The Greater Western Sydney Giants have placed their heavy footprint upon the competition’s records by defeating the West Coast Eagles in a pulsating contest at Domain Stadium. Previously, the Eagles were the only AFL team the Giants had not defeated. A Giant victory on the Eagles’ home surface, with a small galaxy Giant stars absent, has signaled a potent warning to the rest of the competition. The Giants have the depth to back up their vast array of talent. The Eagles, despite fighting hard, have had their wings clipped and have been pushed back to earth to join a group of teams struggling to gain a secure foothold on the top eight ladder.
The Giants structured their game with a spare man in defense. This freed the Eagles to add a player to most stoppages, particularly in the midfield. More often than not it was Sam Mitchell who stood on the defensive side of bounce downs to either tackle a breaking player or receive a handpass and use his experience to direct the ball into attack. However, Mitchell could only lay three tackles because the Giants dominated the ruck through Shane Mumford who won 52 hitouts. Mumford's precision taps boosted Giant clearances to 30 more than the Eagles, as they launched 56 attacks compared to the Eagles 43. The Giants though, were inaccurate in front of goals and the Eagles were on target. This kept the Eagles in the game. With Sam Mitchell dishing out 22 handpasses as the link man, the Eagles had enough space and oxygen to run the ball out of defense. Five of the Eagles first eight goals were launched from their defensive zone as their runners, particularly a revitalized Neville Jetta, streamed through the center of the field.
The Giants were well served by Dylan Shiel, who used his enormous motor to gather kicks all over the ground. Callan Ward gave good support at half forward and around the midfield, and Josh Kelly was ruthlessly effective with his use of the ball out of the center. The Giants had the luxury of big players such as Daniel Lloyd, Jonathon Patton and Jeremy Cameron who could grab big marks (catches) in attack. A pugnacious Toby Green set up several Giant majors (goals), but his own radar was askew and he missed three relatively easy shots. He showed persistence in the last quarter by booting two long goals to destroy any hope of an Eagle victory.
The defenses of both teams stood strong. For the Giants, Aidan Corr blanketed Eagles’ spearhead Josh Kennedy and Phil Davis kept the Eagles’ other big forward, Jack Darling, contained for most of the day. Kennedy broke free in the third quarter to kick two goals and looked dangerous early in the last quarter, scoring another goal, before injuring a calf muscle at the 6-minute mark and leaving the game. Sam Butler and Jeremy McGovern were stellar in defense for the Eagles and were capably assisted by Shannon Hurn. Patton was kept relatively quiet in attack by Eagles’ defender Will Schofield but ‘the General’ still booted two commanding goals. Jeremy Cameron was mostly outpointed by Eagle defender, Sam Butler, but Cameron still managed to take seven marks and score two goals.
The lead changed seven times in the first three quarters when the game was fought in the midfield and defenses held firm. On three occasions the Eagles pushed out to a three goal lead only to see the Giants rise to the challenge and drag them back in. In the last quarter the lead changed a remarkable eight times. When Toby Greene kicked his second goal, the Giants had built a defensive wall across the midfield and the game was signed and sealed. A last minute defensive error by the Giants’ defense gifted Jetta a consolation goal which reduced the final margin to just eight points.
Next week the Eagles fly to the Queensland to take on the Gold Coast Suns. The Eagles need to win away from home to stay in the top eight. The Giants return home to Spotless Stadium to host the Essendon Bombers and should continue their giant push for top spot on the ladder.
Scores West Coast Eagles 5.0 6.2 9.3 14.6 (90) Greater Western Sydney Giants 2.4 4.7 8.12 14.14 (98) Best Players West Coast Eagles: Gaff, Yeo, Jetta, Mitchell, Butler Greater Western Sydney Giants: Kelly, Ward, Shiel, Mumford, Greene
Article last changed on Monday, May 29, 2017 - 3:05 AM EDT