After a stunning 49 point finals victory over the Sydney Swans, Phil Davis was last to leave the field into the Giants sheds at the SCG. Club supremo Tony Shepherd was backslapping his on-field leader and asking him “Do you know who you just beat?, who you just kept goalless?” Whilst respectful, Davis ignored the praise, it seemed he was still in “the zone” still focused after a best on ground performance that kept the Sydney Swans franchise man Lance Franklin to zero goals. It was a remarkable performance from a footballer who has made many defining statements over his career whether it be to improve technique or reject a culture of losing, Phil Davis has walked the talk big league.
From the onset, Greater Western Sydney Giants skipper Phil Davis stamped his authority on this game. Incredibly he could be seen during the warm-up phase, running solitary short sprints in a coned lane right in front of the Swans race and under the noses of opposing personnel in John Longmire and Tom Harley. It was a subtle, yet powerful reminder that he had come to play and he wasn’t about to see his season ended by the cross town rivals.
With Phil Davis setting the tone, he was ably assisted by his teammates who set out to absolutely destroy and dismantle the Sydney team, via a four quarter, tenacious display of committed, power football. It was a different strategic approach compared to their infamous finals debut against the Swans of a couple of seasons ago. This time it was hard in the contest, with measured aggression and scoreboard pressure.
Giants defender Zac Williams was playing his first game for the 2018 season and he played as if he hadn’t missed any football. The dash was back as he picked up 9 disposals in the first 24 minutes of the game. Importantly the Giants cashed in on their scoring opportunities when they were presented in a tight first quarter contest. In the Giants backline Phil Davis harassed and kept Lance Franklin under pressure and gave nothing away to his opponent.
Late in the first quarter, key Giants player Josh Kelly suffered a concerning knee injury, that saw him take no further part in the game. It was revealed days later that he had suffered a minor meniscus tear in the knee and would miss the 1st Semi final against Collingwood, but would be a good chance to return if the Giants proceed to the preliminary final next week against Richmond. Despite the Kelly loss, the Giants covered well in a similar fashion a few weeks ago in Canberra, when Josh suffered a concussion.
In the second quarter, the Giants kept their tight grip on the game. Callan Ward was right amongst the contest earning 29 disposals for the game. Like co-captain Phil Davis it was a game defining effort that inspired his fellow teammates. Harry Himmelberg again continued to step up in a final match. He kicked two important goals for the game. He provided real presence in the forward area and his goal kicking abilities were extremely valuable. Matt de Boer was another who relished the finals pressure. We cannot fathom how the Freo Dockers let Matt go who only a few years ago was a key forward player for the Purple Haze in a finals campaign. At the main break the Giants held a handy 15 point break.
In 7 years of observing Greater Western Sydney football, the third quarter they played against the Sydney Swans was one of the greatest quarters of football I have ever seen from the boys in grey and orange. They kept the Sydney Swans to only 2 behinds and put scoreboard pressure on. Jeremy Cameron kept presenting, Davis remained unflappable at the back and all of the Giants players banded together to harass and pressure Sydney at every contest. It continued into the final term where the Swans were finally able to kick two “junk” goals. It didn’t make any difference as the Swans were terrible. Their usual key players went missing. You could be excused in thinking that Isaac Heeney, Callum Sinclair, Will Hayward and others had disappeared. They had minimal effect on the game and simply went missing. They were shocking with only 4 goals for the match which was woeful in a finals game. It was also the lowest ever score posted by any team at the SCG. It was also the lowest finals score since 1960 when Collingwood kicked 2.2 in the 1960 grand final against Melbourne.
John Longmire was at a loss to explain what went wrong. He stated that nothing worked right on the night. When we asked him about the Davis / Franklin contest, he almost choked on containing his remarks on the bath Davis gave his star forward. He also remarked that Franklin had a hip injury which could have affected his performance. For the Giants, Leon Cameron remained focused and was obviously delighted with the effort. We asked him if it was the most comprehensive Giants win Cameron responded “Obviously the stakes are high, so it’s obvious to acknowledge the four quarters in which we beat them on the scoreboard and in most key indicators which was really impressive”.
So the Sydney Swans fall again in a final. Sure it’s great to make the finals campaign, however as we stated after the 2016 grand final loss to the Western Bulldogs, the Sydney Swans are not closers. Never mind how many games they win, they cannot advance any further and we put much of this down to coach John Longmire and his strategic approach which requires a much needed overhaul. His over emphasis on the reliance on Lance Franklin is costing them. I don’t buy into the youthful, inexperienced forward line angle. It’s a forward structure set up issues and it was clearly in evidence on Saturday with Davis and Franklin. Longmire needs new football minds in the box and new ideas and some new players. Dan Hannebery has played his last game for the Swans as it was revealed during the week he will be seeking a move back to Melbourne with St-Kilda. Gary Rohan is also seeking a trade move. This should free up some much need salary cap relief and could help the Swans secure Darcy Moore if he becomes available. In our opinion Sydney did not improve on last year. Despite not starting the year at 0-6 as in 2017, they lost 6 home games which is something a club cannot afford to drop. The Gold Coast loss was an absolute shocker and telling on where this football program is heading.
The Greater Western Sydney Giants now head down to Melbourne for what we deem as the “Christians vs the Lions” 2.0 game. Last year the Giants boys had to front up to a parochial, manic crowd of 90,000 Richmond fans. This time it will be the black & white army of Collingwood with a massive crowd tipped as well. The Giants fans are dearly hoping for a reverse result. The boys will have learnt plenty from last year and on how to handle the noise and pressure. Hopefully Phil Davis and the lads can pouch this game and get another crack and sweet payback against the Tigers in the preliminary final.
SYDNEY 1.4 2.4 2.6 4.6 (30)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 2.3 4.7 7.11 10.19 (79)
Sydney: Papley 2, Parker, Ronke
Giants: Greene 3, Cameron 2, Himmelberg 2, Coniglio, de Boer, Ward
Sydney: Kennedy, Parker, Cunningham
Giants: Davis, Greene, Coniglio, Himmelberg, Ward, Williams
Giants: Josh Kelly (knee)
Reports: Zak Jones (Sydney) reported for engaging in rough conduct on Callan Ward (GWS) in the fourth quarter
Umpires: Dean Margetts, Matt Stevic, Nathan Williamson
Official crowd: 40,350 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Moore Park, Paddington, Sydney New South Wales Australia