I listened to Jimmy Bartel talking on some random radio station as I drove either to or from work during the week, and he was quietly confident that the Giants would knock the Cats over at Kardinia Park.
They welcomed Geelong youngster, Jordan Clark to the broadcast and both he and Bartel joked about it, but I took notice of what was said earlier. Bartel is on the board at GWS and of course he’d tip his new team to win, but it was the confidence in which he said it that got my attention.
It turns out it was for good reason.
After the Cats grabbed a solid early lead, the Giants reeled them in on the back of their powerful midfield, and took the lead in a ripping contest.
Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
THE GIANTS MIDS
Let’s run down the names, shall we?
Lachie Whitfield, Josh Kelly, Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper and Stephen Coniglio. With all the talk about the powerful Collingwood midfield, and the holy trinity at Geelong, maybe there needs to be a little more focus on the group GWS have running around in the guts – they are absolute quality.
I’ve heard a few arguments that both Hopper and Taranto are too young to be taking the sort of responsibility they are, but far out, having absolute jets like Coniglio and Kelly running beside them makes their work a little easier.
Check these numbers out. 34 for Coniglio, 32 for Kelly, 31 for Hopper, 31 for Whitfield and 28 for Taranto. They were the top five disposal gatherers on the park, completely dwarfing the output of their Geelong counterparts. Coniglio was a clearance beast, notching ten, and Whitfield again showed his class by foot, running at 83% efficiency.
With these five streaming through the midfield, and with the big fella Mumford back and seemingly in the swing of AFL footy again, those who thought the Giants were a spent force after the departure of Dylan Shiel may be well-served in reassessing.
HARRY HIMMELBERG’S MARK
These are the moments people remember. You’ll often hear people hark back to the great marks running with the flight of the ball. Wayne Carey was a master at it. Jonathon Brown threw caution to the wind and kept his eyes on the ball as he barrelled into contests to take courageous marks, and Nick Riewoldt’s mark with the flight at the SCG was iconic.
Harry Himmelberg had a moment of his own today.
With both Jordan Clark and Brent Daniels leading up at the ball, Himmelberg refused to take his eyes off the ball. Running with the flight of it, he launched at the mark with a blatant disregard for his own wellbeing. He clunked the mark, clutched it to his chest, had his legs taken out from under him in the process and crashed to the turf inside the Giants’ 50 metre arc.
The game was well and truly in the balance at that moment, and after dishing to Jeremy Finlayson in the pocket, resulting in a goal, Himmelberg found himself on the receiving end of many pats on the back from teammates.
These sorts of actions are the ones teammates, fans and anyone who sees them remember. They are courageous, bordering on crazy – and they serve to inspire teammates to put their body on the line when it’s their time to go.
Himmelberg had his time to go this afternoon. He didn’t hesitate.
MATT DE BOER
Earlier this week, Mongrel Writer, Robert Abrahams submitted his list of top taggers in the league. Whilst it is a subjective list, it came on the heels of Matt de Boer putting the clamps on Dustin Martin and frustrating him to the point he felt he had to lash out.
And then it happened again today.
We give out Mongrel votes every week, and this game falls to me this week – I am going to be hard pressed to leave de Boer out.
Not only did he completely destroy Tim Kelly at every single opportunity, he also put the clamps on Patrick Dangerfield when Kelly went to the bench for a rest, and in that short time, his attention was enough to see Danger throw an elbow and a forearm that may see him in trouble. Personally, I didn’t see a hell of a lot in it, but hey, you can’t just be swinging your arms around like me on the dance floor, and expect nothing to come of it.
I’ll concentrate a little more on Kelly later, but this bit is to celebrate the disrupting presence of de Boer, who is earning every cent of his pay cheque this season. He had 15 touches and five tackles as he gave the Geelong midfield hell. Great work by the stopper – the best in the game at the moment.
I rate Nick Haynes so highly. When Patrick Dangerfield went forward, it was Haynes charged with the responsibility of keeping him quiet, and that’s exactly what he did.
But that’s not the reason he’s in here. He’s in here based on his actions in the last quarter, when his intercept marking made a huge impact late in the game. Leaving his man, Haynes took two big marks inside defensive 50 as the Cats pushed hard to retake the lead.
Haynes is often overlooked when people talk about the best defenders in the competition, and I don’t think he is anywhere near flashy enough to go close to any major award, but he is the sort of player that would end up being a “surprise” best and fairest winner.
A surprise to everyone except those within the club, that is.
Haynes had 17 touches at 88% efficiency and returned the ball outside 50 on six occasions as he combined with Phil Davis, Sam Taylor and Heath Shaw to underpin the Giants defence.
My hope is that when the All-Australian team is selected this year, that Haynes makes the squad at the very least. He deserves some recognition, and he was huge with the game on the line today.
There were two blokes who actually looked dangerous for the Cats, and both of them featured in basically every scoring opportunity Geelong had.
One was the Little Master, who was once again classy around the forward 50 before being sent into the middle to make a difference to the failing midfield. The other was Tom Hawkins, who led the game in score involvements, with 12 for the game. Hawkins kicked three goals himself, dished off two direct goal assists, and had a hand in so many others.
Playing on a genuine star defender in Phil Davis, Hawkins was able to work his way into multiple contests and establish good position to either take the ball, or receive a free kick.
He was forced to head up the ground as the Cats started to struggle to find targets coming out of defence in the second half, which upset the Geelong structure. On a day where Hawkins did very little wrong, he could be forgiven for feeling as though his midfield let him down.
The commentators talked about the need for characters in the game, and that’s fair enough, but something I think the game needs to retain is the big guy who will throw his weight around, and knock some people on their asses.
And that’s what Shane Mumford does.
He had a great battle with Rhys Stanley and notched 40 hit outs for the first time this season. He also took two crucial marks in a passage of play late in the game that gave the Giants a bit of breathing space.
He only had two clearances himself, but Mummy’s physical pressure around the ball is the sort that makes opposition mids look over their shoulder, and he adds an element to the Giants that they have not had since Toby Greene returned to the side. Now, with both of them soon to be playing together, we could soon see some carnage out there.
I’m looking forward to it already.
You’ve got to wonder if Kelly’s ankle was hampering him from last week, but at the same time, if you’re on the park, it’s automatically assumed that you’re 100% fit, or at least as fit as the next bloke out there.
If that was the case, then Tim Kelly was absolutely obliterated by a determined Matt de Boer. He finished with a meagre return of nine disposals for the game, and was the most disappointing of all the big name Geelong mids.
But it wasn’t just that he had nine touches… only three of them were actually effective. So Tim Kelly, one of the Brownlow favourites coming into this round had three touches for the game that had the potential to make a difference. That’s terrible.
He had one contested touch and one clearance after being lauded for his work in both departments in the weeks prior. It was the sort of turnaround that can cripple a team structure, and it went a long way to doing that.
With Kelly down, and no real help from his teammates (they’re next!), the Geelong forward got no delivery and no chance to make a real impact.
He can’t have a performance like this again this year. If he is injured, he shouldn’t have played. But if you’re out there, you put your body on the line and earn a kick or two. Kelly did neither of those things today
THE GEELONG MIDS
But am I being unfair on Tim Kelly when he had very little in the way of help in the guts? Maybe, considering there was no clear winner in the midfield who wasn’t wearing orange and charcoal.
This pains me to say, but Joel Selwood went missing for an extraordinary amount of time in the third quarter. I actually started looking up stats as to whether he was off the ground injured, and how long he’d been on the bench for. Turns out he wasn’t injured, and just couldn’t get near the footy. He finished with 18 touches and three tackles.
Then we move onto a bloke I like to call the BMX - Sam Menegola. Why the BMX?
He only has one speed, and no matter how hard he’s peddling, he really never gets going. He returned 14 disposals for the game.
How about Dangerfield? Interesting… after eight touches in the first quarter, he added just nine for the rest of the game. When was the last time he’s been that quiet for three quarters? Even on one leg he was able to tear Hawthorn apart a couple of years ago. What’s going on with him?
The only player who can hold his head high is Mitch Duncan, who pushed hard into defence to finish with 26 disposals, but even he was messy by foot.
Others – Brandan Parfitt, Charlie Constable… they can’t be expected to be the drivers of that midfield just yet.
I was a little worried about Selwood’s form line even when the Cats. The last time he had three consecutive games under 20 disposals was in 2015. I’ll be watching with interest as to how he responds.
CAL WARD INJURED AGAIN
In real-time, it didn’t look like much, and I was hoping that Gary Ablett might’ve somehow clocked Ward with an errant elbow or knee in the contest. That’s a bit morbid, huh? Hoping someone was injured in a certain way…
But then you see what the alternative is, and it makes more sense.
It’s not often you see a man the like of Cal Ward crying on the bench, but as made his way back to where his teammates sat, the emotion overcame him. He knew what had happened, and knew what it meant for his season.
After struggling to get right to play, he was done for the day five minutes into the first quarter, and while we await scans, and wish him all the best, we do so knowing that the worst case scenario is also the most likely.
Fingers crossed we can be pleasantly surprised. It worked for Paul Seedsman.
I just want to take a second here to comment on something I saw before the game as the Geelong team huddled up. Joel Selwood was talking to his charges and the bloke in that circle nodding and agreeing most was Gary Ablett. His eyes did not leave Selwood once.
Why is that significant? Well, I reckon of all there, Ablett would’ve heard the most pre-game addresses, and you could forgive him for tuning out, but he was in – completely in on whatever Selwood was preaching. This says a heap about Ablett, but also about the esteem that Ablett holds Selwood in.
Anyway, I thought was really interesting.
Some really nice second efforts from Gary Rohan today, which was a great thing because on his first efforts, he made a few mistakes. Dropped a couple of marks he should’ve taken, but his second efforts made up for the errors.
Geelong really got no reward for effort from their forward pressure in the first quarter. They continually bottled the ball up inside their forward line but simply could not hit the scoreboard. You have to credit the desperation of the Cats, but also the ability of the Giants to defend consistently and not get blown off the park.
The Giants have two of the best users in the comp in Whitfield and Kelly. What a joy to watch them with ball in hand, assessing and hitting tough targets.
Is Jeremy Finlayson the permanent solution in the GWS forward line? He looks lively, but what happens when Jonathon Patton is right to play? And assuming he’s healthy all year, what happens in the off-season? If I remember correctly, wasn’t Finlayson’s name floated as a potential target last season? I reckon there’d be a few teams rueing a missed opportunity if they had the shot at obtaining his services.
Jeremy Cameron’s hands looked great on several overhead marks today. He is in a rich vein of form, and is looking like he may fulfil that potential finally. He might be the best poised to win the Coleman this year.
I am a big Heath Shaw fan, and I have to admit that it really pissed me off to hear, or in this case not hear the commentators make mention of the great run out of defence he provided early in the third quarter. He was involved in a great chain of possessions that led to a Cameron goal, yet there was no mention of his effort. What game were they watching?
Winning on the road is never easy. Winning at Kardinia Park is harder still. Winning after never, ever doing it before as a club… that is special. I kept waiting for the Cats to get rolling, but credit the desperation of the Giants. In the end, they wanted it more.
No goals from Brent Daniels today, but I really like the way he looks as a small forward. He’s nippy, always has his eyes darting here, there and everywhere, and doesn’t hesitate to give the ball up to someone in a better spot. His combination with Daniel Lloyd will give plenty of teams nightmares before all is said and done.
Toby Greene to come back into this side… can’t wait. He’s a Mongrel top 10 player in the game.
Tom Stewart had another good game for the Cats. 26 touches at 84% efficiency sees him as perhaps the premier defender of his size in the league at the moment.
And that’ll do The Mongrel for this one. Great, great win by the Giants – season-defining stuff. They get the Dockers at home next week, and would be eyeing a 4-1 start to the year.
For the Cats, they get the traditional Easter Monday game against the Hawks… anything can happen there.
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