Have you ever seen the movie Poltergeist?
I was a young fella when it came out, and I was dragged to the movies by my step-brother. He wanted to see The Year of Living Dangerously starring Mel Gibson… which in hindsight could probably apply to any of his romantic partners over the last 20 years.
Anyway, we got to the box office and the woman behind the counter looked at us and advised us not to see the Gibson film. She said, and I quote “It’s crap!”
Instead, in a move no doubt meant to traumatise the hell out of the ten year old me, she recommended Steven Spielberg’s latest effort. We took her advice and went to see Poltergeist, which proceeded to underpin my nightmares for years, but that’s beside the point. The movie had a couple of sequels, and the common thread through them is that these spirits, who are really quite persistent when you think of it, communicate with the little blonde girl via the white noise on TV. In the second one, she turns to her parents, who are watching her staring at the static on the TV, and says…
And that’s where we pick up coverage of the Sydney Derby between the Swans and Giants, but to which team do we apply that quote?
Is it the Swans, who after looking absolutely cooked with four weeks to go, rattled off three impressive wins to not only make the finals, but have a genuine chance of a top four finish going into the last round?
Or is it the Giants, who are seemingly in a position to bring back a star-studded cast to bolster their ranks?
Irrespective of which team you apply it to, one of these teams will definitely be back in a big way after their Saturday twilight affair. Here are some of the things that have tickled our fancy about this game.
BEING BROUGHT UNDONE BY THE UNDERDONE
I touched on this in our Melbourne v Geelong preview. How much do you trade off to get a superstar back into the side? The Dees were looking down this barrel with Jack Viney. The Hawks have already pulled the trigger and are bringing back James Sicily. One worked - one didn't. The Giants are in a position where Toby Greene, and Brett Deledio have made the cut.
Greene and Deledio’s seasons have been interrupted on multiple occasions and pose a genuine risk to a side that has had terrible injury luck, finishing games with no one available on the bench. Throwing them back into the mix can be looked at as either a method of bolstering a list with legitimate elite talent, but it can also be perceived as a bit of panic.
Greene is a match-winner, and between you and I, and whomever else is reading, I’d throw him in there at 85% fitness. He does things no one else does. Remember his cool, calm demeanour against the Tigers in Round 17? He took the mark 40 metres out on a decent angle, and whilst teammates inboard screamed for a pass, he waved them off and nodded, confident in his abilities. That he slotted the goal home was more an afterthought – it was the way he knew his capabilities and backed himself in that made his teammates walk taller.
Deledio is one I wouldn’t have risked. His injury history this season far outweighs anything he brings to the table at this point. He’s played nine games for the year, and keeps failing to run them out. There is no bang for your buck in selecting Lids. To do so may end up placing increased pressure on 21 others.
We saw some cracks in the Aliir Aliir armour against the Hawks. He was fumbly, bumbly and looked completely out of place at times – a stark contrast to the stunning performances of the previous month or so. The game was a big one – a top four spot on the line, and Aliir didn’t step to the fore. Far from it, actually.
He did the opposite. He wilted and he cost his club. I’d like think Aliir is mentally strong. I’d like to think that thoughts of that sub-par performance will now be completely out of his mind and that his complete focus will be on the upcoming game. However, if there are any doubts in his mind, any lingering questions about whether he’ll fumble, whether he’ll turn the ball over, and whether he’ll cost his team again, the Giants will pounce. In finals, weakness is preyed upon.
Under the intense spotlight of the Round 23 game against Hawthorn, Aliir was exposed. With the intensity of the finals raising the bar again, can he put things behind him and return to the form that saw him celebrated so publicly?
THE PHIL DAVIS V BUDDY FRANKLIN DUEL MK II
We were robbed of this the last time they met, with what was later revealed to be an injury to his kidney seeing Davis hobble to the bench in the second quarter. This allowed Buddy to become the most pivotal player on the ground, finishing with five goals and two goal assists (I hope Luke Parker shouted him dinner that week).
He was the architect of the rampant Sydney comeback in the last quarter, where they buried the Giants, scoring six goals to one, but with Phil Davis out there, we may have seen a different result.
Up until Davis went to the bench, Franklin had just one goal to his name, and more importantly, just three touches of the footy. Davis was all over him.
Whilst many point to Alex Rance v Lance Franklin as the modern marquee matchup, Davis v Franklin may be a better example. Both men are looking to put another notch on their proverbial belts at the other’s expense this weekend. Buddy winning would see his ever-growing reputation enhanced even further. In a week where he was crowned the All-Australian Captain, Franklin is poised for a huge one.
But that will all depend on how tightly Phil Davis plays him. There was no All-Australian selection for Davis. He was resolute all year, but is an unsung hero who doesn’t court the media attention afforded other AFL Captains. A big one-on-one win over Franklin may be just the spark the Giants need to overcome the Swans.
OLD LEGS AND YOUNG LEGS
I’ve watched a fair bit of football this season, and at times it’s looked to me as though there are several Swans being held together with Blu-tac and clag. Dan Hannebery is looking more and more like “an old 28 year old” as Mick Malthouse described him, and Kieran Jack’s best days appear long gone. The one that worries me most is Josh Kennedy.
Yes, I’ll readily concede that Kennedy has stood up when required, but there have been several games where he has been a complete non-factor this season. He is averaging three touches a game less than last year, and five a game less than 2016. The man is slowing down. Ever so slightly, but slowing nonetheless.
He has had four games where he’s failed to break the 20 disposal barrier this season, including a woeful 10-touch outing against the Kangaroos. The good news is that this hasn’t happened since Round 17.
In contrast, we have the young legs of the Swans. Ben Ronke, Ollie Florent and Will Hayward have provided more than anyone expected of them this year, to the point both Florent and Ronke were being spoken about as Rising Star smokies a little while ago.
Whilst Ronke’s seven goal blast against the Hawks is an easy one to point to, Florent’s versatility, and willingness to drift down to defence to provide some genuine leg speed off half back made a huge difference to the Swans. Hayward has 28 goals to his name this season, and his first half of the year was spectacular, including three consecutive games where he scored three goals over rounds 6, 7 and 8.
If the old guys are down, the young guys need to stand up, and vice versa. If they are all a little off, it could get messy.
WILL SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF JAKE LLOYD?
This bloke is sixth in the league in metres gained per game, yet every time I watch Sydney play, he is simply allowed to waltz around the defensive 50 and use his excellent foot skills to cut teams to ribbons off half back. As Grundy, Rampe and Aliir compete in the air, Lloyd finds space and gets one of his 20.3 uncontested touches per game when they bring it to ground or mark and hand off.
He plays a very similar role to All-Australian, Rory Laird, and uses the ball at 79% efficiency. With someone staying in close proximity to Lloyd, the Giants force the Swans to use another avenue to move the ball out of their defence. Whether that is Harry Cunningham, Jarrad McVeigh or Nic Newman presents problems of its own, but taking Lloyd out of the game should be a priority for Leon Cameron and company, as he is the obvious first choice for Sydney when rebounding.
But who will do the job? Zac Langdon could be an option. He is a good tackler and averages over a goal per game, so cannot be left alone. Jacob Hopper is another who could be sacrificed in order to stifle the rebound, and then there’s the possibly returning Toby Greene. Whilst Greene’s ability to hit the scoreboard would keep Lloyd accountable, his time away from the game may impact his ability (and willingness) to chase Lloyd down the ground on turnovers.
CAN WE EXPECT MORE FROM JEREMY CAMERON?
We’ve seen a few versions of Cameron this season, and there have been two of them apparent in the last two rounds. In Round 22 we saw a Cameron who had the modest return of one goal against the Swans, but there was more to his game than the scoreboard.
Cameron was awarded two free kicks right in front of goal, only to see his teammates take the advantage and kick the goals. He was instrumental in the GWS forward set up that saw them lead by two goals at three quarter time.
And then we had the Round 23 version of Cameron, who kicked 1.4 and looked like he was continually looking for the cheap disposal out the back of the pack. His missed a handball to Langdon in the goal square that would’ve made for a certain goal in what could only be termed as a brain fade (I prefer “brain fart” but I’m told it doesn’t sound as good).
The Giants need the Jeremy Cameron who is prepared to crash a pack again. Yes, it resulted in a long stint on the sidelines in what I am still convinced as an incredibly unfortunate accident with Harris Andrews, but Cameron needs to be willing to charge at the ball again, and if contact is made, then so be it. He is still allowed to contest.
THE ABSENCE OF THE HEATER
Luckily the weather is starting to improve… *boom-tish*
Seriously though, I don’t think enough has been made of the season-ending injury suffered by Heath Shaw. When I watched him go down, and then heard the diagnosis over the next couple of days, I thought that this could be the injury that tips the Giants over the edge.
As crazy as Shaw comes across, he is a presence in the backline that is so hard to replace. He isn’t afraid to take on a big job, as we witnessed in Round 18 against Port when he took on Robbie Gray up forward. The week before, in a stirring win over the Tigers, he had 30 touches and floated between Jason Castagna and Josh Caddy to be rated one of the best on the ground.
Shaw was the general of the GWS backline, forever pointing, instructing and at times, yelling at teammates. He was like a more volatile version of Luke Hodge, and players like that are both hard to imitate, and impossible to duplicate. When the pressure comes, GWS will need a player to stand up, take on his man, and win. That role belonged to Heath Shaw; it remains to be seen who the man will be to step into the void.
THE HEENEY FACTOR
Is there anything this guy cannot do?
When you look at Sydney's future, it looks bright with this fella leading the way. Superb overhead, quick at ground level, and hard at the ball, Heeney is the future, and he's here already.
He has had big moments throughout the season, but is the kind of player that looks custom-made for September. If Heeney has a big game, irrespective of what position Longmire plays him in, the Swans will be a red hot chance. He's in my top ten players to watch in the league.
THE BIG BROTHER – LITTLE BROTHER CHATTER
The Giants must be sick to death of this, but every time the Swans get a win over them, and every time the physically impose themselves over GWS, the comparison comes out. It’s the big brother taking care of the little brother.
Well, there is only one way to stop it. There comes a point where the little brother stands up and whacks the big brother right in the chops. GWS had a moment like that in 2016, when they dropped the Swans by 36 points in the Qualifying Final. They looked the swans in the eye and stared them down. The little brother needs another one of those games right now.
Sydney have looked like the bigger brother this season. They monstered GWS in the last quarter in Round 22, and beat them by 16 points earlier in the season. Either the Giants shed that tag now, or they deserve it.
And there we go. This will be another cracking game on the best weekend of footy of the year. The best eight teams in the comp going head to head. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Will the little brother belt the bigger brother back, or will big brother continue to cast a large shadow over Sydney’s western suburbs?
For more game previews, check out our Richmond v Hawthorn preview, and our Melbourne v Geelong one as well. Collingwood v West Coast still to come.
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