Round 17 Double Bill – GWS Giants v Richmond in Sydney & North Melbourne v Sydney at Docklands: Two Jacks, Two Young Giants and a couple of Beanstalks

GWS Giants v Richmond at the Sydney Showground

 

North Melbourne v Sydney at Docklands

 

Due more to accident than outstanding planning, I ended up seeing both Sydney based AFL teams play their Round 17 games in the one weekend. It was one of the best double bills to attend – plenty of stories and plenty of drama played out on the two vastly different stages.

 

Game One – Giants v Tigers – Two Young Giants Standing Tall

 

Game One of NSW v Victoria was anticipated by most to be another show of Richmond’s premiership strength and pressure against a Giants side that has, for most of the season, been up against the pressure of not having a clear passage without injuries marring their shape. There was, however, some change in the return of the prodigal Toby Greene and the hard working Adam Kennedy to the Giants’ lineup.

 

For us behind the goals, we did not know what to expect. Home games have been a mix, with disappointing efforts against the Eagles and especially the Dons. Tonight we needed some effort and hope. They also needed to live up to the flame throwing energy of their run through the banner – which had the effect of not impressing my daughter, who was with me on the banner ropes, near the heat flowing from the towers of flame.

 

It was a pulsating game from beginning to end, with the Giants’ pressure and teamwork clear from the first quarter. The midfield were working well, and the glued together forward line were getting there somehow. At times, such in the third quarter, there were moments of dominance that were surprising in the context of 2018. The greatest cog in this wheel, however, was the defence. It needed to be, in order to cope with the slingshots from the Tigers’ line. Of note was the limited output of Dustin Martin, whose impact was noticeably lessened from the last time these sides met at the MCG in 2017. There weren’t the ‘don’t argues’ in evidence – the Gee Dubs’ defenders weren’t to be easily brushed aside. This was in contrast with the impact of Daniel Rioli, whose scoring and danger was as powerful as that day in September.  Also looming throughout was Richmond’s Jack, Riewoldt, who continued to be a big part of the Tigers’ effort, but was kept down to one goal for most of the game – except when he scored in the last minute, giving them a small sniff, as ever.

 

When people remember this game, there’s a number of key performances that should linger in the memory. There’s was the comeback of Toby Greene, whose fourth quarter goal came at a crucial tipping point of the match.  Quietly and effectively, Dawson Simpson’s accumulation of work at ruck is giving him the solid game reputation he deserves.

 

The parts that should linger the most, however, were performers in their first year for the Giants.  There was the calm head of Zac Langdon, whose accuracy in front of goals was crucial for his three goals, especially in contrast with that of the Tigers’ Jason Castagna.  It was also the game that saw the full early flowering of Sam Taylor’s outstanding work in defence. His continual effort at the one percenters is now being transferred into solid disposal numbers, media attention and this week, a Rising Star nomination.  It’s been great to see the success of the 28th pick at the 2017 draft.

 

The success of 19 year old Taylor has been pleasing personally.  He made an appearance earlier in the year at a girls’ AFL combine session at the school at which I teach in Liverpool. Ordinarily, when new players are sent to schools and for other events, they often keep to themselves, but Taylor came to me and we chatted about his time in Sydney, what he found different about the city than Perth, just general chat. It struck me at that time that he had a maturity beyond that of most players of his age – and that maturity has shown itself at key moments at games this season.  

 

And so it came to pass that the game had its seesawing momentum throughout, made all the more thrilling by the intense involvement of the two distinct groups of supporters on either side of the ground. Richmond fans make their feelings known with the passion few others can – their numbers helping to make this easily the largest crowd of the season so far. This night, though, they were matched by a Giants member section whose energy was given more of an edge in response to the other side. It was awesome, especially in that last five minutes, when none of us knew what would happen. Not great for the heart rate, but great for the game.

 

Game Two – North v Sydney – Two Beanstalks Standing Tall

 

After the excitement of the previous night, I was struggling to bounce back for the flight to Melbourne for a week’s holiday, to start with going to a game whose quality about which I was not sure. My Swans supporter wife and I saw their previous game against Geelong at the SCG and they weren’t all that great – even though the performance of Aliir Aliir was showing very promising signs.

 

So it came to pass that we witnessed one of the games of the year. It was a different kind of contest to that in Sydney – defence and tackling was not as prominent, though mad scrambles around the contest were in evidence throughout.  Of note, like in the game the night before, was the work of a new defender. This time it was the outstanding debut performance of the Swans’ Tipperary recruit, Colin O’Riordan, whose intercept marking was brave, confident and important.  

 

Largely, however, this was a seesawing affair that saw mistakes quickly being converted into swift journeys upfield. At one stage, it was looking more like Docklands Table Tennis. Also, in stark contrast to the performance of Richmond the night before, the goal kicking was very accurate, especially in the first half.  It was a goal kicking feast, with Ronke getting 5 in his usual sneaky way, Brown continuing to be his (mostly) super-accurate self with 4. Having never seen his routine live from above before, it was quite the thing to try to count how many steps he takes. I still don’t know. Plus, in this contest, North Melbourne’s Jack, Ziebell, was more devastating in the goal scoring department than his Tigers namesake, scoring 5 at various inspirational moments in the match.

 

While this was the game when Buddy kicked his 900th goal – as well as 2 more crucial, game changing ones later, what will linger about this game is the performance of giant (fairly muscular) beanstalks in size, Majak Daw and Aliir Aliir. Both have had a rocky pathway through their careers. Daw hadn’t found a consistent home until he was placed in defence this season, but here he was in the forward line. Aliir has been making his name as a rebounding, roaming defender, yet here he was, attempting to lock down Daw.  In the early part of the battle, Daw at times had the upper hand, scoring 4 goals, leading strongly while Aliir trailed behind. That didn’t hold for the whole game, however, with Aliir clunking some important intercept marks and bobbing up at key moments. It was an engrossing, exciting battle for two players starting to feel comfortable and at home in the game.

 

This all made for an thrilling last quarter, where each ruck, each stoppage, each kick became crucial.  Shaun Higgins and Ziebell posed a constant threat, and the lack of Kennedy for most of the game and the dimming of Parker’s influence meant that it was the return of Heeney that became the key ingredient for the Swans’ push throughout.

 

The most exciting game since the night before had to end, and like the night before, it was on a knife edge.  This time, the class of Parker had him intervening at a couple of key moments, and then, to the astonishment of many of us, appeared Aliir in the forward line. He had escaped Daw and he was in unfamiliar territory. But then, there he was with the ball, running towards the goal. I am a Giants’ supporter these days, but even I was out of my seat, yelling for Aliir to press forward and score his first ever goal in the AFL. And when he did, the explosion from Swans fans was the biggest of the day. It was a great, match winning moment and an appropriate way for this amazing, thrilling game to end.

 

It was one of the great weekends of being a fan of NSW AFL football. As ever with this great game, it throws up unexpected heroes, surprising events and sights of the very special.  It would take a lot to overshadow the milestone of a 900th goal, but it happened with the wonders of the young and the giant. Zac Langdon, Sam Taylor, Majak Daw and Aliir Aliir were those four young giants helping to show how this game continues to enthrall.

 

About Mark O'Sullivan

A teacher, musician and GWS Giants Foundation Member

Comments

  1. Peter Warrington says:

    didn’t enjoy Saturday night as much as you!

    Sunday… a game for the ages. just magnificent.

  2. Joe De Petro says:

    G’day, Mark. We missed the flame show, the missus was lining up for a hat to keep the cold out while we were waiting for a couple of guys to turn up outside. We did enjoy sitting in the middle of enemy territory. I didnt think much of the ground but the game was good.

  3. Jarrod_L says:

    Brilliant write up Mark, what a lucky NSW-based duck you are! Your Giants should make a decent march on the 4th through 7th area of the ladder come September – peaking at the right time with the indomitable (if insufferable) Greene back too.

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