AFL Round 19 – GWS Giants v Melbourne: A Giant Grand Final

1964 was the last time a team had gone through an entire season without a win. That team, Fitzroy, lost a total of 18 games. Fast forward nearly half a century and the League’s youngest club GWS, was going into their 19th game in season 2013 still without a win. Round 19 posed the golden opportunity to break their duck. Their opponents, the Melbourne Football Club, the League’s oldest club, were experiencing an annus horribilis: just 2 wins, a sacked CEO, a sacked coach, a $500,000 fine for tanking, a suspended football manager. Consequently, the GWS prospect of a 2013 opening success appeared perceptible.

In the days leading to the Saturday afternoon game, I was genuinely fervent. The Thursday night before the game I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Sheedy, where he was guest of honour of a local AFL function in southern Sydney. I told him how excited I was, and how this forthcoming Demons game represented in essence the Giant’s Grand Final. He calmly agreed with me.

Another source of passion was the Jeremy Cameron factor. Amazingly, Cameron, in just his second season, had kicked 50 goals for the Season and was coming third in the Coleman Medal race.

The first quarter had a real ‘finals’ feel about it, notwithstanding this game was 17th v 18th. GWS had had so many strong starts this season, that there was an expectation that they would lead by at least 5 goals at the first break. However, this first quarter represented an even contest, and a high standard involving the 2 bottom teams on the ladder. Midway through the opening quarter, Jack Watts for Melbourne took a beautiful mark and goaled. A second goal for Watts from a free kick arose two minutes later.  Then the games’ current best jumper, Jeremy Howe, kicked a handsome goal from the right wing, to take a 13 point lead for the Dees. The young Giants rallied in the dying minutes of the first quarter, kicking 3 quick goals. Cullen Ward especially looked dangerous by this state. Overall, GWS was starting to look quicker and more efficient than their Victorian rivals. By the first break, the Giants held a 4 point lead.

GWS then stretched the lead to 19 points at the main break. The Giants were increasing showing fearless confidence, with their speed and efficiency, and kicking at one stage during the quarter 6 goals in a row. Only Nathan Jones from Melbourne was showing any real resistance.

Early in the third quarter the Giants were leading by 31 points. Surely victory was now upon them. However, this quarter belonged to the Dees. Jack Watts again appeared to lift. As the shadows emerged across Skoda Stadium, the Giants appeared to playing more negative tempo football. Goals emerged from the Dees, including a tremendous running goal from Cam Pederson from outside the 50 metre arc. Melbourne came to a 13 point deficit at three quarter time.

Memories were stirred about how only last April, the Dees had kicked a record 12 goals against the Giants in the last quarter at the MCG.  Cameron and Devon Smith calmed the Giant’s fans by kicking the first two goals of the final quarter.

By the conclusion of the final quarter, the ‘Land of the Giants’ public announcer declared that GWS had kicked a record 7 goals in the 4th quarter to achieve another record total score for the game of 124 points. I also announced to those around me that this was their first victory over a Victorian club.

This was I believe a crystal ball insight of the Giants of the near future. Even now they are a highly skilled and fast outfit, albeit heavily handicapped by youth and inexperience. GWS by 2016 or even earlier will be a might strong team likely to be in the thick of Finals action.

So excited was the moment of victory that the Ground arranged to have shown on the big screen video of the GWS boys singing their Russian inspired Club Song with gusto live via satellite from team dressing room.

At the end Cameron kicked four goals to take him within second for the race for the Coleman Medal. The ex-Bulldog Callan Ward also kicked four goals, displaying a magnificent performance. Adam Treloar, Devon Smith, Lachie Whitfield and Tom Scully, (the latter two being Number One draft picks), all made great contributions.

What about Kevin Sheedy? Showing his experience at the age of 65 representing a total of 42 seasons as a player and a coach, he remained calm but satisfied. Perhaps relieved as well?  After all, in 1964 even he was still a teenager playing junior football.

3  Points          Callan Ward

2 Points           Cutley Hampton

1 point             Lachie Whitfield

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