Sydney Showgrounds, Homebush, Sydney Australia
After a horror week of serious injuries to the Greater Western Sydney Giants playing roster, the mood pregame was one of uncertainty, nervousness and resignation that the 2015 season may well end on a sorry note.
Senior administrators, the media, coaches and AFL pundits have all said it will be a struggle for the club to finish in the final eight after such a promising record breaking start to the season.
Coach Leon Cameron started the game on the bench, obviously as a sign of concern for the morale of his playing group who have had a tough week.
As the game unfolded it was clear the GWS had ran into an in-form North Melbourne side who never looked like being threatened by the under-strength team despite some determined resistance in the 3rd quarter.
Newcomers in Caleb Marchbank (9 disposals, 5 marks), Jack Steele (9 disposals, 10 tackles) and replacement ruckman Rory Lobb (9 disposals, 4 marks & 10 hit-outs) showed some promising signs.
Certainly Kangaroos ruckman Todd Goldstein was the dominant tall racking up an AFL record of 80 hit outs, yet Lobb did show some presence and will be better for the experience as he accumulates more game time.
The return of Rhys Palmer gave the Giants some added firepower up forward where he booted 3 handy goals and gained 17 possessions. The newly configured back-line tried as best they could against a very talented Kangaroos forward line in Jarrad Waite, Drew Petrie and Brent Harvey. It wasn’t all doom and gloom at the back for the GWS. Heath Shaw, Matt Buntine, Nick Haynes and Callan Ward all helped to try and stem the tide as best they could with only a week’s preparation.
Surely Curtly Hampton is due for inclusion after Josh Kelly put in a disappointing game. Kelly needs to become a little more physical in his football as at times he is all too easily pushed aside by his opponent during a contested play.
North were able to score at ease and at several times it looked like the game would be an absolute blowout, but to the Giants credit they fought hard for their team to get back into the game.
Cam McCarthy kept presenting and harassing the North defense, whilst Jeremy Cameron, tried to make an impact, as did Devon Smith who with a bit more accuracy could be anything goal-scoring wise. Accuracy is one of the key problems the Giants are currently experiencing and it is letting them down. Had they kicked straighter, this game could have taken on an entirely different form.
The third quarter saw the Giants boot 4 goals 4 behinds to Norths 3.1. Rhys Palmer scored an opportunist goal just before the final break and one sensed the GWS may come back and threaten the result. North steadied through its experienced players in Harvey, Michael Firrito, Nick Dal Santo and Waite and the game was the Kangas.
The bye week certainly couldn’t have come soon enough for the Giants. The approach the GWS Giants must take now is get rested, enjoy the break, accept the losses to key players, but above all keep their heads high. They have been playing on confidence and finesse and when those elements are challenged smack bang in the middle of a cold Sydney winter, character is tested.
Maybe Leon Cameron should look to the example of the Ohio State Buckeyes College football team who incredibly lost 2 of their starting quarterbacks yet with their 3rd string quarterback in Cardale Jones were able to win the inaugural 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship. There were no excuses for the loss of key personal, no resignations, no “let’s look to next year”. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer simply implanted the belief and game-plan into his playing roster that they had the ability to go all the way despite everyone stating it was an impossible task.
Certainly there are differences to AFL where older men play younger players, yet as we witnessed Rex Hunt say after last year’s grand final when the Swans had been monstered by Hawthorn in the 2014 grand final, “The game is very much played above the shoulders”
For the Greater Western Sydney Giants they are going to need to remain positive, maintain belief, push aside the adversity and know that their goal of making the finals is achievable.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.4 4.8 8.12 8.13 (61)
NORTH MELBOURNE 6.2 10.4 13.5 18.9 (117)
Greater Western Sydney: Palmer 3, Stewart 2, Cameron, McCarthy, Griffen
North Melbourne: Nahas 4, Waite, Macmillan 3, Petrie, Higgins 2, Harvey, Cunnington, Brown, Atley
Greater Western Sydney: Ward, Shaw, Palmer
North Melbourne: Dal Santo, Goldstein,Nahas
Reports: Andrew Swallow reported for tripping Josh Kelly in the third quarter
Umpires: Rosebury, Findlay, Mitchell
Attendance: 7,824 at Sydney Showgrounds, Homebush, Sydney Australia (Spotless Stadium)