Coming into today’s game, Dwayne Russell would have you believe this was the greatest David versus Goliath battle in the history of Aussie Rules Football. A Giants side finding their feet under a new coach, while the senior, reigning Premier Cats are seasoned at what they do. Don’t let that fool you, though … before today, the Giants had won their last two matches against Geelong, in Geelong. They play the game well, they have the personnel to challenge the Cats, and they find confidence coming to Alphabet Stadium. Would they salute Toby Greene in game 200 or would the Cats have the luck of the Irish and get back on the winners’ list? Here’s what mattered.
The Greatest Giant of All led from the front in game 200. Say what you will about Toby Greene and his brain farts from time to time, the man is box office. Pundits come to games to watch players like Toby. And didn’t he deliver today?
His side had six goals to half-time – and Toby had four of them. While he didn’t add to the goals column in the second half (some credit goes to Zac Guthrie for staying strong and finding ways to neutralise Toby in the second half), you could see the Giants players grow six inches when he got the ball and Cats players – particularly the usually calm and calculating defenders – scramble.
The aura this man has on a football field is in the top echelon of players playing the game today. He is the first Giants player to hit the 200-game milestone at the club and sits second on their goal-kicking list. He plays on the edge, he bleeds for his club, and you know, when the game is on the line, he will be front and centre leading the charge in the big moments.
In game 200, he finished with 4.2, 19 disposals, and 7 score involvements. He set the game up for the Giants in the first half, and when needed late in the game when the Cats had all the momentum, he stood up in the big moments.
There’s a big, big sound in the west of the town and, in part, Toby Greene is responsible for the continued growth of the game in NSW and has shown that he will always deliver. For all the negative press, find me a football fan that wouldn’t love him on their side – as a Cats fan, I’d have loved him in the hoops today. The impact he has on this side, the way he leads, and the legacy he has always created – he has solidified his claim as the greatest of all Giants.
YOU CAN LOS THE GAME AT SELECTION
I’ll preface this and say there’s probably going to be some cynicism in this section from a disappointed Cats fan.
People often joke about Geelong and late changes; with good reason. When I saw the team sheet, I was genuinely surprised. We lost yet another midfielder, and brought in no midfielders. We also went very tall. I was expecting Ceglar to be a late out some more speed and outside run to come into the side. Consider me perplexed when I saw there were no late changes.
With how the game played out, a change may have made a difference, but it’ll be pure speculation. The Cats lacked urgency, run, and the ability to move the football in the early part of the game. And it wasn’t until their already serious injury list got longer with Esava Ratugolea being subbed out, that their ball movement suddenly appeared. While the Giants were still able to score, the Cats started to look more threatening with the added run. Perhaps there’s something to that …
The Giants had the perfect balance out there today, even with some regulars missing. They built a strong inside core, with great ball users on the outside. They played to the strengths of those on the park, and they took the game to Geelong, and were successful. They forced Geelong into errors and exploited the fact that Geelong went in too tall and cumbersome to limit their run and chaos.
The Giants brought the heat in this game, and the right strategies to exploit the Cats’ weaknesses and capitalise on their pressure. In their front half, the Giants were brilliant. They were +18 for tackles inside 50 (22-4), and launched 7.3.45 from stoppages (all in their forward half). The orange tsunami was back in full force today.
What their pressure did was cause the Cats’ defenders to panic. They dropped some easy marks, missed targets, and were regularly found out of position. This was all as a result of the manic pressure and great tactics that the Giants put into place. The grubber kicks along the ground going forward, the key forwards crashing packs to bring the ball to ground, and the outnumbering at front-half stoppages made the Giants irrepressible all day.
With the aforementioned switch to personnel, the Giants tall forwards had a greater ability to mark and find space. Yes, the Cats were able to find space themselves, but the Giants set the game up with their pressure, and then were able to adapt in-game and shift the way they moved the ball at times. Hats off to you, Adam Kingsley!
WHAT DOES THE RESULT MEAN?
For the Cats, hopefully that some of the older blokes who appear very content post 2022 get a rest, and the kids get more game time. In all six losses, the Cats have been in the game in the final quarter, but haven’t been able to get the job done. Sure, injuries have crippled us at times, but every player on a list is there because they can play the game. Top Four is unlikely from here, and finals will be a battle. If it means more games into the kids, and an eye to the future, bring it on.
For the Giants, a win like this can shape a club and its culture. Adam Kingsley’s side have now beaten both of the 2022 Grand Finalists on their home decks. They have been in other games as well. This year is one of learning a new gamestyle, developing the list, and getting games into players. If they keep bringing the heat like they did today – and there are no excuses for them to not bring the intensity more often now – they’re going to create a considerable launchpad for sustained success.
FRM THE VIEWING GALLERY
I initially wrote that Jack Henry looked composed up forward; moreso than he can in defence. And then he was moved to defence and the Cats back half looked more stable. So, Chris Scott – please leave Jack behind the ball going forward!
Callan Ward doesn’t get his flowers. Some have given him the nickname cement head, and you can see why. He puts his head over the ball and never shirks a contest. He set the tone for his younger teammates today with his intensity and desperation.
The Cats had three Irishmen take the field today – the most ever in one side – with the addition of Oisin Mullin to Premiership players Zach Tuohy (5 games off breaking Jim Stynes’ record for the most AFL games as an Irishman) and Mark O’Connor. The County Mayo star (Mullin) probably leads the field for point of the year, and had numerous moments where he showed composure, stood up in tackles, and used the ball well. Stephen Wells and his team may have found another one in Mullin.
Brent Daniels was superb today. He was busy, he tackled, he set up his teammates, and he hit the scoreboard. He may not be the most high-profile players in the Giants line-up or even inside the forward fifty, but he could prove, by the end of his career, to be one of the most influential and important players, through what he brings week in, and week out, and how he complements others.
Ollie Henry had had a quiet game up until three-quarter-time. However, in the last quarter, he threatened to win the game for the Cats himself. He kicked 2.1 in the final term, and when he wasn’t scoring them himself, he was crashing packs, competing, and even getting little touches of the ball. There’s lots to like with Ollie, and he has the ability to tear a game apart. At the moment, it’s just in patches. Hopefully, he can find ways to be engaged for longer.
I’ll admit, I hadn’t seen a lot of Conor Idun, even though I’d heard people mention him. Today though, he was great. He chose the right moments to leave his opponents, he made good decisions, and he battled so well to bring the ball to ground. Sure, he was out-pointed a few times, but the talent is there and clearly the work ethic is too, that’ll see him become a very good footballer.
Well, the Giants did it again – three in a row at the Cattery. Clubs will be calling them for advice, no doubt. GWS were great all day and earned themselves a well-deserved win, saluting Toby Greene wonderfully. They look ahead to next week where they host the Tigers at GIANTS Stadium. While the Cats, who likely find themselves out of the 8 at the end of the round, need to regroup, recalibrate, and (hopefully) continue giving opportunities to the kids, as the travel up the highway to Superhero (MARVEL) Stadium on Saturday night to take one the Dogs.
There’s lots to celebrate for the Giants and much to ponder for the Cats who blew their opportunities early and late when they had momentum (the story of a younger side in recent weeks). Kudos to the Giants, we hear the big, big sound … tune in next week for more from the Mongrel Punt.
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