West Coast v GWS – The Mongrel Review

First Quarter GWS and Cliches

GWS won that first quarter everywhere except the scoreboard. It’s boring to the point of being passe, but it would end up being important in the context of the game.

They came out of the blocks absolutely guns blazing, getting everywhere they wanted, playing the game on their terms. They looked like a team with an identity and a plan, one that ended up relying on them dictating the game state.

GWS looked to compensate their offseason losses of Hopper, Bruhn, and Taranto by making everything else more egalitarian. More players received midfield minutes, and if they weren’t listed midfielders they popped up there- half backs moved up, half forwards moved back, the listed 18 were fluid and forced West Coast to play uncomfortably and reactively. The same was true up top and down back, with mid-sized forwards Greene, Hogan, Riccardi, Lloyd capitalizing on the relative lack of quickness offered by Barrass and McGovern. Barrass in particular looked lost, borderline statuesque, his quarter epitomised by a brain fade where he tackled Cooper Hamilton off the ball and then gave away a 50 by slamming him into the ground after the fact- completely unnecessary given he’s got 10cm and 10kg on Hamilton, who was also playing his fifth game of AFL.

Down back, Oscar Allen was completely out of sorts, dominated by the tandem of Haynes and Taylor. Not easy when most of the play is happening up the other end of the field or in transition, which naturally drew out any support he could’ve hoped for.

However – you’re reading this review. You know the result of the game. GWS might’ve started hot, but obviously didn’t end that way. Why?
This is reductive, but you can put at least some of the blame on Jesse Hogan’s three late behinds. The extra 15 points would’ve turned a 7-point lead to a 22-point one, probably more fairly reflected the game at the time, and given them something to staunch the bleeding in the second quarter. Butterfly effect and all that, obviously, but I promise there’s a reason for it.


Quarter Time Changes

The big thing that changed the game was how quickly the margin swung. Seven points isn’t heaps, and Jamie Cripps had single-handedly erased that deficit within three minutes. GWS’ first-quarter momentum was null and the game was there for the taking by the team who wanted it.

As above, West Coast looked anaemic early because the game was played in GWS’ half and their attack was stretched. As the game began to happen more in West Coast’s half, the forwards could remain… forward… and that started to reflect on the scoreboard. Big quarters for Cripps and Waterman (three goals apiece) took the game away from GWS.

That’s the quickest summation of what happened, but the game flipped on balance – GWS’ egalitarian plan worked in the open game, but West Coast have better players on the high end of both talent and size. Waterman, Cripps, Allen took advantage of GWS’ lack of a third big defender and Nick Haynes’ lack of speed. While Idun and Cumming can paper over certain cracks, both were shown up in this quarter.

The key is that they took their chances, dominated the scoreboard, and put themselves in a position where they wouldn’t have to chase the game. When GWS were ahead, they were allowed to dictate the game because West Coast had to chase them. As soon as West Coast got ahead, GWS got desperate, kicked to a set defence, and let West Coast’s size stop them from getting back into the contest.

If – hypothetically- Jesse Hogan drilled his three behinds and the second quarter played out as it did, GWS would’ve gone into the main break 16 points down, a totally not unmanageable deficit. Obviously not what happened, but it illustrates the value of converting your chances as West Coast did vs not doing that, as GWS did.


Hate to say it, but the second half felt like stasis.

West Coast’s game plan continued to work, GWS’ didn’t. Thrice in the third quarter GWS kicked to the top of the square from what looked like makeable set shots, letting McGovern dominate in the air. Never what you want. The players you’d expect to step up didn’t- Toby Greene largely went quiet, Tom Green was killed in the numbers and the eye test by Tim Kelly (not direct opponents, but they’re the blokes you look for in the midfield), Stephen Coniglio had 28 disposals but 18 of ‘em were handballs. Bad ratios.

While it’s notable when players you expect to show up don’t, it’s as notable when the inverse happens. That’s not about Jake Waterman’s career-high four goals, it’s about the equally mulleted Jamaine Jones. Jones was off the chain. Unleashed. 17 kicks, 776 metres gained (100m more than anyone in the match, 200m more than any teammate), 11 inside 50s, one ‘assist’ but an absolute game-breaker. Played like a half-back in the first, played wherever he wanted in the second. A common sight for GWS to look like they’d found some respite only for Jones to slice inside and deliver from the square to one of his tall targets. Played like the opposite of a pressure valve.

Similarly, formed a great tandem with (ostensible) back pocket Jayden Hunt, another player who benefited from a higher average position due to West Coast’s forward dominance and given the freedom to do what he wanted. Heat map sees him high on the back flank, but popped up for a goal and had a couple of eye-catching runs.

Ultimately, it felt like a colourblind day for the AFL’s ‘Orange Team’ with quiet showings from Greene and Green. While there were flashes, they need a game plan for when things go wrong and how they can wrestle back into contests rather than playing flashy football. Most teams won’t let them dictate the game, and they looked lost as soon as West Coast went up a gear. That’s not to take anything away from West Coast either, as they saw what happened in the first and adjusted accordingly. Excellent coaching adjustments and something as simple as taking their chances let them get in front and stay in control of this game, and while that might be cliché, sometimes things just are.



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