AFL Round 4 – Melbourne v GWS Giants: It’s all between the ears

This bottom of the table clash was unremarkable for most of the day and that’s being kind. It was actually a scrappy game that for most of the first half Melbourne looked likely to narrowly win; but by three quarter time GWS were 19 points in front and, as a Giants member, I thought we had a 50:50 chance. One of the commentators declared that Melbourne needed a six goal last quarter to win and they ended up doing it easy (41 points) with a twelve goal to two last quarter.

That last quarter was the sort of totally unpredictable quarter that I’ve seen over the years from many teams. Only clichés can explain it. It just proved to me that football is played between the ears and that sometimes momentum and confidence with a mixture of good luck and the bounce of the ball can destroy one side and elevate the other to the status of magicians. Melbourne kicked some remarkable goals in this term after looking like absolute duffers; but that’s what teams on a run do. GWS stopped to a walk out of bewilderment not lack of fitness; but that’s what teams getting run over (even the best of them) do. It makes selecting best players a toss up as very few play of them four good quarters in a game like this and the better side for three quarters loses by almost seven goals.

There were highlights of course. For GWS the enthusiastic Irishman Setanta O’hAlpin kicked five mainly opportunist goals after a year out of the game with a knee reconstruction. Tom Scully was booed every time he went near to the ball for deserting Melbourne but played hard and efficiently. A whole posse of young GWS runners did just that effectively for three quarters, including Dylan Shiel and Adam Treloar. At their best GWS play an attractive running game but they are still too small and light overall. Finally one of their second year draftees Lachie Whitfield was clever and poised enough to show he’ll be a very good player one day.

It’s harder to know what to say about Melbourne, even though they won comfortably, other than they were deservedly happy after the game. They were lifted over the line by their established senior players who, like Nathan Jones, continued his stand-out form, or like Mark Jamar and Colin Sylvia lifted for the occasion. Some of their younger players, particularly in defence, were strong and hard and one or two experienced newcomers, included Shannon Byrnes, chipped in. Jeremy Howe’s consistent high-leaping was enthralling even when he didn’t mark the ball.

This game says a lot about where Australian sport is at. On the same afternoon Western Sydney Wanderers played in the soccer Grand Final. Both GWS and the Wanderers are new western Sydney clubs carving out new territory. They represent the future of the football codes because they are following the growth of the Australian population. GWS should be disappointed in losing this game but they will get better and ultimately play in finals. Melbourne were probably lucky that Dean Brogan and Jeremy Patton  were missing as well as Chad Cornes. GWS had more good first and second year players on the ground than Melbourne.

Despite being a Giants member I felt sorry for Melbourne when they fell behind. The cameras kept flashing onto the stressed faces of the Demons’ supporters in the small 20,000 crowd. Even the commentators, out of pity not conscious bias I think, seemed to be willing Melbourne on to victory. Defeat seemed likely to herald such awful consequences  for Mark Neeld, the coach, the Melbourne administration, and one of the foundation clubs. GWS and Kevin Sheedy could afford to lose, though they would not admit it, because this young club’s time will come. Their young players are just so talented.

Melbourne, on the other hand, could not afford to lose this one. Maybe this injection of confidence will turn around their season. A win can do wonders. I doubt it, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong. Watching other games over the weekend I was struck by the gap in quality and depth between the top and bottom teams. Melbourne, though it bears such a proud name, remains in deep trouble and it will test the creativity of the AFL to return it to its former glory. That may prove not to be possible.

 

Melbourne         4.5          7.7          10.10     22.12     (144)

GWS Giants        3.3          8.8          13.11     15.13     (103)

 

GOALS

Melbourne: Howe 4, Evans, Byrnes 3, , Davey, Pedersen, Gawn 2, Sylvia, Tengove, Clark, Jamar, N. Jones, Bail

GWS: O’hAilpin 5, Palmer 2, Treloar, Ward, Shiel, Cameron, Giles, Sumner, Greene, Scully

 

BEST

 

Melbourne: N. Jones, Sylvia, Byrnes, Jamar, Howe, Garland, Grimes

GWS: Scully, O’hAilpin, Shiel, Treloar, Giles, Whitfield

 

Umpires:  Margetts, Harris, Bannister

 

Official Crowd: 20,018

 

Our Votes:  3. N. Jones (Melb), 2. Scully (GWS), 1 O’hAilpin (GWS)

 

 

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