The Greater Western Sydney Giants have lost their AFL debut grand final in the worst possible of circumstances being defeated by 89 points at the hands of rampant Richmond. The Giants kicked only 3 goals for the game and were completely outclassed on a day which should have been the club’s greatest, turned out to be an absolute nightmare.
There was high drama in the Giants camp pre-game when skipper Phil Davis was put through his paces at the Punt road end of the Melbourne Cricket Ground in an impromptu fitness test conducted well before centre bounce time. Davis looked hampered by an injury suffered from last weeks game against Collingwood and didn’t move smoothly as he performed a series of unconvincing shuttle runs from the goal square to the 50 metre arc. It was clear Davis was not 100% match fit. Giants staff and medicos who accompanied Davis, held laptops and watched closely as Davis went through his paces. Coach Leon Cameron could be seen on TV screens asking Davis one on one if he was ready to play and Davis gave the thumbs up. The decision would haunt the Giants big time as Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt scored 3 goals in the 2nd term and booted 5 for the match. The decision to gamble and play Davis spectacularly backfired and he surely he must take responsibility for his decision considering the selfless act taken by Stephen Cogniglio who ruled himself out of contention mid week. Whilst it wasn’t the main reason why the Giants lost the game, it set the wrong tone and the injury problem should have been solved hours if not days before the actual game and well out of sight. It was a stunning misread on the biggest stage of the Australian football calendar.
The only positives signs the Giants showed was early in the first quarter when Jeremy Cameron kicked the first goal of the game for the Giants. The Giants were competitive and didn’t look over awed by the occasion in the early minutes, but it didn’t take long before the Tigers clicked into gear. Dustin Martin posted Richmond’s first goal from a typical Martin snap, then just before the siren Daniel Rioli kicked the Tigers ahead with a superb goal and after that they never looked back.
The second term was all Richmond as the Tigers slammed on 5 goals to the Giants 4 behinds. Dustin Martin was unstoppable and Jack Riewoldt kicked 3 goals as he easily pushed aside any pressure applied from his opponent in Phil Davis. Dion Prestia was playing an effective role in the midfield for the Tigers and was well assisted by Shane Edwards who had by then 11 disposals and laid 6 tackles. For the Giants, Tim Taranto worked extremely hard in the midfield picking up 18 disposals and laying 6 tackles. Giants defender Heath Shaw was working hard to stop the Tiger onslaught and was the Giants 2nd disposal getter with 14 to the half-time break.
Taking a 35 point deficit at the main break, the Giants walked back to their sheds looking despondent and broken. They’d been in this situation before in the 2017 prelim against Richmond, yet on that day they were only a point behind and had kicked more goals. The signs and body language weren’t good and it would take some sort of miracle for Greater Western Sydney to get back into the game.
There were to be no miracles for the Giants as Richmond ramped up their pressure and kicked another 5 goals. One of those goals was from debutante Marlion Pickett who received a pass from Dustin Martin. The Tiger faithful roared with gusto as Pickett kicked his first ever AFL goal and what a time to do so. Mercifully, Jacob Hopper kicked a goal for the Giants late in the third term, yet for all intents and purposes the game was well and truly over.
Harry Himmelberg would kick the Giants third goal early in the final quarter, but it was just a painful process as the final term ran it’s course. Again the Tigers booted 5 goals for the quarter with Dustin Martin adding to the celebration party kicking his fourth for the game and sealing the Norm Smith best on ground medal. The siren couldn’t come soon enough for Greater Western Sydney and when it did it saw Richmond winning by 89 points. The Giants players fell to their knees in sheer disappointment. They bravely watched the premiership cup presentation ceremony where Phil Davis spoke on behalf of his club stating the Giants would be back. As the winner medals were handed out the biggest cheer was for Marlion Pickett who had played in a winning grand final team in his very first AFL game. It was a stunning effort by a team that that thoroughly deserved the 2019 AFL premiership.
When we asked Giants Coach Leon Cameron about his initial thoughts at the post-game press conference, he responded by saying “We are obviously disappointed because it’s a Saturday in September that you want to be at but clearly after quarter time, we as a footy club didn’t play a brand that could stand up to Richmond. Clearly they played well. We’re disappointed because we thought we made some serious ground in the finals series. We started the first quarter really well, yet in the second, third and fourth we started to reach for things that weren’t there and it just exacerbated our ball use and they defended really well. So overall we are disappointed as a footy club”.
For Greater Western Sydney it was a superb effort to make an actual grand final, but to return this game the club must undertake an exhaustive review in how they dealt with, organized, planned and prepared for such a big game. Selection processes and accountability also have to be examined. On the positive side the Giants won two intense finals and showed they can learn from previous defeats at a high pressure environment. The question is will they be able to learn from this punishing defeat or will this be as good as it gets with the current group of players. Only time will tell.
RICHMOND 2.3 7.5 12.9 17.12 (114)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.2 1.6 2.7 3.7 (25)
Richmond: Riewoldt 5, Martin 4, Lynch 2, Rioli, Soldo, Pickett, Lambert, Bolton, Cotchin
Greater Western Sydney: Cameron, Hopper, Himmelberg
Richmond: Martin, Riewoldt, Prestia, Pickett, Houli
Greater Western Sydney: Taranto, Shaw, Haynes, Hopper
Greater Western Sydney: –
Umpires: Matt Stevic, Shaun Ryan, Ray “Razor” Chamberlain
Official crowd: 100,014 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Jolimont, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia