The Greater Western Sydney Giants have won an absolute nail biter of a finish by defeating a surging Collingwood by 4 points in the preliminary final to advance to an historic debut grand final. In front of a manic crowd of 77,828 mostly Magpie fans, the Giants steely resolve held firm to win an incredible, dramatic game of football that will forever be part of AFL finals folklore. The victory was all the more remarkable for the Giants who were without key players in Lachie Whitfield, Toby Greene, Brett Deledio, Stephen Coniglio and Giants captain Callan Ward. All were absent due to injury or suspension. Throw in skipper Phil Davis who suffered a leg injury, courageously battled on to contribute to the clubs most famous victory to date.
After an extremely tight first half, only five goals were scored. The constant drizzling weather made ball handling difficult in the slippery conditions and added to the low scoring. For Collingwood, Jaidyn Stephenson and Jamie Elliott kicked their team’s first goals whilst Jeremy Finlayson was the solitary goal kicker for the Giants in the first term. The second quarter wasn’t much different as both sides struggled to kick a goal due to diligent defense from either club. Darcy Moore, Jeremy Howe and Brayden Maynard were superb for Collingwood at the back. They kept the Giants to only one goal with Jeremy Cameron booting his side’s single major. The Giants defense was superbly led by Heath Shaw an Nick Haynes. Their efforts were all the more valuable as Phil Davis copped a leg injury and spent much of the first half on the bench.Despite the set back, the Giants started to lift late in the second term and looked to be gaining an upper hand. The long break saw the Magpies clinging to a 3 point lead.
In the third term the Giants came out firing, they were full of run and forced the Pies into handling errors. In a sterling performance, the Giants blitzed the Magpies with a 5 goal quarter to Collingwood’s 3 behinds. Zac Williams was playing an outstanding game in the midfield. He kicked a goal and had 7 kicks for the term. His pace and pressure forced many a turnover and he was one of the key reasons why the Giants dominated the 3rd term. Harry Perryman was another who stood up and took the game on. Nick Haynes gave absolutely nothing away to the Magpies forwards who struggled for any positive possession. Josh Kelly, Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto were also exceptional. Jeremy Cameron kicked the final goal of what was probably the best quarter of Giants football in 2019 and looked to have had the game won.
It seemed the narrative of a famous Giants victory would finish on an easy note. Jeremy Cameron kicked the final quarter’s first goal and then quickly followed with a missed shot for a behind and the Giants lead was out to a handy 33 point buffer. Yet finals being finals, there was another sting in this compelling tale. Jaidyn Stephenson lit the touchpaper by scoring the Pies first goal since the second quarter and the sleeping Magpie army started to find their voice. Then minutes later, an extremely contentious goal was scored by the Magpies via Josh Thomas. Thomas kicked the goal at around 20 metres outside of the goals. On further replays, it looked as if Giants defender Lachie Keeffe had his finger bent backwards with the momentum of the ball. Yet there was no stoppage of the game for further analysis by the score review unit and the ball was bounced, the goal was allowed and play resumed.
The tremendous roar of the crowd was something to behold as the Collingwood side clicked into gear. Chris Mayne scored an amazing snap shot goal and the crowd went into an absolute frenzy. Another forward sortie for Collingwood saw Ben Reid take a solid pack mark but failed to score a goal. Josh Thomas again booted another goal and the Magpies were only a goal behind the Giants. The last minutes were not for the fainthearted. Collingwood kept coming and got the margin down to just 4 points. The ball spent the majority of time inside the Collingwood forward 50 metre arc, yet the Giants defenders refused to yield to the enormous pressure applied. Heath Shaw dived at every ball that came his way. Ruckman Shane Mumford was total clutch inside the contest with his big body shutting down any Collingwood move forward. Nick Haynes and Sam Taylor teamed up well to shut down any slick ball movement. They did it so skillfully and without the risk of being called for dragging the ball in and penalized with a holding the ball decision. The final 6 minutes of the game was so dramatic, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
In the final act young Giants defender Sam Taylor had a chance to take a Leo Barry style mark and eat up precious game time, yet inexplicably chose to punch the ball back into play, where the Collingwood players rebounded the ball back into the forward, zone. Daniel Lloyd picked up the ball, got tackled and made a correct disposal to Jacob Hopper who’s kick was smothered. The siren rang out and it was the sweetest noise to this point in the entire history of the Greater Western Sydney Giants football club. It meant they would be going to the AFL 2019 grand final to face Richmond. It was a famous 4 point victory that will be talked about forever in the history of this fledgling football team.
The scenes in the Giants rooms was of one utter chaos as they sung their song in the loudest possible manner. Brett Deledio had tears streaming from his face knowing he will miss a grand final chance due to a cruel calf injury. Players families, friends, fans and coaching staff were beside themselves with blissful joy and celebrated the win with big hugs and massive pats on the backs of the Giants players as they filed into the sheds. The song was belted out so loudly with the words “Never Surrender” taking on even more meaning after this incredible game.
A relieved Giants coach Leon Cameron was pleased in how his team adjusted to the key outs and the last quarter onslaught from Collingwood “Our boys are really proud and they wanted to find a way to win and they did”. A dejected Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley wasn’t happy with how his side had finished the 2019 season “The overwhelming feeling from me was it was a waste, what a waste unfortunately for the year. You have to credit to the opposition, they worked harder for longer in the end”.
So onto the 2019 AFL Grand Final next Saturday. The Greater Western Sydney Giants will face Richmond at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in what should be a pulsating affair. The Giants playing stocks are sure to be bolstered with the returns of Toby Greene and Lachie Whitfield, whilst Stephen Coniglio remains an outside chance to overcome an nagging knee injury for Saturday’s game.
COLLINGWOOD 2.0 3.2 3.5 7.10 (52)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.3 2.5 7.7 8.8 (56)
Collingwood: Stephenson 2, Thomas 2, Reid, Elliott, Mayne
Greater Western Sydney: Cameron 3, Finlayson 2, Taranto, Williams, Daniels
Collingwood: Grundy, Howe, Crisp, Thomas, Maynard
Greater Western Sydney: Williams, Taranto, Haynes, Perryman, Cameron, Kelly, Shaw, Hopper
Greater Western Sydney: Davis (leg)
Umpires: Matt Stevic, Andrew Stephens, Simon Meredith