Well it worked. The new look Greater Western Sydney Giants rucking department with Dawson Simpson at the helm looked good in it’s 31 point victory over a reasonably competitive Fremantle in Canberra on Saturday. It was a welcome win for the Giants and a solid response after last week’s disappointing effort and loss to Sydney. The game was played in rather bizarre conditions with an unpredictable swirling breeze that at times played havoc with the football’s direction. The Dockers surprised the Giants in the early part of the game by taking a small lead. They looked sharp around the contest, played tight defense and kept the Giants run in the midfield to a minimum. Fremantle also used the ball more efficiently compared to the Giants with a 76% to 41% ratio mid way through the first term. Lachie Neale, Nat Fyfe, Stephen Hill and David Mundy were prominent. Fyfe in particular continues to improve with his 2018 season form. The class that saw him win a Brownlow medal is gradually returning and some of his play was a joy to watch.
Dawson Simpson took up the challenge in the ruck against Aaron Sandilands and matched up very well. Sandilands had the edge overall, but considering this was Simpson’s first game of the year, it was a super effort by him. There was plenty to like about his game. He looked comfortable with his responsibilities and was able to win his fair share of tap outs. If he is allowed to remain in the team, he will only get better. As we have said all along, he will relieve Jon Patton and (once fit) Rory Lobb and let those forwards remain focussed on the their roles up front. The other pleasing sign was the retun of injury plagued Ryan Griffen. It was ironic that he booted the first goal of the game and ended up with 2 goals. Hopefully he can stay fit and provide some presence in the forward zone. Another veteran in Brett Deledio had a good day’s footy picking up 28 touches. Midfielders in Stephen Coniglio and Callan Ward were also effective in getting the ball. At the back, Nick Haynes marked nearly everything that came down the Freo forward zone. Haynes had a best on ground performance which saw him take 15 marks. It was a pretty amazing effort considering the fickle breeze.
Another inclusion that really helped the Giants get across the line was Toby Greene. It was a workmanlike performance from the temperamental forward. He focused on his game and had 20 disposals including 4 tackles and booted 2 handy goals. Fremantle’s early lead was slowly eradicated by the Giants who took full control of the game. The Dockers disposal and decision making was questionable at times. The turning point for Freo came with around 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd term. Lachie Neale was running at the top of the 50 metre arc and was in the clear. Instead of a chip pass to Hayden Ballantyne for a certain goal, Neale instead chose to shoot at goal and the ball faded for a behind. The deficit would have been cut to under 3 goals. It was a classic “coach killer” play and no doubt Neale would have received some harsh words from Freo coach Ross Lyon. Fremantle failed to score a goal in the third term and would only score a further two for a very disappointing finish.
As stated earlier, it was a welcome win and a game that the Giants had to put their hands up and respond. They did so, however, there is plenty of room for improvement. Fremantle did trouble the Giants early and the disposal wasn’t flash. Heath Shaw made similar errors to his previous week’s effort, but settled as the game progressed. He was plenty of improving to do. Tim Taranto was better and used the football well as to was Jacob Hopper who picked up 25 touches and kicked a goal. Jeremy Finlayson continues to impress. He scored 25 disposals including 6 marks. The rucking dual between Simpson and Sandilands saw Sandilands on top with 48 to 32 hit outs. David Mundy was Fremantle’s best player picking up 32 disposals, that included a goal and 3 tackles.
Post-match, Ross Lyon thought his team was competitive early, but weren’t able to match the run of the Giants. He thought there were positive signs for his team and that he knew where his side needed to be if they wanted to play at the same level as the Giants. Giants coach Leon Cameron was delighted for Ryan Griffen and his return to the side and was also impressed with Brett Deledio’s game.
The Fremantle Dockers (13th on the AFL ladder 2 wins, 2 losses) return home and play the Western Bulldogs (15th 1 win, 3 losses) on Saturday evening. The Greater Western Sydney Giants (1st, 3 wins, 1 loss) face a struggling St-Kilda (16th, 1 win and 3 losses) in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.5 5.9 8.14 11.16 (82)
FREMANTLE 3.1 5.2 5.6 7.9 (51)
GWS: Cameron 2, Griffen 2, Greene 2, Hopper, Coniglio, Taranto, de Boer, Lloyd
Fremantle: Matera 2, Sandilands, S. Hill, Fyfe, Banfield, Mundy
GWS: Haynes, Coniglio,Ward
Fremantle: Mundy, Fyfe, Neale
GWS: Davis (cut chin)
Fremantle: Ed Langdon (illness) replaced by Darcy Tucker
Umpires: Leigh Fisher, Brendan Hosking, Brett Rosebury
Official crowd: 11,356 at Manuka Oval, Canberra (UNSW Canberra Oval)