The 15th “Battle of The Bridge didn’t disappoint. It was a hard fought contest between two local rivals who are battling for premium positioning on the 2018 AFL ladder. For around 3 quarters, it looked the Giants could yet again overcome the injury gods and carve out a hard fought victory over the Sydney Swans. Unfortunately the injuries to key defenders in Phil Davis, Jeremy Finlayson and midfielder Ryan Griffin made the task too difficult.Sydney ran out 20 point winners and with it an opportunity to claim a top four spot in the final round next week against Hawthorn.
One cannot for the sake of a record of this game, omit the performance of the field umpires which was woeful. Troy Pannell, Curtis Deboy and Jacob Mollison were responsible for some of the more bewildering decisions made this season. Adjudications on deliberate out of bounds, the duration of how long a player has to dispose of the ball before being deemed to be holding ball and when does a defender impede a forward when they are carrying out their role as a defender were severely impaired and they favored Sydney particularly in the third quarter which greatly assisted their momentum. To the Swans credit, they took full advantage of the situation and played out a strong brand of football that was simply too good for Greater Western Sydney. One last thing to note about the umpires, thankfully Troy Pannell is hanging up the pea encased in stainless steel. Curtis “The Work Experience Kid” Deboy has much to learn about the game. These two fellows were caught out on several times, on the blind side of play and made what we consider as wrong and costly decisions. I rarely write about the standard of umpiring however, for the sake of balance, the gold standard of AFL umpiring this year has easily been the form of Brett Rosebury. He has 17+ years of experience, is fair minded and understands the ebbs and flow of the game. Surely he will umpire the 2018 grand final.
The Giants began the game well enough, with Stephen Coniglio getting plenty of touches. Rory Lobb continued his good form as the Giants makeshift ruckman and was competitive with Sydney’s Callum Sinclair. Dylan Shiel also led the charge in getting hold of the football and in the early stages the majority of the game was spent in the Giants forward half. Sydney’s only goal came from an opportunistic snap from Kieren Jack. Jack played a solid game of forward play and his experience shone throughout the match. Those who think Kieren Jack should retire, know nothing. His experience in the upcoming finals series will be invaluable. The first quarter goal which was against the run of play, was the perfect example of a play coming from a footballer who understands the importance of scoreboard pressure.
With the Giants leading at the first break, they would continue to keep their momentum going. Aiden Bonar had only 5 disposals in his third game of AFL football, yet the stats didn’t tell the full story. Bonar took a strong contested mark inside the 50 metre area for a set shot goal. He also provided valuable bodied presence around the contest and made 4 tackles. As we keep saying, this kid will only continue to improve and will be a dynamic forward for the Giants. Harry Himmleburg was another player who is coming into some handy form at the business end of the season. He to like Bonar was able to take contested marks in the forward area and goal. Himmelburg would have to be one of the big improvers for the Giants in the latter part of the season. After a sensational 2017 preliminary final, Harry seemed to struggle to get anywhere near that form, yet the past couple of weeks have been better than average.
In a key moment of the game, around the 10 minute mark of the second quarter, Phil Davis collided into teammate Rory Lobb and copped a nasty knock. It was later reported he suffered a bump to his hip and struggled to move freely. Davis had done well in keeping Lance Franklin quiet. Yet when Davis had to go off the ground for some treatment, Franklin was able to move freely in the forward and wing zones. Franklin would boot four goals after the Davis injury. Despite a spirited effort, Jeremy Finlayson (who was moved onto Franklin) had his efforts hampered by an ankle injury. Later the Giants would lose Ryan Griffin with a troublesome hamstring. The lack of rotations, combined with added on-ball pressure from the Sydney midfield in Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy and Zak Jones gradually wore down the Giants.
The final term saw Sydney slowly take control with Lance Franklin in peak form and he booted two goals for the quarter. Luke Parker also chimed in with 2 goals and Sydney ran out 20 point winners. The worrying trend for the Giants was the lack of scoring ability when it mattered. They couldn’t buy a goal and only kicked 2 two goals for the entire second half of the game. At the post-game presser Leon Cameron was disappointed in the fade out by his team but conceded the Swans had played the better football “Our ball movement dried up and we probably played it safe particularly in the back half of the ground, but you have to give credit to the Sydney defense who played really well”. Swans coach John Longmire liked the way his team lifted in the second half ‘They probably had a couple of sore blokes, but we started to run, our run and carry and pressure was really good. It was a really pleasing second half”.
Next week the Sydney Swans (5th, 14 wins, 7 losses) have a chance to clutch a double chance when they play Hawthorn (4th, 14 wins, 7 losses) at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday night. The Greater Western Sydney Giants (6th, 13 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw) head to Melbourne (7th, 13 wins, 8 losses) with home final chances up for grabs to be decided next Sunday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 3.3 6.6 7.9 8.12 (60)
SYDNEY 1.2 4.3 5.9 11.14 (80)
Greater Western Sydney: Cameron 2, Himmelberg 2, Lloyd 2, Shiel, Bonar
Sydney: Franklin 5, Jack 2, Parker, Jack, McCartin, Hayward
Greater Western Sydney: Shiel, Coniglio, Himmelberg, Ward, Taranto
Sydney: Franklin, Parker, Kennedy, Jack
Greater Western Sydney: Griffen (hamstring), Davis (hip), Finlayson (ankle), Lloyd (cut face)
Umpires: Curtis Deboy, Troy Pannell, Jacob Mollison
Official crowd: 21,433 at the Sydney Showgrounds, (Spotless Stadium) Homebush, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia