GWS v Port Adelaide - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Giants made it six wins from their last seven games, knocking over Port Adelaide, and announcing in the process that any thoughts of them being a spent force in 2018 were slightly premature.

Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

Dawson Simpson

The GWS big man looked like he meant business right from the outset with a beautiful tap at the first bounce straight down the throat of Dylan Shiel. It was the first of 46 hit outs for the day, as he made the most of the absence of Paddy Ryder to be incredibly influential.

He had 17 hit outs to advantage over the course of the day, giving the Giants’ mids first use of the ball more often than not. Simpson is a great story – he looked as though he’d lost his spot in the side this season, with Rory Lobb back in the side, but Lobb’s move forward to cover the losses of Patton and Cameron has seen a renaissance in Dawson’s career.

This is the second consecutive week he’s had 17 hit outs to advantage, and he added plenty to contests around the ground. The importance of ruckmen in the game has really been re-established with the abolition of the third man up, and Simpson, at 29 years old, is a direct beneficiary of that rule.

Stephen Coniglio

There was a two minute patch in the third quarter where Stephen Coniglio took the game by the scruff of the neck and shook the absolute life out of it.

He beat Dougal Howard in a clear one-on-one contest in the goal square which demonstrated just how good he is when moved forward. Howard is no slouch – he has a few big scalps this season, but he was outpositioned, and outclassed by the smaller Coniglio who marked cleanly, after getting rid of the defender.

His ensuing gather and spin out of trouble on the next foray forward for GWS was stunning. He split two defenders and turned a 360 in the process before handing to Jake Hopper (great name for a rabbit) who goaled on the run from 35out. In the space of 30 seconds, Coniglio gave the Giants the space they needed and stood up when it counted.

His year has been a shining light for GWS. As stars fell around him all year long, his diligence and work ethic have been excellent. His eight clearances and 15 contested disposals from his 25 touches had him firmly in the best for the day

Lachie Whitfield

Here’s a bit of a conundrum for other coaches – how are they going to handle this bloke when Tom Scully comes back, and you have two of the best gut-runners in the game to contend with?

Dermott Brereton spoke glowingly about his kicking skills, and it is hard to argue with Derm’s logic. I am a big fan of the player who takes the risky 45 degree inboard kick, and for the Giants, Whitfield is the man they trust to do that job.

Earlier in the year, as the Giants struggled without starts like Kelly and Greene, I felt that opposition players would target Whitfield in tackles – inasmuch as they were tackling to hurt him. I think they realise that is he gets out and running, it spells enormous trouble. The Power knew this too, and they had to send Darcy Byrne-Jones to him to reduce his impact.

It worked… to an extent. Whitfield finished with 31 touches and eight marks, and bombed the Giants inside 50 six times. With him up and running, and the stars in the GWS midfield all getting back and playing good footy… it’s a scary proposition for many in the eight.

Jared Polec

News broke during the week (probably from Polec’s management) that he had been offered a big deal by North Melbourne to make the move next year. Well, if Port required any impetus to re-sign Polec, he provided it with 29 touches off half back and through the centre.

I really disliked one of his long kicks to a contest between Dixon and Phil Davis in the third quarter. Dixon had 25 metres in front of him and to his right to work into. Polec’s kick went onto his head, and if anything, was to the left of him, giving the advantage to Davis. In a tight game, with goals and even goal opportunities at a premium, this was a big chance for the Power, and a poor kick from Polec brought them undone. But hang on, this is a “good” section – why am I on his case?

Well, it’s because I expect better from him, and I got it a minute or so later when he gathered the ball at half back and made one of those beautiful 45 degree kicks across the square, hitting Karl Amon in stride. It was magnificent and after a poor effort, he redeemed himself quickly.

I heard Kane Cornes come out and cast doubt on the merit of North’s offer to Polec, but when you are recruiting, you recruit based on need, and North would desperately want someone running off half back who can deliver like Polec can. Get the cheque book out, Port.

Dixon v Davis

In really love seeing two quality players going head to head. Often we’ll see a quality forward go up against a bit of a plodder-type of backman, and due to the nature of the contest the backman looks like a bit less of a plodder.

Phil Davis is no plodder.

Dixon finished with three goals, and always looks threatening when the ball is in the air. I think I heard that Davis – no small man – was giving up 13 kilograms against Dixon, and looking at them side by side, you can see the difference.

Davis finished with 18 touches, eight marks and eight spoils to break even with big Charlie on the night. Dixon really threatened to take over in the third quarter. His crunching hip and shoulder in the contest on Matt Buntine was fantastic, but I loved the way Davis refused to back down. He took a wonderful contested mark against Dixon in the third, himself and was right by Dixon’s side as the game got to the business end.

In a game where help-defence is king, it was great to see so many genuine one-on-one duels between two very good players. Let’s hope we see it again in September.

Heath Shaw

Good or bad, I like watching the Heater play. He doesn’t shirk the issue when it comes to taking on a potential match-winner, and he always backs himself to win a contest.

His work opposite Robbie Gray and Lindsay Thomas over the course of the game provided a bunch of highlights. He had his lowlights too, including two really stiff free kicks. One we’ll get to, but the second – a deliberate out of bounds, was the result of a whistle-happy umpire.

Shaw had 28 touches for the game, but also had a game-high nine clangers, a couple of which even made him smile. He also had a game-high 10 rebound 50 disposals for the game and five free kicks against him. You take the good with the bad from Heater, but it’ll always be entertaining!

 

THE BAD

Sam Powell-Pepper

Almost had Jaspar Pittard’s disposal as the one in this category this week, but that was a little too easy. He’s still working back into form, and is ironing out the kinks in his game. Sadly, Port doesn’t have time to nurse him. Also, I work with his cousin and she would tell him and he'd get grumpy...

Instead, we’ll hit a more robust target.

When you run around like a rampaging bull, puffing out your chest and having plenty to say to the opposition, you might want to make sure you back it up.

Powell-Pepper backed none of it up.

He finished with 11 touches for the game, and was beaten at the contest countless times. He finished with only three contested possessions for the game – an area he usually excels (close to 10 per game om the year).

When you add to that the fact that only four of his touches actually hit the mark for the day, you’re looking at a pretty poor game overall. SPP is a workhorse, and I doubt that we’ll see two games in a row from him this poor. His grunt work is vitally important to the Power on the inside, and if they’re going to progress into September, they’ll need him working at a level way above what we saw against the Giants.

 

THE UGLY

A deliberate rushed behind.

Running at full pace back towards goal, Heath Shaw grabbed the ball and took it across the line. Sounds simple, right? A standard football play with someone chasing you back towards your own goal.

But no, apparently the umpire thought that Shaw should have turned back into play in the split second he had before taking it over the line. If players like NIcNat are supposed to make assessments of weight ratios in the time it takes to lay a tackle, I’m not sure that Shaw had any more time to make the decision as to whether to take the ball over or keep it in, but the umpire didn’t need too long to ping him.

Shaw made first contact with the ball less than a metre away from the line and did veer slightly toward the goal as opposed to the boundary. My question – what were his other options? Run to the boundary and be pinged for deliberate out of bounds (for the second time of the game)? Run into the post? Or run the ball over the line?

It appears as though Shaw quickly ran out of options and was damned regardless of what he did. It was poetic justice that Phil Davis touched the resulting kick for goal by Chad Wingard. Umps need to give the player the benefit of the doubt in that situation, irrespective of how lippy they are, whether they like them or not… or whether or not the player is Heath Shaw.

 

OTHER BITS

There are players in teams who make their teammates walk a bit taller, and in the Giants’ squad, I reckon Josh Kelly, Callan Ward and Toby Greene are those kinds of blokes. It’s funny, because usually it is a big man that takes on that role, but for the Giants, their leaders and blokes who give confidence to others are their mids.

Interesting to see Tim Taranto adapting to a different role now with Kelly back in the middle. His midfield time is reducing, but he is looking dangerous up forward. He was good early, but was really able to produce due to a horrible turnover from Ollie Wines at half back.

There are a couple of players whose tackles you don’t try to shrug. One would be Callan Ward, as Sam Powell-Pepper found out the hard way in the first quarter.

Amazing to see Dixon not make the distance after marking 40 metres out. Saw a few absolute shanks in this game, and over the weekend with this one second only to the Harry McKay shank in the Hawthorn v Carlton game.

Chad Wingard was pretty good overall, but I hate seeing players try to milk holding free kicks when the ball is there to be contested. Earn it, Chad.

Callan ward into the ruck in the first quarter… interesting move. Made more interesting when he stepped around Dixon, read his tap and got the clearance.

Deafening silence as Toby Greene slotted his first goal, but his body work on Howard to get out the back was spectacular players. You’ll have to forgive my admiration for Greene – I am an unabashed fan. The Mongrel likes a bit of mongrel in players!

If you wanted an indication as to whether Dylan Shiel came to play, his tackle on Karl Amon on the siren to end the first quarter, and his tackle on Charlie Dixon to start the second were a great indicator. Seven tackles on the day was a great return for Shiel to go with his 23 touches and eight clearances. For all the talk about Powell-Pepper being a bull… this guy is where it’s at.

Speaking of Shiel, his accuracy kicking at goal this season is just 18%. Yep, that’s not a typo.

Wingard’s effort to pass the ball to Dixon at half forward simply needs to be better. He had a 20 metres pass that bounced 6-7 metres in front of his forward. If Dixon has been criticised at times this year for not converting, getting grubbers like this from highly-skilled mids can’t help.

The return of Adam Kennedy is one of the best good-news stories of the year. Watching him take five bounces down the wing would’ve brought a smile to the faces of Giants’ fans.

Fantastic hands from both Shiel and Hopper at half forward to create space for Sam Reid to goal in the second. Just brilliant, quick hands.

Jack Watts… he’ll probably get whacked for his performance but saw him outnumbered in the air on several occasions.

Was really surprised to see Rockliff had 20 touches. I thought he was pretty quiet. The 11 tackles didn’t surprise me, however.

More Toby Greene love incoming! His snap for his second goal was brilliant. You just cannot drop a mark when he is in the vicinity, can you Dougal Howard? Greene got the ball from hand to foot to bounce it through so quickly the defenders didn’t have a chance to stop it. So glad to see him back playing.

Big Charlie really undid his good work when he missed from 20 metres out after taking a fantastic contested mark against Davis. I mentioned Wingard’s delivery adding to the perception that Dixon hasn’t been converting. You know what else adds to that perception? The fact he misses shots from 20 metres out!

Is Nick Haynes the most underrated defender in the league? I don’t think he’ll remain that way for long. His timely fist to spoil what looked to be a certain Wingard chest mark is the sort of stuff he’s been doing all year, even when the team was down early on.

You know I love a good inboard kick… when they work, but Robbie Gray’s attempt at half back was not his best, landing with Deledio.

Bit of a down game for Lindsay Thomas. I think he gets a bad wrap by the majority of AFL fans. Good to see him still willing to use his body in contests at ground level despite his actions being called into questions this season.

By now we’ve established my love for Mr. T Greene, but I did not like his decision not to chase Clurey after being outmarked was not a good one.

The pressure really went up early in the fourth but Coniglio’s work around stoppages really came to the fore. Half way through the last he’d had four clearances for the quarter.

There are now too many Langdon’s in the league. Please remove two. GWS… you can keep yours. His goal in the last quarter was a ripper.

Was really impressed with the field kicking by GWS all game. Their knack for hitting targets with their short kicks has really kicked back in. They are obviously in a purple patch at the moment, but they’re showing signs that those who wrote them off may want to whack a bib on while they eat their words.

For Port… this is the second week in a row where they’ve struggled to kick 60 points. With Dixon missing from point blank, this is becoming a huge problem. A forward line boasting him, Thomas, Gray and Wingard should not be this insipid.

 

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