In a Rut in the Ruck. GWS Giants have to get out of it

Using poetic license here from the former UK new wave band The Ruts with their classic tome “In A Rut” which basically spoke about getting out of a place you don’t wish to be. For the GWS Giants who, despite the flattering points difference, were well beaten by a Sydney Swans team on Saturday at the SCG. Their ruck department / strategy isn’t working under the current set up. It hasn’t worked since Shane Mumford was injured late last season and then retired and it hasn’t worked under various game scenarios. The ultimate test of the 2017 preliminary final against Richmond saw the ruck position easily accoutered for. The current combination of Rory Lobb and Jon Patton, whilst reasonably competent over several games isn’t the solution to the Greater Western Sydney ruck position. Dawson Simpson who has performed credibly since he joined the Giants has to play as the main ruck.

Best on ground, Callum Mills repelled everything bar the mosquitos on Saturday night. Photo: Jodie Newell

In a week where the majority of AFL pundits spoke about the “return” of the big man such as Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy, cult hero of Melbourne Max Gawn and Adelaide’s Sam “Sauce” Jacobs have been pivotal in their teams success. For the Sydney Swans on Saturday, Callum Sinclair was outstanding. He had 45 hit outs, kicked 3 goals and had 14 disposals. The hit out count saw the Swans easily win with 50-26. It’s a fair call to say that OK, Rory Lobb copped a knee injury and Jon Patton had to carry most of the ruck duties, but fit or injured, the “distraction” of the current Giants ruck set up has affected their firepower up forward. Lobb and Patton are forwards full stop in my opinion. I also fear for Jon Patton as he has suffered some terrible knee injuries early in his career. The demands of running around the ground puts a massive amount of physical strain on a player. I’m not suggesting that Patton should be kept in cotton wool, but his role is as a forward and the rucking role doesn’t fit.

Callum Sinclair was superb in the ruck for the Sydney Swans. Photo: Jodie Newell

As we write this, the Giants have decided to role the dice and select Dawson Simpson against Fremantle for this Saturday’s clash against Fremantle in Canberra. It was a timely inclusion, as The Dockers have one of the best ruckman in the AFL competition in Aaron Sandilands, Simpson will be immediately tested, it’s the ideal situation.

In terms of the Giants game against Sydney, there were some worrying signs. Their ball use was terrible. Some of the decision making made by experienced and younger players was confounding. It was like a return to the early, easybeat turnover days of the fledgling  Giants. The Swans were very good with their pressure, but much of it was self inflicted by the Giants. Up forward Jeremy Cameron seemed to be carrying a slight leg strain. He didn’t look his best and Dane Rampe easily shoved him aside when it came to a one on one contest. To Cameron’s credit he slotted home a couple of very skillful goals. Heath Shaw put in a forgettable performance. Some of his shanked kicks on the full were concerning. It’s becoming a bit of a habit for the veteran defender, he needs to lift his game. Lachie Whitfield turned into an apparition on Saturday night. He had a very poor game compared to his recent form.

The contest was willing during Saturday’s game. Photo: Jodie Newell

On the Sydney Swans side, they are traveling very well despite the loss at home to Port Adelaide last week. They have learnt from last year with regards to starting. It’s really the same old Swans. Franklin kicking amazing goals, Heath Grundy and Dane Rampe at the back repelling everything, Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy, in the midfield and Isaac Heeney up forward lending a hand to the Bud. Callum Mills was best on ground with 26 touches and swept up everything on the backline. Despite the Franklin brilliance, GWS Giants skipper Phil Davis stuck to his task and it was a compelling contest. The outcome was a draw in terms of who was better overall.

Matt de Boer hard at work in the contest for the GWS Giants. Photo: Jodie Newell

John Longmire remained positive about his team’s 2018 season start. He was pleased in how Sydney matched up with the Giants, stating that it was a tough game and that the Giants had played hard. A very disconsolate Leon Cameron was unhappy in the inconsistency of his side’s effort. He didn’t blame the ruck, but thought Sydney were better for a longer period of the game. He was cagey when we asked him about the possible inclusion of Dawson Simpson. But with hindsight, perhaps he was being strategic in not giving away too much to his upcoming opponent in Fremantle.

Not happy. Giants coach Leon Cameron was pretty gloomy after the loss against cross-town rivals the Swans. Photo: Jodie Newell

So this week it will be interesting for the GWS Giants. They face a much improved Fremantle side. Nat Fyffe is back to his best and defender Alex Pearce is playing his best football. Ok. so the game is to be played at “Fortress” Canberra but in this instance, we tip Fremantle to win. The Giants will be without key midfielder Josh Kelly. This game is really their first big test of the 2018 season. All kudos to them if they can bounce back strongly and post a win after a pretty ordinary week.

The Swans travel to Melbourne to face the Western Bulldogs who will be buoyed by a much needed win against Essendon. That should be an interesting game given the Dog’s fresh confidence and the feeling these two sides have shared over some pretty compelling games in recent years including the 2016 grand final. I wont be surprised if the Dogs cause another upset.

SYDNEY                                   3.4   7.4   12.5   16.7 (103)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY  2.5   5.10  7.13   12.15 (87)

GOALS
Sydney: Sinclair 3, Rohan 2, Reid 2, Papley 2, Hayward 2, Franklin 2, Heeney, Parker, Kennedy
Greater Western Sydney: Cameron 3, De Boer 2, Lloyd 2, Coniglio, Lobb, Himmelberg, Hopper, Patton 

BEST
Sydney: Mills, Sinclair, Franklin
Greater Western Sydney: Coniglio, Shiel, Davis

INJURIES
Sydney: Cunningham (leg)
Greater Western Sydney: Lobb (knee) 

Reports: de Boer (GWS) for rough conduct on Mellican in the second quarter. UPDATE: De Boer was cleared and had no charge to answer for.

Umpires: Robert O’Gorman, Ray “Razor” Chamberlain, Troy Pannell

Attendance: 34,711 at the Sydney Cricket Ground

About the Author

Jodie Newell
Love reporting on sports, politics, history and music