It was a tight game of ebbs and flows. It wasn't a classic in the traditional sense of what a classic game provides, but in a tight last quarter, the game was definitely up for grabs, and those who wanted it most won in the end.
The Crows looked great early and really challenged the Giants who, to their credit, got on track pretty quickly and hit the front on the back of a stunning five minutes of blistering football in the third quarter. That seemed to sting the Crows into action, and just as they started to kick away, the Giants responded again.
Not to overly dramatise this game, as it was hardly a beautiful contest to watch, but this was like two genuine heavyweights slugging it out, and at times, both teams were seemingly on the ropes. It was tough and contested after the first 10 minutes of incredibly free-flowing footy.
In the end, it was the Crows, on the back of big last quarters by their leaders, and some inspired work by their "back up" ruckman, that took the chocolates.
There are a few little wrinkles that were a little concerning for me, but I’ll get to them later in either the bad or ugly section. Let’s get cracking.
SLOANE V DE BOER
Righto, so there has been some (heated?) debate at Mongrel HQ lately about whether Matt de Boer is worthy of a spot in our next All-Australian team.
Tonight, our very own Trent Adam Shields – a man whose opinion I rate very highly, declared at three quarter time that de Boer deserves to be in. I have to say… I found it difficult to disagree with him. At that stage of the game, Sloane had touched it just 11 times, and de Boer well and truly had his number.
By the end of the last quarter, Sloane had 17, but it was the two goals next to his name, one of which came at a vital moment in the game, which may or may not influence the swinging voters in our team.
For what it’s worth, I thought both Sloane and de Boer had huge moments in the last quarter, and I really wanted to drill down on them. Sloane’s one was easy. With de Boer forced to stand the mark after contesting a mark against Matt Crouch, Sloane was able to sneak inside 50. He just basically found 15 metres of space, which really, is unforgivable at that stage of the game, and the GWS defenders really didn't give de Boer a chop out at all as he was stuck on the mark. Sloane was able to pull in the mark with Shane Mumford closing the distance on him. He went back and slotted a goal to get the Crows rolling.
But a few minutes later, it was the defensive actions from de Boer that swing the momentum back to his Giants. And I have to say – I LOVED this piece of play even though it got no love from the commentators.
The game was on a knife’s edge here, with the Crows kicking back to back goals and now leading by eight points. I wrote in my notes that this is the point in the game where the Giants either stand up or fade away. They stood up, at this point anyway, and it was due to de Boer.
It looked as though it was going to be a clean clearance for Sloane, as he ran onto the knock. De Boer trailed him and applied the pressure as Sloane lunged forward.
Now, there’s not much to that, right? Just pressure the bloke and that’s all you have to do? Yeah, if only…
Staying out of Sloane’s back while continuing to apply pressure in a situation like this is incredibly difficult, yet that’s what de Boer did, knocking the ball free and allowing Brett Deledio to go long to the goal square where Daniel Lloyd marked and goaled to tighten things up again. Had the Giants gone onto win this game, I reckon de Boer’s defensive work against Sloane at this point right here (16.31 remaining) would have been the catalyst.
Alas, the Crows were able to power away, and with Sloane sneaking forward to kick his second last quarter goal (see below), he will be remembered as having the pivotal moments in their duel when it mattered most.
And what a duel it was – I loved every second of it.
So Sam Jacobs is apparently ready to come back, but is ROB ready to step aside?
It does not appear that Jacobs’ return to the senior side is a fait accompli by any stretch. O’Brien played like a man with a point to prove this evening, gathering 17 disposals and a mammoth nine clearances to take the points in his contest with Shane Mumford.
I’ll get to Mummy a little later, but for now, the intelligent work from O’Brien was actually a privilege to watch. I know intelligence and ruckmen don’t usually go hand in hand, but it really looked as though O’Brien had done his homework and was applying his learnings to his body-to-body contests with the powerful Giant.
The Crows ruckman finished with 29 hit outs, shadowed by Mummy’s 35, but his ability to split contests against his stringer opponent was integral in the Crows finishing with a clearance advantage (42-36). O’Brien’s ability to not only compete in the ruck, but to then make space and become a viable option around the ground exploited the one big weakness in Mumford’s game.
Reilly O’Brien has laid a blueprint many ruckmen in the league will follow as the season wears on. GWS and their coaching staff have a bit of a conundrum on their hands, but with Jon Patton on the way back soon, maybe some help is on the way.
BIG BOYS DOING… BIG BOY THINGS
Here’s a bit of a shout out to my idiot friend, Joe Ganino, who once tried to act a little tough to a group of kids and uttered the immortal line “if you wanna play with the big boys, you’ve gotta do big boy things.”
I still don’t know exactly what he meant when speaking to this group of children, and part of me wonders now… is he really all there upstairs? But that aside, the Adelaide Crows did some big boy things in the last quarter, and by that I mean they stood up and took big pack marks – that’s the AFL equivalent of big boy things. Joe Ganino would be so proud.
Both Tex Walker and Hugh Greenwood took huge grabs in the last quarter, with the former answering his critics in the best possible way, and the latter slotting a goal at a vital part of the game in a role he was obviously not suited for, or prepared to play 15 minutes before the game.
Walker’s pack mark came just moments after he burned Wayne Milera, opting to have a shot from 60 instead. The shot went nowhere near it and a shallow exit from defensive 50 saw it re-enter the 50. Tex drifted into the pack and clunked a ripping contested mark before slotting the goal to give the Crows the lead.
Greenwood’s grab and goal will do him the world of good. The Crows lost a big time player in a rich vein of form with Lynch tweaking a calf in the warm up, but in one fell swoop, Greenwood was able to put a game where he struggled behind him, take a big mark and kick a big goal to extend the lead. So often, the game is made up of moments. Some are big, some are small… and this one was huge.
Sam Reid would like to have that marking contest over again, by the way.
Then Sloane bobbed up again, this time matched up on Heath Shaw. Now I have to stress this – Shaw rarely loses a one-on-one battle. Coming into this round, he had lost just 7.7% of defensive contests, but Sloane used his strength and positioning to protect the space and mark inside 50. He kicked his second of the last quarter.
The Big Boys at the Crows… doing Big Boy Things.
You know, every week…sometimes it feels like every day, I have chats with people about who should be All-Australian, and who is deserving. One name that continually flies under the radar is Daniel Talia.
I don’t know if it’s because he has little fanfare about him, even from his own fans, or because he’s been there and done that (2014 and 2016 All Australian) but his form in 2019 has been excellent. I think he may have been overshadowed by people’s need for something new and exciting (Keath) to latch onto, but the old fella Talia… he has a bit left in the tank just yet.
He spent time dealing with both Jeremy Cameron and Jeremy Finlayson this evening, and did so with the control and refusal to be flustered that you’d expect from him.
That the GWS forwards, ranked first and seventh in the Coleman race coming into this game, finished with one goal between them, speaks volumes about how well Talia controlled the defensive 50 for his team. We often hear that so-and-so is a general in the backline, and that so-and-so is a great on-field coach, but Talia is one of the absolute best at organising the troops back there and ensuring that the structure remains intact.
Truth be told, I don’t think we’ll see Talia as an AA defender again. I get the distinct feeling that the league, and those involved with it have moved on from him, but that does not mean that we can’t appreciate just how bloody good he is, and he was brilliant tonight.
THE BROTHERS CROUCH
Ahhhh, this is how it was supposed to be, huh? Last season, with the two Crouch brothers, running around creating havoc – this is what Crows fans wanted to see. Even this season, this is what they’ve been waiting for.
Both capable of huge numbers, Matt and Brad went to work in the middle, and combined for 65 disposals for the game, with 14 coming in the pulsating last quarter. Brad Crouch would have to be close to the leader in the Adelaide Best and Fairest at this point. He’d have Alex Keath to deal with, but he has been so consistent thus far.
The return of Matt Crouch is an understated gain for the Crows. His ability to win the ball in tight (six clearances) and combine with his brother (seven clearances) gives opposition coaches headaches. When there’s one of them out there, you have the chance to put the brakes on them, but two? And Sloane?
Health is the main factor with these two, and if they get a good run at it over the next month or so, we could be seeing the Crows eyeing a top four position come September. And from there, anything can happen*
HAYNES AND DAVIS
I gave Talia a wrap for his efforts, and though both Nick Haynes and Phil Davis play differently to the Crows defender, they’re just as effective at controlling that back half.
Between them, Haynes and Davis had 16 spoils and 22 intercept possessions in a stunning display of reading the play and getting to the right position to shut down the opposition. When the Giants made their runs, it was off the back of these two starting the ball rolling from half back.
Haynes in particular never gets credit for the role he plays in the Giants’ defence. Ever-reliable, Haynes has been beaten in just 11% of contests this season. He takes big jobs and performs them admirably every week, and Davis… well, Davis is one of the few captains in the league I would genuinely follow into battle.
I love when a player looks as though he legitimately gives a shit. There's no question that Davis cares about each and every contest. You can see it on his face.
It seemed for a brief period that Harry Himmelberg was going to tear them apart, but if you watch the way the defenders re-organise themselves, at the behest of Davis, and start to take away the areas he’s good at, you get a better appreciation of the level the elite defenders operate at.
Davis and Haynes are unsung for a reason, just like Talia, and I doubt we’ll see either in the AA team come September, but I’m sure their efforts are lauded and appreciated by the Giants’ faithful. Even on the outside looking in, I can see just how good they are.
This is going to be harsh, and I apologise in advance as I know it’s not completely fair.
When the game was there to be won, the two blokes who tore the game to shreds in the first three quarters were nowhere to be seen.
With a combined eight touches in the last quarter, the engine room of the GWS Giants broke down. Kelly uncharacteristically fumbled and turned the ball over, and Taranto looked like he’d spent all his petrol tickets too early. At a time the Giants needed midfield grunt, these two had little left to give.
But what about Hopper and Coniglio?
Coniglio had five, but was coming off half forward for a while as Leon Cameron tried to capitalise on his ability to hit the scoreboard, and he almost did moments after the move was made, but didn’t get enough on the kick. Hopper is your pure grunt worker, but he just wasn't getting enough of it for the whole game.
The big criticism of GWS has been that when they get the ball and run in waves (the tsunami), they look amazing, but when the tide goes out… what then? This was the sort of game where the leaders needed to step up. Phil Davis gave his heart and soul as usual. Nick Haynes was great at half back, but where were the big midfield names when the heat went up?
Where was Josh Kelly? Where was Stephen Coniglio? Where was Tim Taranto?
They were chasing Matt and Brad Crouch around, seemingly. And GWS need more.
THE MUMFORD PROBLEM
Yeah, he may have solved more problems than he causes, but the big fella is starting to look as though he simply cannot get off the ground at all at the moment.
This may be a by-product of time out of the game, and a huge work load since his return, but Mumford looks as though he needs the bye as much as any player in the league at the moment. As it stands, if there is an aerial contest, Mummy’s only hope is that he can somehow break even. He’s not going to win it. He’s not even going to go close.
As one of the biggest guys on the ground, he is averaging 1.8 marks per game, and did that tally no favours with a big, fat goose egg in the marking column in this game.
So, if opposition teams are aware that he poses little threat in the air at all, there is no great need to man-up on him around the ground, is there? That allows players like Reilly O’Brien free reign to do as they please, knowing that even if there is a contest involving Mumford, it isn’t vital that they’re present to punch the ball away – he’s probably going to get spoiled by someone much smaller.
Then there’s the issue of free kicks against. Again, Mumford led the game in frees against, totalling four this week, which is a massive improvement on the last time I watched him play.
I am all for making opponents pay if they get in your way. I am all for a clumsy tackle that drives a bloke into the ground. Those actions make a statement, but the free kicks Mumford is giving away… they’re not smart.
What did I say above about ruckmen and intelligence?
THE FREE KICK COUNT
I have to give a bit of credit here, to u/RLGriffinGWS on Reddit, who pointed out that amidst the extremely lopsided free kick count (23-7 in favour of the Crows) that one umpire… and this is the beauty of being non-accredited, people - his name is Justin Power - had a bit influence on. He paid 12 free kicks on the night, and 11 of them were in favour of Adelaide. Just one to the Giants.
Just one, Justin? Did you get confused and point the wrong way or something?
Look, I don’t care that Giants fans will think they were hard done by – i thought there were no obvious howlers on the night. GWS had the chance to win the game and let it slip on the road, but when one umpire has a discrepancy like this… I really hope the AFL reviews it and signs off on his decisions as legit (as if there is any doubt they’d sign off on it as legit, right?). Don’t make me do the review, myself, Gil – my interpretations of what should and shouldn’t be a free kick will probably cause you to fire an au pair or something drastic. Or maybe you’ll make her stay. I don’t really know… I didn’t follow the whole au pair saga.
In all seriousness, you think at some stage, Justin may have thought “Shit, I am really giving the Giants the business here”?
Obviously not, as the 11-1 free kick count indicates. Granted, he can only pay what he sees, but these sorts of numbers indicate that what he was seeing was really only one side of a story.
Feel free to chime in with your opinions, people. I just found this to be quite odd, and in a pretty even contest, a disparity like that raises a few eyebrows...
You know what – I cannot stand James Brayshaw on commentary. It took about five minutes for me to put the headphones down and to watch without sound for a little while due to him openly questioning whether Rory Sloane was holding the ball or not. He was, blatantly. After breaking out of one tackle, trying to spin out of another and being taken to ground, it was,painfully apparent he should be pinged. It was holding the ball every day of the week. How players like Angus and Andrew have the same genes as James is amazing to me. Maybe he and his brother, Mark had different dads or something…
Pretty solid game from Harry Perryman up until he missed a critical goal in the last. I thought he bobbed up at opportune moments early on.
Eddie Betts looked as dangerous as ever in the first ten minutes. He had a real spring in his step and you got the feeling he was capable of anything early on. Credit to the Giants defence then, and Sam Reid in particular, in curtailing him and making him a virtual non-factor from the end of the first until the dying seconds of the last quarter.
Lachie Murphy had some small flashes tonight (much like Joe Ganino in a carpark) and could very well end up being THE pressure forward the Crows need going forward. he’s 23 games into his career now, and how he goes from here to the 50 game mark will be very interesting. The tools are all there.
Really rough day at the office for Jeremy Finlayson. Every time he seemed to find a bit of space on the lead, teammates would miss him by miles, and then when he retreated to full forward, he often found he had two players to beat. On the rare occasion he did get a genuine one-on-one inside 50, his teammates (namely Cameron) refused to kick the ball to him. It was not his best outing of the year, but sometimes it is better to be lucky than good, and today he had no luck at all.
If there is one bloke I wouldn’t want to be tackled by, I reckon it’d be Cam Ellis-Yolmen. I heard the commentators state that he weighs about 94 kilograms and I got to thinking… that’s about what I weigh! So I wandered over to the scales at half time…93.1 to be exact. Then why does he look so good and I look like some fat yokel? It must be the top I’m wearing, right? Yeah, that’d be it.
Some really solid forward work early from Josh Jenkins. I’m really enjoying what he’s providing since his return from the SANFL.
Back to Greenwood for a second - it’s obvious to me that he is a midfielder. He’s strong at stoppages, is usually clean with his hands and is good overhead as well. He is out of contract at the end of this season, and if he is genuinely not best-22 for the Crows, I reckon there is a dozen teams where he’s not just best-22, but best-12/13. I’d love him at Hawthorn. Go on, Crows fans… get mad, but I reckon he is a very good player waiting for the opportunity to be just that. Career 6.5 tackles and 4.4 clearances per game… he belongs in the midfield.
Okay, I’m getting tired, and you know what that means? It means review over.
The Crows get a ripper next week against the Tigers. We’re back at Adelaide Oval, but unlike last season, the Tigers have travelled well this year. This game basically sets up the season for both clubs. I’ve been seemingly saying that about the Crows for three weeks now, but it’s true. If they win, they go to 8-5 heading into their bye. It’s a nice place to be.
The Giants… they failed their test today, and they get to travel to Tassie to take on a resurgent North Melbourne… oh joy, huh? Tassie at this time of year is delightful if you’re a snowman. They need this win on the road, and North are just now getting a sniff of what is possible. The Giants can snuff out any thoughts of finals for the Roos.
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*yes, I tipped the Crows for the flag
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