Round 21 – GWS v Adelaide: The View From Jenkins’ Hill

Greater Western Sydney v Adelaide

7.25PM, Saturday August 11

Manuka Oval

 

 

 

About halfway through the first quarter of GWS v Adelaide at Manuka Oval, a spectator on the wing opposite the Bradman stand unfurled a banner proclaiming the modest grassy incline known in the stadium map as “The Hill” was now henceforth “Jenkins’ Hill”.

 

The chief instigator of this appropriation then proceeded to yell at the eponymous Adelaide forward to draw his attention to the territory that had been annexed in his name. Jenkins kept his focus on the game – but the man persisted (much to the increasing embarrassment of his female companion holding up the other end of the banner). This latter day Sir John Hindmarsh had claimed a piece of Manuka Oval for the many South Australians who had braved the very cold winter’s night to see if the Crows could make one final stand to keep their season alive. Unfortunately for them, Jenkins’ Hill proved to be the hill that Adelaide’s 2018 season died on.

 

 

I attended the match with a friend and his new colleague, an Englishman attending his first AFL game. To give him the proper experience, we purchased the cheapest tickets available, placing us on the patch of withered grass now apparently known as Jenkins’ Hill. We found our spots just before the first bounce and the space filled up well, with families and groups of friends laying down blankets and sitting down as if it were a pleasant summer’s day and they were watching the Prime Minister’s XI. I tried to listen in to the ABC radio coverage, only to get the commentary of the Parramatta v St. George game instead. Such is life in Canberra.

 

 

Manuka is a nice boutique stadium, well suited for afternoon matches. It cannot do big, evening matches well – the atmosphere, even in a packed ground, does not exist. Without large stands, the noise of the crowd, when it comes at all, just vanishes into the night. And the question does need to be asked: what kind of person schedules an AFL game in Canberra on a winter’s night? Yes, Manuka Oval now had floodlights, but that should not be an invitation to play games at night in August. I was impressed anyone showed up at all, with the temperature well in the single digits and the ‘real feel’ practically at zero. Indeed, 13,249 punters rugged up and headed into Manuka for what was, weather aside, a reasonable game of football.

 

 

The contest ebbed and flowed early, with goals kicked at both ends and the margin remaining tight. Josh Jenkins opened the scoring just seconds after the first bounce with a classy goal off the ground. Harry Himmelberg responded for the Giants, who had the better of the inside fifty entries throughout the quarter (although they could not make them count). GWS probably had the better of the first half, but the South Australians on Jenkins’ Hill soon had a bit to cheer about, as Adelaide gained the momentum in the second quarter and went into half-time with a four point lead.

 

 

While the game was even on the scoreboard, it had not really taken off as a spectacle. Tex Walker and Eddie Betts were barely sighted in the first half, and Jeremy Cameron always seemed to be battling against two defenders when the ball came into the GWS forward fifty. The Giants’ usually classy midfield was taking its time to warm up (understandable given the cold), and while Adelaide’s was being productive, its key forwards were not always on the end on their forward thrusts. In an intriguing duel, Callan Ward was being well beaten by Rory Sloane.

 

 

While the players were able to run around to keep warm, there was no such luxury for the hearty souls on Jenkins’ Hill, particularly those like us who insisted on holding cold beverages. As the temperature dropped increasingly lower, my friend became much colder and started questioning why he had not simply decided to watch the game from the comfort and warmth of his own home. Yelling at Ray Chamberlain seemed to warm us both up, and Razor Ray did not disappoint, delivering some vintage moments.

 

 

In the third quarter GWS got on top of the contest, their hands were cleaner and their midfield started to come into its own. Kelly and Shiel were working hard; Ward and Coniglio were becoming influential. Off the halfback line, Whitfield, who had been quiet until the second half, had worked himself into the game and by the end was probably the best on ground. Three goals in a couple of minutes for the Giants opened up a lead they were not going to give up. On Jenkins’ Hill the crowd started to get nervous. Adelaide had their hard-working midfielders but they could not get the ball into their forward line. Tex Walker had barely touched the ball and he compounded a poor night by making himself a villain with a sling tackle on Josh Kelly that left the GWS midfielder concussed. Losing Kelly was a tough blow for the Giants, with all their injuries coming into the game, plus Matt de Boer as a late omission, and Sam Reid and Heath Shaw going down during the game.

 

 

Canberra’s GWS supporters booed Walker, yet his tackle on Kelly was about his only meaningful contribution to the game, Betts too was rarely sighted. Adelaide’s midfield was trying, but they could not make entries inside fifty of much consequence. The wounded GWS, on the other hand, started to play with a little more authority and their class rose to the surface. While it was not the orange tsunami that moved the ball effortlessly across the pristine Manuka Oval, they nevertheless played with sufficient precision and skill that they crafted shots on goal. Eventually, these started to count. Whitfield, Ward, Coniglio and other midfield movers started to get their hands on the ball, and young Aiden Bonar popped up in the forward line and started to impose himself on the contest. Dylan Shiel was a welcome return, but he was a bit off his best.

 

 

By the fourth quarter it was freezing in the outer and on the ground GWS were well on top. Some skilful goals opened up a handy lead, which the Giants were able to defend for the remainder of the game. With Cameron well under his best, Bonar and Himmelberg stood up; their forward line never really clicked, but they were able to fashion enough to get ahead and stay ahead. The Crows were never right out of it, but they also never looked like they could overhaul the Giants’ lead, even with the increasing numerical advantage on the interchange bench. My mate started breathing into his hands in a desperate attempt to keep his extremities warm. He was itching for the final siren so he could run out onto the ground for some kick-to-kick and get the blood flowing again.

 

 

Two GWS goals from their forward pocket, one from Hopper and the second from Coniglio, put the result beyond doubt. Tex Walker’s goal right at the death summed up his game – a contribution that added little to the final result. Both forward lines under-performed, but the GWS midfield won the day; they were industrious when the game was there to be won and a touch of class from their key players made the difference. The Giants maintained their impressive recent record in Canberra and marched onwards towards another finals series.

 

 

Meanwhile, the man who had claimed the hill for Josh Jenkins (and his embarrassed companion) sporadically unfurled their banner and agitated (unsuccessfully) for his attention for the remainder of the match. Ultimately, as the game slipped away from Adelaide they deserted their quest and, after the final siren, the banner was left affixed to the boundary fence, some corner of a foreign field that is forever Jenkins’. Like Adelaide’s season as a whole, they had tried to be conquerors, but their efforts ended in disappointment. The now abandoned proclamation of Jenkins’ Hill was a forlorn sight, flapping alone and bereft amid the dashed hopes of what might have been.

 

 

 

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY      4.4       6.9       11.14   15.16   (106)
ADELAIDE                                              4.3       7.7       10.9     13.14   (92)

 

GOALS
Greater Western Sydney: 
Bonar 2, Himmelberg 2, Cameron 2, Hopper 2, Coniglio 2, Lobb, Whitfield, Griffen, Shiel, Kelly
Adelaide: Jenkins 3, Murphy 2, Lynch 2, Gibbs 2, Douglas, Mackay, Betts, Walker

BEST 
Greater Western Sydney: 
Whitfield, Ward, Himmelberg, Lobb, Shiel, Davis
Adelaide: Smith, Sloane, Crouch, Lynch, Keath, Gibbs

Crowd: 13,249

Our votes: Whitfield (GWS) 3, Himmelberg (GWS) 2, Smith (Adel) 1

 

 

About William Westerman

Canberra based military historian and sporting enthusiast.

Comments

  1. Thanks William. I enjoyed your report and also, like many I suspect, question a night game in Canberra in mid-August. I recall a match back in March up in Cairns played underwater. Unfathomable, or in this case many fathoms below. The Englishman in your party may have closed his eyes and fancied himself at Preston North End, given the brisk weather.

    Josh Jenkins has a tough gig. We all expect our big forwards to play like Carey or Lockett every week and when they don`t…Have I been a critic of JJ? Absolutely. But is he one of the first I`d pick? Absolutely.

    GWS to the good by about twenty points was probably the result picked by many.

  2. Peter Crossing says:

    Thanks for this perceptive analysis William. Like Mickey, conditions were fine in the Adelaide lounge room where I watched the game. Your comments about Walker spot on. Jenkins kicked three so the Crows really would have struggled without him. Heath Shaw is a classic. Late in the game, still barking instructions from the boundary with an ice-pack on his knee.
    Post match dark ale at the Kingo always helped assuage the cold – or a rum and something at the Services Club before it burnt down.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Thanks for this William. I’m not a big Jenkins fan. According to this year’s stats, his 1%ers and tackles are up, but his marks are down relative to recent years. He doesn’t seem to use his physical presence and isn’t really much of a marking target. His role as an ineffective second ruckman has meant that he spends a lot of time on the park. That’s a big ask for anyone.

    Having said that, Adelaide’s insistence on playing a clearly unfit liability of a captain (and McGovern’s sporadic appearances) has left them with a popgun forward line for most of the season. Will we go into 2019 with the same (ageing – I’m looking at you Eddie) forward line, hopefully a bit fitter? I’m not sure who else can step up (Fogarty perhaps).

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