EF GWS v Sydney - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Giants used a powerful second half to crush the spirit of their cross town rivals. In a stunning win, GWS dropped Sydney by the lazy 49 points.

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

 

THE GOOD

Phil Davis destroying Buddy Franklin

I don’t want to hear any excuses here. This was an absolute bath from a defender at the peak of his powers against a forward who just had three weeks to freshen up since his last game. Prior to that, Buddy had been in good form. No excuses.

Davis was all over Franklin right from the outset. I was keeping a running tally of their one-on-one contests in the first half and I simply stopped counting given how dominant Davis was. He was great in the air, taking ten marks, fantastic at ground level, leaving Franklin to impact other contests when the opportunity presented, and he just knows how to play against the best forward in the game.

Cast your mind back to their Round 22 game for a moment. Before Davis incurred a potentially serious injury to his kidney, he was definitely having the better of Franklin. His absence opened the game right up, with Buddy slamming home four second half goals.

Well, Davis was there for the whole game this time, and Buddy looked like a beaten man. He held the All-Australian Captain to eight disposals (at 50% efficiency, mind you) and did not lower his colours against Franklin in a single marking contest. Franklin had only two marks for the game compared to Davis’ ten.

I watched an interview with Davis during the week. He looked so serious when asked about Franklin. Someone said that he always gets asked about playing on Franklin, but Buddy is never asked about playing on Davis. Maybe it’s time we started asking the question to Buddy? How will he handle Davis next time? What will he do differently? Because right now, one defender has his number. It’s not Alex Rance – it’s  Phil Davis.

Callan Ward’s second half

Cement head, huh? Well, he was hard at it again today, and his third quarter was spectacular. He had 11 touches and was the driving force through the middle as the Giants put the pedal to the floor and left the Swans in their wake.

As his co-captain handled his business at the defensive end of the ground, Ward stepped it right up after a rather sedate first half, and led from the front. He started throwing his weight around and putting the sort of physical pressure on he’s renowned for. His hit on Hannebery did a little more than sting, and left Hanners gasping for air.

He continued his hot third quarter form into the last and ended the game with 29 touches and 17 contested possessions, outworking, outwilling and outplaying his Swans counterparts. He had seven clearances and was huge in exerting pressure on the opposition around the stoppages.

Watching both he and Phil Davis lead by example, if you’re a GWS fan, you should be holding your head high. Your season has been decimated by injury and your team would’ve had every right to throw in the towel at some stage. They didn’t. They fought back, they persevered and now they’ll go onto a semi-final, looking every bit the threat everyone thought they’d be at season’s beginning.

Never surrender, indeed.

 

Toby F’n Greene

Man, I love watching this guy play. He is combative, aggressive, divisive and he is damn good!

Whenever he goes near the ball, the crowd is ready to boo. And that’s not just because they think he’s an ass – he destroys teams with his ball use and his ability to see the game unfold. For a smaller player, he uses his body as well as anyone in the game.

Wanna talk about sticking his foot out as protection, as Cameron Ling wanted to talk about so bloody much? We’ll get to that, but I would rather focus on the other aspects of his game – the stuff he did that tore the Swans a new one.

He was way too skilled for Zak Jones early in the piece, and when moved into the middle in patches, his clean hands and physical pressure had an impact. In the air, he was superb, and he took three contested marks – for context, people rapt up Aliir’s work in the air. He took one contested mark for the game.

I can understand how some people don’t like Greene. He looks like a bit of a smarmy prick at times, but he can play, and he doesn’t mind playing on the edge. If I were picking a team based on ability, I’d have him in it every day of the week, and later in the year (probably after the season is done) I’ll be putting together a quick list of my favourite players to watch. I can guarantee you that Toby Greene will be on it.

He is a superstar.

 

Nick Haynes

Phil Davis will get a heap of credit for his defensive efforts today, and rightly so, but I want to give a shout out to one of the most underrated defenders in the game – Nick Haynes.

He had 20 disposals at 85% efficiency in a high pressure game (in the first three quarters, anyway. His reads the play beautifully and gets across the help his fellow back six. He had nine intercept possessions and took the ball out of defensive 50 on seven occasions.

I loved his attack on the ground ball, exemplified in the first quarter, when he backed himself, kept paddling the ball in front of him, and won a free kick. He had a big one-on-one wins against Heeney in the third quarter, and really combined with ward to apply some physical pressure (and pain) on the faltering Swans.

Haynes is someone opposition teams must start to take into account. Whilst Aliir will get a lot of attention for his first quarter exploits, and he was fantastic, Haynes had only one less intercept possession for the game. When you consider how often the ball went inside Sydney’s 50 metre zone as compared to GWS (39-63) Aliir had plenty of the ball coming in to intercept. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense, but I assure you, I know what I mean. I hope you do as well.

Defensive job on Jake Lloyd

We wrote in our preview that this bloke was the key to the way the Swans exited defensive 50, and that shutting down his run and carry was one of the keys to the game. Well, looky here… who didn’t have an effect on the game at all? That was you, Jake Lloyd.

Several players took their turn in ensuring Lloyd didn’t seagull the ball from his larger defenders. Hats off to Matt De Boer, Brett Deledio and Jacob Hopper, who all put significant time into limiting the impact of Lloyd. He finished with 17 touches, ten below his season average, which put enormous pressure on McVeigh, Newman and Ollie Florent to pick up the slack – a job they were unable to do.

When left to win his own ball, Lloyd was somewhat exposed. Only three of his 17 touches came via contests, and his zero in the tackles column give a clear indication that he doesn’t much like the physical stuff. The Giants delivered a blueprint for the rest of the competition in 2019 – that is how you stop Jake Lloyd.

The gamble pays off

Greene, Deledio, De Boer, Williams… all played significant roles in the win.

Fortune favours the brave, and GWS brought all four back into the side despite their lack of game time. Greene we covered above, but the others deserve some recognition as well.

Deledio had the most touches he’s had all year. 22 touches and seven marks across half forward were a very valuable contribution. Whilst he didn’t hit the scoreboard, he did have seven score involvements and one direct goal assist.

Zac Williams burst out of the gate like a caged Lion (I was gonna say caged Giant but I really don’t know what a caged Giant does. Maybe he just curls up and goes to sleep? They seem like lazy characters). He ran down the u-turning Hannebery very early in the game and never looked back. He continued his merry way, collecting nine touches for the quarter when the game was at its hottest.

De Boer started a little shakily, at least on the offensive end – you can never question his defensive efforts. In truth, I had him as one of the bottom three players on the ground at quarter time, with three touches and one terrible turnover that led to a Swans scoring chance. He battled back well after that, and finished with 17 disposals and seven contested touches.

And we already touched on the brilliance of Greene above. We’ll do some more of that below in the ‘Other Bits’ section. Who doesn’t like some halfway decent observations in the ‘Other Bits’ section? If you don’t, I probably don’t like you as a person at all.

THE BAD

Josh Kelly injury

As if GWS hadn’t had enough injury woes for year, right?

Kelly looked very proppy, and was unable to take any further part in the game. I hear it’s been preliminarily diagnosed as a meniscus injury. Well, that just happens to be my area of expertise, having torn mine a couple of times. Allow me to take you inside how this feels.

Your knee feels weak, as though it will collapse underneath you. The docs will look at it, do the structural tests and tell you that you should be right to go, but you get pain around the knee as well as in it. In my case the pain was on the outside of the knee, and the weakness was towards the back. You can run fine in a straight line, but as you look to turn, or if there is any increased pressure, you feel suspect (like my mate Joe Ganino when the Ashley Madison site accidentally leaked their client records).

Right now there is hope he can get back for next week, but I don’t think we’ll see him until at least preliminary final week, sadly. After the year GWS has had, they deserve a bit of a clear run. Fingers crossed for him.

The kids' vanishing act

In our preview, I wondered what would happen if either the old blokes or the young blokes didn’t show up today. All season the aging legs of the Swans midfield have been propped up by the likes of Ollie Florent, Ben Ronke and Will Hayward, but this is finals, and there have been many instances over the years where the kids wilt under the intensity of finals pressure.

It happened as recently as Thursday night, when Hawthorn’s kids went missing against Richmond. Harry Morrison, James Worpel  and Conor Nash were non-factors in the loss, and today, the Swans incurred a similar fate.

Florent had 11 touches but was found out in the physical clashes. He just didn’t have the body to stand up. Ronke started well, but was out of the action by ten minutes into the game. It was too hot for him too. Then there was Hayward, who has such a huge discrepancy between his best and worst. To half time, he’d had two touches and he finished with eight.

And then there was the youngest player in the game, Tom McCartin. He’s looked great all year, bobbing up here and there to win games and be a pivotal factor in a few more. He was nowhere near it tonight (looked more like his semi-useless brother) as he collected three touches for the game.

You can’t really blame anything on these kids – they’re going to obviously be better for the run, and this game will be a great learning experience as to what is required in finals footy, but today, we had four young fellas who the Swans needed to stand up that just weren’t up to it, and when the old blokes are struggling to keep up, the young ones needed to step in.

THE UGLY

Is Kieran Jack done?

The bell has been tolling for Jack this season. His averages are way down, his impact on games is diminishing rapidly, and his ability to apply pressure is nowhere near what it once was. He had 15 touches at 53% efficiency, and I can’t think of any instance where I watched him and thought “He’s still got a bit left.”

Not one.

The thing is, all the old brigade of the Swans didn’t do much better. Hannebery’s numbers look good on face value. 24 touches and eight marks, but he didn’t hurt GWS in any way and early in the game, he looked as though he’d already played a few quarters. He was slow, and he didn’t look like someone I would be looking to sign for five years. Do you hear that St Kilda idiots? Don’t sign a man who is visibly aging right before your eyes.

But it’s St Kilda… they’ll sign him and they’ll sign the knee reconstruction runner up, Daniel Menzel… because they’re stupid.

Kennedy tried hard, amassing 27 touches, but less than half of them were effective. He was under pressure every time he got it, and he couldn’t find a target. The clearance beast got two for the game. He’s not the same player he was a few years back, and it has been evident a few times this season. He needs some help.

The Leadership of the guys who aren't AA Captains

And then there was Buddy. All-Australian captain. A man anointed by those with footy smarts as the leader of the team of the year.

He showed no leadership today. He was led to the ball all day, as a matter of fact. He was outplayed and out-thought by Phil Davis, a man omitted from the AA team entirely. Franklin did not look like the player that tore GWS apart in their last meeting. He looked slow, he looked heavy, and he looked over 2018.

Here’s hoping he heals up, gets a good run at the 2019 pre-season and is able to get a clean bill of health next year. I miss seeing him at his best.

The kicks

Righto, there has been a tactic in Aussie Rules marking contests forever, where you use your legs to create distance or protection to mark the ball. It’s not a new thing, so can we all just settle down (Cameron Ling, and Bob Murphy who seems to have an opinion on why the sky is blue and ducks quack… and also cut me off whilst driving the other day – asshole) and take an objective look at things?

Yes, Toby Greene uses his feet in marking contests to protect the space. He has every right to do that when someone is running at him. There is not much difference between this, and using your feet to kick off someone’s back when trying to take a hanger. Anyone old enough to remember Nicky Winmar doing it? I am. How about Michael Mitchell for those in WA? Do you remember that? Those marks are celebrated. They’re celebrated because they’re spectacular, and legal. Greene's actions weren't spectacular, but they'resure as hell still legal.

If the AFL want to stop Toby Greene from using his feet in marking contests, change yet another rule. Why the hell not, right? They’re planning on changing the rules anyway – what’s one more? And then, when someone gets a kidney injury again, they can ban knees in marking contests, and while you’re at it, a lot of people seem to get hurt whilst running with the flight of the ball, so we’d better put a stop to that as well.

Toby Greene did nothing outside the laws of the game. If you’re upset about how it looks, or whether your eight year old will copy him, close your eyes and cover your ears, or do your job and educate your kid as to what you expect from them. I get so tired of this “it’ll start happening in juniors” crap.

If the AFL introduce a rule to prevent this action, I have no problem with it, but as it stands it is not outside the rules, and therefore, there is no issue here. Play on.

OTHER BITS

OK, now that all that is out of the way, let’s have a look at some other parts of the game that didn’t necessarily fit into the categories above.

Interesting to see Heeney start forward. I think he can play anywhere, but I would’ve liked to have started him in the guts. The Swans are very one-paced in the middle, and think his run would’ve given them an early spark.

Nice coaching by Leon Cameron to get the Haynes v McCartin match up early in the game. It allowed Haynes the freedom to zone off at will, as McCartin was never going to be used when the swans wanted to get Buddy going early.

I was a little disappointed with the way GWS didn’t adjust to Aliir’s presence in the first quarter. Sure they made the necessary teaks after quarter time, but did they really need their coaches to tell them to lower their eyes when this bloke was so prominent back there? Tomlinson was guilty of kicking the ball straight to Aliir on two occasions in the first quarter. I hope Aliir buys him a coffee if they run into each other.

The intensity of the tackling in the first quarter was great. There appeared to be genuine feeling in the tackles. I was always taught to “tackle to hurt”, and there were a few in the first quarter today that made me wince, chief amongst them was Himmelberg nailing Luke Parker., but I also liked Cameron’s effort on Rampe.

Speaking of Parker, he really drifted out of the game after the first quarter. Yeah, he had 21 touches, but he ran at just 48% efficiency for the game. I had him listed as one of the best on ground at quarter time. It was a rapid slide from then on.

The kick-mark game of the Giants looked great in the first quarter. Their ability to move the ball the length of the ground with short, precise kicks was really on display. Greene was the final link in the chain after some great body use against Zak Jones, but the spotting up in a zig zag fashion down the ground to get it there was elite.

I want to point out two really poor decisions by umpire Nathan Williamson (the little blonde umpire). It’s not often I look up an umpire because I disagree with his decisions, but Williamson made two that I thought were completely out of touch with the way the game was being played. The first came when Callan Ward and Isaac Heeney were tangling at a boundary throw in. the ball hadn’t even been thrown in yet and they were at each other. Ward got the better of Heeney and old mate just plucked the free out. At the same time, Sinclair and Lobb were also wrestling and I just felt that he plucked this out to “control the game.”

The second one came when Dylan Shiel soccered the ball out in front of himself. To me, it looked as though he was simply trying to buy space for him, or his teammate to run into. The ball trickled over the line and he was called for deliberate. It was a garbage call, and again completely unnecessary. It is these sorts of calls that infuriate supporters and even impartial observers because they are so subjective. Nathan Williamson, lift your game. Call what you see and stop jumping the gun just for the sake of making a decision. If you’re not careful, they’ll take back your “most promising umpire” award. Yeah, that’s right… I looked that up, too. Don’t be another Ray Chamberlain. I shouldn’t know your name.

Tom Papley’s gather in motion and snap on the left foot from 45 was perfect. He was so clean in this passage in a game where the pressure was high, that his goal was a standout. I really think he could be something special, but he is just so inconsistent.

Ruck tap of the day goes to Rory Lobb who managed to find Matt de Boer all alone inside 50 despite the congestion around the ball. De Boer had time to turn, steady and goal, such was the accuracy of Lobb’s 15 metre tap.

The game of Matt Buntine is vastly underrated. He was steady as a rock all day across half back, and when he switched out to play on the down Tom McCartin, he relished the freedom it gave him.

I don’t know why Aliir was so hell bent on avoiding contact with Himmelberg, to the point he put himself out of the contest and allowed the GWS forward to go to ground and jump up goal-side. His decision not to go low and meet him with his body cost a goal.

I remember seeing Geelong score 16 points in the first half last night and thinking it was one of the worst first halves I’ve seen, but then Sydney came out and did it, and then… they topped it by adding a 14-point second half.

You’ve heard about the noise of affirmation in Western Australia, I’m sure? it was talked about this year a fair bit in regards to free kicks. Well, in Sydney, it works against the Giants. Even in their home city, they get little reaction to things that should be a free kick their way, and it must be bloody difficult. They’re basically always the underdog.

Leon Cameron should not allow Dylan Shiel to kick for goal. At all. Ever! He is traveling at 21% accuracy this season.

After a pretty slow start, the GWS bigs started having a real impact. Himmelberg looked great and seemed to really enjoy the game once the lead was established, and after his” kick to Aliir” first quarter, Adam Tomlinson really started to win some big contests. His gather in the middle that set the Giants away in the third quarter set up Toby Greene for that booming 50 metre goal.

Great to see the Giants tighten the screws defensively in the third quarter. Watching the Swans really struggling to get the ball in from a kick in tells you two things – the Giants were working their butts off, sensing that the Swans were slipping. The second one – the Swans stopped running. We saw it in the Hawthorn-Richmond game on Thursday when Tom Mitchell looked up from defensive 50 and had no one to kick to. When you see that, the game is dusted.

To add to the Swans’ pain, as Nic Newman started arguing with the umpire about a decision, Lachie Whitfield just took off and left him there, hitting Jacob Hopper inside 50. That was a terrible look for Newman. You don’t take your attention off a bloke like Whitfield. Not even for a moment.

As Jeremy Cameron clunked a pack mark 20 metres out, you could feel the air go out of Sydney. The players were whining to the umpires about the validity of the mark (yes, Lobb had hands on it as well, but where were the Swans’ hands? I saw no fists) and they seriously looked like a defeated team then and there. Probably because they were.

The goalless quarter from the Swans shows just how much everything they do revolves around Buddy. Davis was all over him, and it was all over from there. There were no surprise Ronke bags of goals, no miraculous Parker goals. There was nothing. There was no Plan B, which has been something I’ve read a fair bit about in regard to Longmire. I don’t buy into that stuff, myself, but when enough people are saying it, they almost talk it into existence.

The last quarter was party time for the Giants. The Swans got two late goals, and one of them was the only blemish on an amazing game from Phil Davis. Once the ball got over the back, there was no way Davis was catching Papley.

Loved the goal from Ward which was reward for effort if there’s  ever been one.

Five posters for the game to the Giants as well. But for a few coast of paint, it may have been much uglier.

I sincerely hope the Match Review Officer, the esteemed Michael Christian does not cite Himmelberg for his solid bump on Newman in the last. Looked like a great hit to me, and Newman was fine once he got his wind back.

It’s funny – in every preview I spoke about rushing players back, or bringing in underdone players. The one player I did not mention was Buddy. I didn’t think he was underdone, and I didn’t think he would be the one who was the biggest non-factor of the night. But he was.

So where do the Swans go from here? Holiday, probably. If I were them, I would let Hannebery walk if St Kilda are determined to continue being the stupidest club in the league. They need some genuine pace in the midfield and we could see a changing of the guard in there. Jack looks done for, Hanners is slowing by the minute, and Kennedy can’t keep going like that forever.

As for the Giants, they are right up there in terms of my favourite teams to watch. There’s always been talk about what they were gifted when they started in the league. I have had enough of it. they’ve EARNED what they’ve received this year, and that is to be well and truly alive at the business end of the year. Well played, Giants… well played.

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