfectly with the work of Tom Green, as his quick hands and exquisite hands in close saw him pick up eight clearances amongst his 41 touches. He had a huge 736 metres gained, laid six tackles, and consistently set up his teammates with deft touches and quick hands in traffic that waited for that split second for the pressure to be almost upon him before releasing.
This is what intelligent players do. They don’t just handball immediately – they wait. They hold, and right at the last moment, they make the right decision and their team reaps the benefits.
IS SAM TAYLOR ONE OF THE BEST YOUNG DEFENDERS IN THE GAME?
It’s time we stopped with the “young” part of the equation. It devalues how good he is.
His peers aren’t the first or second-year players anymore. His peers are the best defenders in the game – Steven May, Harris Andrews, Jeremy McGovern – that is the company Sam Taylor travels in when it comes to the defenders in the league right now.
If I were building a defence from the ground up right now, Sam Taylor would be my first pick. I’ve watched him take on big jobs over the last few years, and I have watched him win, lose, and learn. He reminds me of Harris Andrews back in 2019 – crashing into packs, using his body to out-position an opponent, collecting spoils, intercepts, and rebound 50s as though it was a walk in the park. He is a genuine star in defence, and it seems the footy world is waking up.
Playing predominantly on Taylor Walker, the Giant defender accrued 19 touches, 12 intercepts, 12 one-percenters, and six rebound fifty disposals. It was the fifth career defensive double-double of his career, and by the time all is said and done, I can see him chasing down all-time leader, Alex Rance, who did this 19 times.
For the record, fellow Giant, Phil Davis is second all-time in that stat, with 12.
Having Taylor as the heir apparent to Davis’ defensive throne holds this club in great stead going forward, and if his name is not in the mix when people start discussing All-Australian defenders, then I am afraid that those discussing it simply don’t pay attention to GWS games.
ANY CROW BRIGHT LIGHTS? ANY DARK SPOTS?
The forward line was absolutely starved in this game. Lachie Gollant, Shane McAdam, and Elliott Himmelberg could barely get near it and really struggled to contend with the power of the GWS defence.
Tex was good late in the game and his kicking inside 50 gave his teammates chances to score.
The commentators had a good time telling us how poor Billy Frampton was going, but that defence was under siege early on – I doubt even Stephen Silvagni could have slowed that supply.
And though he had 17 touches, Jackson Hately was pretty underwhelming with the footy in hand. He’s 21 – he has time, but he would probably like to get a move on. For context, Tom Green is the same age. They are worlds apart.
WHO DOES FINN CALLAGHAN REMIND YOU OF?
Tall mid, confident with the ball, happy to take on a tackler and burst away from them…
There is a bit of Marcus Bontempelli about Finn Callaghan – no pressure, kid.
Whilst finding regular time in the GWS midfield may be tough, given the volume of talent they have, Callaghan seems to be carving out a nice little spot for himself on the wing. Already, we are seeing signs that indicate just why the Giants invested pick four in him.
He had 17 touches in this one, ran hard forward, and notched six score involvements, including a direct goal assist. There is a vast array of talent on offer as part of the 2021 Drat, but over the course of the next couple of years, I would not be surprised at all if people start to mention how Callaghan should have gone at number one – that’s how impressed I am with both the way he moves with the footy, and the way he uses his vision and quick reflexes to set his teammates up.
When you think about it, some of the other big names from the 2021 Draft are being afforded clean runs in their roles. Daicos and Horne-Francis will not miss a game due to the competition for positions at the clubs they were drafted to, but Callaghan has already faced that and is now in the process of cementing his place in the Giants’ best 22. We see what Daicos and JHF are, but with Callaghan… he could be anything.
I doubt we have seen anywhere near what he is capable of and want to see what he can do overhead before losing my marbles over him, but Finn Callaghan is just as impressive as any first-year player in the game. He just has more competition around him for spots.
THE FIRST HALF OF THE MAN
You guys know I love Toby Greene, right?
It’s almost a little bit of a worry for Mrs Mongrel, who sees the way I watch Toby strut his stuff and how my eyes light up when he finds the footy. Look, she has nothing to worry about, but if there was a gun to my head and I was forced to turn… Toby should probably hide.
His x-factor was well and truly on display in this game, and like his namesake Tom Green, he played his best footy when the game was still up for grabs. With four goals before halftime, you got the feeling that this could have been a big afternoon for Greene, but credit to Luke Brown and Tom Doedee – they really stuck to their guns to limit the influence of Greene after the break.
Not that it was required.
Like him or hate him, footy is a more interesting space with Toby Greene in it, and though people call for his head, yell, scream and throw tantrums to express how much they hate this bloke, I cannot help but smile when I see him play footy. One of the commentators called him the most watchable player in the game.
I find it difficult to disagree.
And that might do me – I have double duty today, so onto the next game. Saints and Port… I’ll be with you in a minute.