Round 1 – Melbourne v GWS: A Grander, Older Flag

Round 1

Melbourne versus Greater Western Sydney

1.40pm, Saturday 26 March 2016

Melbourne Cricket Ground

By Scott McIntyre

Round 1 is here again. Normally at this time of year we trudge into headquarters enveloped in a gloomy, subfusc cloud of existential dread. Today, with 3 bright and breezy pre-season wins behind us, we positively bounce along Brunton Avenue, full of the joys. Jack Watts is in a rich vein of form, and so are we. Let’s hope that when we exit the joint in three hours time, our gait is an insouciant saunter, and not a head-down, shoe-gazing shuffle.

Borderline-overweening sense of positivity aside, I do wish we were kicking off the season against someone other than GWS, and not just because of the dangerous gut-run-and-carry, break-the-lines style of footy that they dished up in the pre-season challenge. GWS ain’t my cup of tea. In fact, my soul rebels against everything they stand for, and I dispute their right to exist. The very fact that they are listed on their Wikipedia page as a fully owned subsidiary of the AFL Commission makes me want to shake my fist at the sky. Their foundation story is rubbish. I want my footy clubs brought into being on a beer coaster at an impromptu get-together in the back bar of a hotel built with Gold Rush money, or by 3 community-minded gentlemen of goodwill in a rented room above a haberdashery – not cooked up in the dark recesses of Andrew Demetriou’s medulla oblongata after a 3 shiraz set menu luncheon at Florentino. Their roughed-out first draft of a name offends the sensibilities – devoid of proper meaning, a catch-all demographic come-on, so obviously the product of a whiteboard brainstorming session. Their very colours get on my wick. Who the hell comes up with a subdued, introverted shade of orange and then pairs it with charcoal, with a view to inspiring passion and loyalty in the hearts of footy followers? Real footy teams have real colours, arranged in simple, symmetrical patterns, not shades and hues fashioned into stylised letters of the alphabet. If a grade 2 kid can’t draw it, using the six most popular colours in her Faber-Castell set, it ain’t a proper footy jumper. The whole box and dice with this outfit is a contrived, unnatural, anti-football abomination. I guess the (what?) 40 or 60-odd-strong group of GWS supporters assembled behind the sticks at the Ponsford Stand end have the human right to follow this mob, but you would have to wonder what basic lack exists in their lives that would make them choose to barrack for a marketing campaign and not an actual football club.

Anyhoo. Spleen-venting about the modern corporatisation of footy as personified by the GWS Giants aside, this turned out to be a very good game. Just a few short years ago, the footy world was chockablock full of Jeremiahs who predicted the death of elite footy by terminal congestion, but these merchants of woe have been proven wrong, to the great good fortune of we footy watchers. Today’s game is a fast, flowing, exciting showcase of everything that is great about the native code. Despite our lead at quarter time, I reckon that the Giants are the better, more dangerous team for the first three quarters. They move the ball confidently and precisely, run in numbers, and use their pace to get in behind the last line of defence. Tom Scully (BOOOOO!) is the chief architect for GWS. The new interchange rules might just as well have been written by his mum, because they are going to fit him like a glove. He has an incredible aerobic capacity, and will keep covering ground all day long, grinding his opponents into the dirt. His kicking is incisive and damaging. Dylan Shiel, who looks like a soap opera casting director’s idea of a gun high school footballer, carves us up out wide at stoppages. The slick pace of the game takes its toll on our backmen in particular, and the likes of Bernie Vince and Tom McDonald make a few fatigue-based errors of judgement in the middle stages of the match.

What keeps us in the match to a large extent is the shakiness of the GWS big men in front of goal, and the shoot-from-the-hip selfishness of some of their smaller players. When you have small forwards literally knocking each other over to get their hands on the pill in front of goal, you have probably got a slightly imbalanced self/team pH rating. But what also keeps us in it is honest effort around the ground, combined with occasional flashes of team brilliance. A fair bit of the honest effort is supplied by debutant Clayton Oliver, who looks like a beauty – an honest-to-goodness, hard-as-nails, blood-nutted clearance beast. His appetite for the rough stuff is impressive. Nathan Jones’s appetite for the rough stuff is legendary, and he is a willing partner for his young mate. These days, Chunky’s bonce resembles something you might see in an old photogravure portrait of a Civil War general – his face etched by long years of service and responsibility, his eyes lit by competitive fire, his beard impressively pointy. We love him. Jack Viney is superb. When you’re renowned for one particular attribute – in Jack’s case, his toughness – then sometimes your other attributes may be unfairly overlooked. You don’t hear many people raving about Jimi Hendrix’s singing, for example. Jack is now starting to demonstrate that it might be time for us to start talking about him as a very high-class all-round footballer, rather than as just a tough-nut tackler and in-and-under merchant. Big Max Gawn looks to have taken a significant step forward in his evolution. He looks super-fit, and his marking around the ground relieves a lot of pressure at key moments and sets up some nice attacking forays. I’m loving the way that a good proportion of his ruck taps are going straight to hand or to the advantage of his rovers. He looks like developing into a good, thinking, footy-smart old school tap ruckman – a real footy lover’s footballer.

Jesse Hogan had a black day in the final NAB Challenge game, and his out-of-sortsness has spilled over into today. He is presenting OK, leading up and working hard, but he cannot clunk the footy. His direct opponent, Phil Davis, is doing him no favours by playing the house down in his own right. To his credit, Hogan continues to toil, keeping on the move and working as a foil for the always-serviceable Cam Pedersen, and even doing a stint of ruck roving to keep himself in the game. Jack Watts is good – very good in parts – and continues to show glimpses of the pre-season form that has led so many of us to believe that he might be on the verge of a major breakthrough. Still and all, when I turn to my young companion at 21 points down at the final break and opine that we are still in it, I don’t really mean it. I reckon we are gonski.

Whatever legacy Jack Watts does leave in the game of footy, they will never be able to take this last quarter today off him. He is mighty. He gets separation from his opponent inside the 50 metre arc in the early seconds of the term, marks and duly goals, and then proceeds to tear the proverbial roof off the joint for the next half an hour, putting on a remarkable display of Group One talent and footy smarts. His positional play is clever, his marking assured. His incisive, beautifully weighted long kicks bring Hogan into the game, and force the GWS backmen into some panicky errors. He dishes off sublimely in traffic to set up a goal and, with a determined GWS still coming hard, he goes down back and nurses his side’s slender lead through to the final siren. Jeff Garlett is the other one who comes right into his own in the fourth and, like Scully, the new interchange rules might have been written with him specifically in mind. With tiring opponents trying and failing to keep a lid on him, this will be a 50 goal season for Jeffy, and he will be the very devil at centre square bounces late in the day. Lest you take me for a total curmudgeon, I will say that the one thing I do unequivocally love about the whole GWS project is Harry Angus’s brilliant, brassy, Cossacky theme song, which I rank as one of the wonders of modern footy. But I’m glad that the final last-ditch press forward by the Giants ends with the siren, and I don’t have to hear it again here this afternoon. One, Two, Three – It’s a grand old flag, it’s a high flying flag ….

Melbourne     5.0       5.4       6.5       12.8     (80)

GWS   3.4       6.8       8.14   10.18   (78)


Melbourne: Hogan 3, Garlett 2, vanderBerg 2, Kennedy, Watts, Harmes, Kent, Vince

GWS: Lobb 2, Johnson 2, Ward 2, Smith, Greene, Scully, Steele


Melbourne: Watts, Viney, Jones, Oliver, Garlett, Oliver, Pedersen

GWS: Scully, Shiel, Davis, Lobb

Umpires       Chamberlain, Donlon, Wallace

Crowd 28,505

Our votes

Watts (Mel.) 3, Viney (Mel.) 2, Scully (GWS) 1.


  1. Scott- I enjoyed this piece., and especially liked your thoughts on the origins of the Giants. I, too, view their birth and brand with cynicism and sadness particularly as Tasmania is still essentially ignored by the AFL. I view them as akin to a record label- created boy band.

    Some brilliant observations on the players too. Thanks.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    I have thought about and ranted and raved about this concocted- in- a lab somewhere team, but I haven’t been able to put it into words as well as you have done.
    You had the perfect opportunity to compare the first team developed with the last ‘ let’s add another team in the western-suburbs of Sydney’ because it’s got a big population in that area.
    I’m dirty on the GWS because it set back Footscray’s development towards a flag by five years as priority picks were handed over. Bulldog supporters still can’t believe Callan Ward went to the GWS. Just before he decided to leave, there was an article in the paper with him surrounded by family somewhere in the Footscray area.
    I think the caption said something about a local boy and future captain happy to be playing with the Bulldogs.
    It’s hard to see how this made-up Club can last with no VFL/AFL history connections, no diehard supporters like ourselves and poor attendances at matches.

  3. Kath Presdee says

    Hi Neil, over here. Yes Neil, I’m talking to you in particular although I do get riled when my team is judged solely on its origins. I’m used to teams being conjured out of nothing on one side of the Barassi line being considered OK and those on the other side not being real. Amazing how 30 years can change things.

    But I cannot excuse the inference that our fans aren’t real die hard supporters.

    Yes because die hard supporters don’t go out and watch a team of young kids and a few slightly older blokes who never got the call to the top flight run around in a cobbled together second tier comp at Blacktown. Or sit through two seasons for a grand total of two wins (2012) and one win (2013) and still come back on a promise of better things.

    Real die hard supporters aren’t the only kids in their class, or their year, or their school, who show up in orange and charcoal on footy jumpers day; who yell “traitor” at Adam Treloar when he’s promoting the Collingwood/Richmond game or name their pets after their favourite Giants players.

    Nah. No die hard supporters around here. Not like the real Victorian teams.

  4. Neil Anderson says

    Sorry Kath. I was out of line with the no diehard supporters bit. I was probably confused with the quantity versus quality bit. I soon as I saw your name come up I panicked.
    On a much lighter note says he wiping sweat from his brow, I called into a town called Penshurst which is towards Hamilton in the Victorian western district on Sunday. I asked the local milkbar owner whose name was Cameron if she was related to Leon because I knew he came from there. She said she was Leon’s aunty.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’m not sure how the long suffering supporters of St Kilda, Footscray, Richmond or even Carlton or Freo would take to your definition of die-hard Kath.

    My concern goes like this:

    a) Is the extra benefit from having two more teams worth the cost subsidies involved?
    b) Even is a) is yes, is GWS a more appropriate investment in the game than say a Tassie or ACT or NT based team would be?

    While your membership and attendance numbers remain in the cellar, the rest of the comp will keep asking these questions.

  6. Kath Presdee says

    And they are reasonable questions to ask, Swish, and they should continue to be asked if numbers do not grow or corporate dollars fail to appear. That said, I can’t claim “long-suffering” status – but after five years I think there are die hard fans.

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