AFL Round 1 – GWS v Sydney: Resurgent Giants Leave Swans Thunder-Struck

GWS v Sydney Swans

4.30pm, Saturday, 15 March

Spotless Stadium

 

AFL season is back; and in Sydney that meant, as it has for the last three seasons, the local derby  – the Battle of the Bridge. The Greater Western Sydney Giants v the Sydney Swans.

For the first time ever, the Giants hosted the game on their regular home ground. The Showgrounds arena, now called Spotless Stadium, part of the Olympic Park precinct. A boutique stadium with a horse-shoe configuration of grandstands and an open eastern end with a massive screen scoreboard.

 

As the fans travelled to the game, the BOM was putting out warnings of a wild thunderstorm; but the ground was still bathed in sunshine as the game got under way.

 

The Giants had been talking themselves up before the game, but it looked like a mismatch. Sure the Giants had recruited well. But it was mainly a team of talented but inexperienced players; who would be expected to show some improvement this year. But still a club expected to struggle, who had won just three games in their first two seasons.

Against them were the star-studded Swans. Premiers in 2012, top four last year. A team so strong that Norm Smith Medallist Ryan O’Keefe had been left out of the original team selection before a late injury replacement saw him re-instated. A team that had controversially recruited the highest-paid superstar in the game, Lance “Buddy” Franklin.

 

The Swans didn’t have everything their own way in the early exchanges, as the Giants put them under pressure. But as the quarter ticked on, the dark clouds rolled in. Lightning and thunder, the gaps between them reducing. The heavens opened.

On the field, it was three goals apiece as the time ticked past the 20 minute mark. But as the weather show intensified, so did the Swans. Buddy curled a shot home from a tight angle, and moments later Gary Rohan slammed a goal through. The siren sounded, the Swans 13 points ahead; and as it did, a lightning flash and immediate thunder clap saw a metal object fall from a light tower.

The players and officials were ordered from the field, the crowd moving back under cover and play was delayed for 20 minutes. This must be what the Swans team song means by “Shake down the thunder from the sky”.

 

And the Swans would have had every expectation of singing that song as Ben McGlynn won a free kick in the opening minutes of the second term and kicked truly.

The Swans were 20 points ahead; and the Giants team of the last couple of years would probably have dropped their heads as the momentum had swung against them.

But this year is different. This time round, the Giants were going to fight back. Shane “Mummy” Mumford, who crossed over from the Swans to the Giants, was getting on top of Mike Pyke in the ruck. And up forward, Jeremy Cameron kicked a double and then Tom Scully converted a set shot from a tight angle. The Giants had won the quarter, and just seven points separated the sides at the long break.

 

The third quarter was a scrap, both sides struggling to control a heavy and slippery ball. Day was turning into night, the pressure around the ball intense. Goals were hard to come by.

And in the crowd, the atmosphere was building. After the earlier rain, most of them stayed back under cover. The Swans may have had a slight majority of the crowd, but it was the Giants who were making far more noise.

In the Cheer Squad, the flagpoles were banging into the metal floor as the capo turned to the crowd, raising his arms and calling for everybody to join in the noise. Scores were rare, but the Giants had the answer to every challenge the Swans would set. The three quarter time siren sounded, the Giants trailing by just three points. Could they possibly pull off the upset of the century?

 

The Swans pressed forward early in the last term, with Buddy Franklin having a set shot. But to the delight of the crowd, his shot sailed wide.

“What a waste of money” roared the Cheer Squad, as the banner went up. “Buddys come and go, but you only get one Mummy”.

But for 16 tension-packed minutes, neither team could penetrate the big sticks. Nerves were building, pressure was intense. People known for their calmness in times of crisis were trembling like leaves. Who would break the deadlock?

 

It was Stephen Coniglio who stood tall, roving a handball from Patton and slamming it through to level the scores. And a couple of minutes later, Adam Kennedy pounced on a fumble and ran the ball through the big sticks to give the Giants the lead.

Suddenly, you could feel the momentum had swung. The Giants, uncompetitive for most of their games so far, had the sniff of victory in their nostrils. They wanted this, they had a sniff, they weren’t letting go.

Jeremy Cameron marked on his chest and kicked truly. Then Sam Frost added another. And the crowd was going bezerk.

The roar was deafening. “HERE COME THE GIANTS” reverberated around the stadium, the crowd revelling in the atmosphere they were creating. They had claimed the scalp of the cross-town rivals, the premiership favourites. No easy pickings up here any more.

Lachie Whitfield put the icing on the cake in the dying seconds. And then the siren sounded and the team song blared across the PA system. “It’s a big big sound from the west of the town, it’s the sound of the mighty Giants”.

 

It’s round one of a long season. It’s four points. But it’s more than that.

After two seasons when there was a fair expectation that the Giants would get belted, this result shows they’ve built themselves into a competitive team. A team capable of matching it with the best, and even knocking them off.

The inexperienced young kids have grown up to truly become Giants.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY  4.1  7.1  9.5  15.9 (99)
SYDNEY SWANS  6.2  7.8  9.8  9.13 (67)
 
BEST 
GWS: Treloar, Ward, Coniglio, Mumford, Greene, Whitfield, Shaw
Sydney Swans: Mitchell, Parker, Shaw, Kennedy, McGlynn
GOALS
Greater Western Sydney: Cameron 4, Patton 3, Smith, Greene, Scully, Ward, Coniglio, Frost, Kennedy, Whitfield
Sydney Swans: McGlynn 2, Reid, Franklin, Cunningham, Rohan, Bird, Jetta, Mitchell
INJURIES 
Sydney Swans: K Jack (back) replaced in selected side by O’Keefe, Roberts-Thomson (groin)
GWS: Palmer (hamstring)
SUBSTITUTES
Sydney Swans: Ryan O’Keefe replaced Lewis Roberts-Thomson at three-quarter time
GWS: Dylan Shiel replaced Rhys Palmer in the first quarter
Reports: Nil
Umpires: Fleer, Schmitt, Pannell
Official crowd: 17,102 at Spotless Stadium

About Michael Shillito

GWS Giants foundation member and cheer squad member. It's been quite an adventure so far, and the best is yet to come.

Comments

  1. I love it Michael. That only one Mummy banner is priceless.
    Apres golf, I sat on my sunny Perth back deck late Saturday afternoon with the ABC radio broadcast.
    Steve Coniglio played for my Swan Districts colts with my nephew, so I saw him play as a 15yo. And the Swans recruiting of Buddy the Blaggard, and Kurt the Konfused has taken them from one of my favourite ‘other’ teams to ranking with the despised Dockers and Bombers.
    I yelled my heart out for most of the last quarter, hanging onto every word from the commentators.
    It put faith in footy community and youth above money and buying faux success.
    Brilliant.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Well done Michael love the weather Sydney Swans song line . V clever buddy , mummy banner . Ironically the recruitment of Mumford where the giants had a serious weakness may prove to be more beneficial than Franklin with GWS forward line would be .
    Mumford will help make up for the blunder of not drafting Grundy
    This game and then the Gold coast game showed the youngsters are starting to come of age and is frightening for the rest of the competion in due time
    Thanks Michael enjoyable read

  3. daniel flesch says

    And how good a first-up win for new coach Leon Cameron , one of footy’s nice guys .

  4. Leslie Cowles says

    Thanks Michael. Your account captured the true feeling of being there so much better than the mainstream media accounts. They got the facts and some of excitement, but fell far short of this evocative account. Bonus points for anonymously referring to yourself in the third person as well!

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Could having Sheedy as initial coach have retarded the GWS development?

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