The toughest Giants win
Last week it was the greatest win, this week became the greatest win, but I’ll add the toughest Giants victory. The last 9 minutes was compelling, gripping, dramatic, defensive football on a scale that I haven’t personally witnessed since the 1979 grand final between Carlton and Collingwood. Saturday reminded me a lot of that game. That day, Collingwood surged in the last term, there were wet conditions, and a wafer thin margin. In this instance, the Giants stood up and locked down the Magpies forward zone. Throw in the leg injury to Phil Davis who wasn’t at his usual fitness level and it makes the win all the more remarkable. Heath Shaw was manic whenever the ball came his way. So to was Sam Taylor who was helped out by Nick Haynes and Lachie Keefe. When the ball got locked in after a stoppage, the boys teamed together and skillfully held their nerve and avoided any holding the ball frees from no attempt at getting rid of it. Sam Taylor looked like he’d done 10 rounds with Floyd Mayweather, his gums were bloodied as he smiled continuously in the Giants sheds post-game. The overall result was due to a superb team effort. A lot of one percenters, a lot of chasing and basic pressure that unnerved the normally confident Collingwood side. It was a win for the ages and I was so blessed to have witnessed it first hand. Mind you I was shaking with nerves in the final seconds, it was that kind of thriller.
Historic grand final berth for Giants
I’m still pinching myself knowing the Greater Western Sydney Giants are in the 2019 AFL grand final. Am I dreaming? It’s been a remarkable achievement and it speaks volumes of the players resolve, the quality of coaching and support staff and the administration. In 2012, the Giants began their involvement in the AFL and it was a very tough induction. 100 point beltings, low crowd numbers,a low membership base, accusations of being a plastic club. When you look at the circumstances of the Gold Coast Suns, things could have easily been mirrored up here in Sydney. When Leon Cameron took over from Kevin Sheedy in 2014, he started to bring wins to the club and then in 2016 a debut finals campaign arrived. The Giants were stunning in their first ever AFL final crushing the Sydney Swans with brutal force. They lost a thrilling prelim that year, then more heartache in 2017 against Richmond in another prelim loss. In 2018 Collingwood proved too good. After the bye this season the Giants they lost 3 games in a row. The August “Snow Bowl” game in Canberra made matters worse with a terrible showing against Hawthorn. They limped into the finals. Sure key players were out, but as on Saturday they had to find a way to cover and they struggled to do so during those times. The key positive from the Giants is they have learnt from the losses of 2016,2017 and 2018. All of their finals games have provided perfect preparation especially the two away finals against Brisbane and Collingwood. Hostile crowds, intense pressure in the the final minutes and victory by less than a goal. Whatever happens on Saturday the club should feel very proud of this achievement. They certainly wont be taking that as enough, this team is in it to win it and hopefully next week I’ll be writing about the Greater Western Sydney Giants historic first ever premiership.
A relaxed Toby pre-game.
Was lucky enough to have a small chat pre-game to Toby Greene near the Giants sheds. Obviously Tobes was disappointed during the week, but on game day he was around offering support to his team mates. He gave me a hug and a peck on the cheek and I told him not to worry too much about the circumstances and said he’d be ok and he laughed. I wished him all the best and he walked off into the MCG. It was so cool to be able to see the Giants win with the notion that Toby would be free and eligible to play in the grand final. Amidst the mayhem inside the Giants sheds, Toby’s relief was palpable. After things had cooled down I went up to him and said “See, told you everything would be ok”. He gave me another hug and laughed. I’m so pleased that he will be able to play. He’ll be booed from pillar to post by the Tigers fans, but they don’t exactly have a history of zero bad boy footballers aka Jack “Captain Blood” Dyer, Neil Balme, Ricky McLean and in more modern times Jake King. But that’s with every club. You have your tough guys and players with temperaments. I’m just hoping Toby plays a great game. He’s capable of anything. He is much loved by the Giants fraternity and hopefully he’ll boot 4 goals or more.
The Giants sheds define who they are as a club.
Lots of Victorians resent the Grater Western Sydney Giants football club, although many will be cheering for them this weekend due to Richmond being their opponent. I heard lots of talk-back radio phone callers dubbing the Giants “plastic” or spoilt with first round draft picks or they aren’t a “real club”. The Giants weren’t spoilt on Saturday or the week leading up to this game. Toby Greene’s suspension was super soft. The table was being run by Victorians on many bases. A goal was paid in the final term that was clearly touched yet the goal review guys got it horribly wrong, free kick count. Let me tell you something, the Giants are an outstanding football club made up of a diverse range of characters and professional people. After every game, families are let into the sheds to say hello to their boy or partner and console or celebrate with them. It’s a great thing to witness. You get to say hello to the folks see the embraces and hugs. I hugged a lot of players and officials on Saturday night and it wasn’t phony. I was so pleased for them and how they had overcome enormous odds to get to a grand final berth. It’s been an incredible journey seeing the team evolve to this from 2012.
Giants off-field leaders just as important
You have to congratulate Giants chairman Tony Shepherd and CEO Dave Matthews. The joy and elation on their faces was something to behold. From day one both men, their staff and board have been on the same page. As Dave told me in the rooms after the game, the key component in getting the job done is “Never Surrender”. That philosophy has been on display many times during the short 8 year history of this club. Never was it more prevalent than the past two weeks in the Brisbane and Collingwood wins. In 2012 when we first interviewed Tony Shepherd, he told us running a football was a tough business especially when that’s removed from the backslapping times of a win. There are memberships to garner, financial management, sponsorships to attract, issues management and all conducted in the tough Sydney sports market. The thing about the Sydney market is people decide when and where they will watch their teams. They could be winning and they still wont turn up, it’s just a Sydney thing and I kinda like it. The folks in the Emerald City will show up if they really want to. The Giants have done a great job building a base in the Canberra / ACT market, making Manuka a key component of the Giants football set-up. The Giants currently have 25,000 members on their books and those numbers will surely grow. Well done Dave and Shep it’s been quite a ride.
John & Nancy Cain
The great thing about football is you never know who’ll you’ll meet when you walking around footy field. I saw this bloke wearing a tweed hat accompanied by a lovely lady smartly dressed as well. I held the lift door open as they headed across to me. I thought to myself hang on a minute here isn’t this the former Victorian premier John Cain and his wife Nancy? I said G’day John and he looked up and said hello.John is on the MCG trust hence his reasons for being there. I told him I thought he did a good job in the early 1980’s,maybe not so good towards the end, but that’s politics. I’d also told him I went through the public school system at Maribyrnong High and one of the reasons why I was at the MCG was due to my media teacher John Benson inspiring me to get into media. He seemed pleased at that. Told him I was a Liberal supporter in NSW and he chuckled, but I was polite to him and Nancy and it was lovely to say hello. Again, the people you meet at the footy, it’s so cool.