Round 14 – GWS Giants v Carlton: Razzle Dazzled

Though uniquely born a child of AFL commercial imperatives, and all the conflicted interests that implies, many of the founding challenges confronting the GWS Giants Football Club were familiar to footy clubs through the ages. Given a massive leg-up via draft concessions, this talented group still had to be transformed into a team. A playing list had to be built and managed, facilities had to be established where none of AFL standard existed, and the whole show had to be sustained through the difficult early years, where a flogging was the weekly prospect. As events on the Gold Coast have proven, none of this was a given.


So it is very much to the Giants’ credit that a trip to their Spotless stronghold has rapidly joined Perth and Launceston on the list of daunting road trips for away teams. Some astute decisions lie behind this emerging success.


When Kevin Sheedy was announced as inaugural coach, there was the suspicion that he might play front man while Mark Williams provided the contemporary tactical IP. This underestimated Sheedy’s many other qualities. Who better to teach some street smarts to a young group? And who better to sell future dreams while the present is a struggle? When the time came to name Sheedy’s successor, the decision not to appoint Williams can’t have been without its tensions. But nothing to date suggests Leon Cameron was the wrong choice.


Another important figure in the young club’s development was Stephen Silvagni. With each passing season, his curation of the Giants’ list seems more soundly judged.


Now the Navy Blue prodigal returned, Silvagni’s latest project ventured to the ground of his previous creation. Though Silvagni opted to stay in Victoria to watch son Jack, the trip north would have felt familiar to several Blues. Ex Giants Sumner, Plowman and Lamb have proven valuable role players in Brendan Bolton’s developing scheme. Andrew Phillips showed promise before injury curtailed his progress. Useful as they have proved, the fact remains that this stage of Carlton’s rebuild is significantly reliant on players the Giants deemed surplus to their requirements.


Unsurprisingly, it became obvious early in this contest that the Blues were fighting out of their weight class for talent. The game’s pattern was consistent for three quarters: the Giants would threaten onslaught, then the Blues would dig in, hold their ground, only to see the Giants slip away toward the end of each quarter. By ¾ time this saw the GWS lead stretch to 29 points.


From this point, Carlton was that Dutch boy staunching the dyke, with all fingers and toes used up. Any remaining options pointed to embarrassment. Though GWS was effectively two players down, they doubled that ¾ time margin in the final term. This season, only Sydney had breached Carlton’s defence as comprehensively.


Though the result was never really in doubt, this effort at least represented progress for Carlton, when compared to their encounters with the Giants last season. Simon White was given the job of sitting on Heath Shaw for the day. He could scarcely have done better, keeping Shaw to his quietest game of the season. Bryce Gibbs was outstanding in his 200th game. Gibbs has often been criticised for failing to meet great expectations. This year, when his team badly needed it, he is compiling a career season. So is Sam Docherty, who must surely be in the frame for All-Australian consideration.


But when it comes to career seasons, you can take your pick of Giants. Shaw’s quiet? Never fear, here comes Zac Williams. Dylan Shiel has pace, power and poise, along with a raking kick. Stephen Coniglio is a natural accumulator of possessions. Josh Kelly emerges with each passing week. They’re consummately led by Callan Ward, with support from Tom Scully, who is building the relentless running power that befits his hefty contract. And just consider who I haven’t mentioned.


Rebounding with laser precision kicks and stunt handballing, the Giants play with real pizazz. No wonder Stevie J looks like he belongs. Apart from kicking 4 goals, he provided a five minute final term cameo worth the price of admission on its own. Cajoling umpires, inflaming opposition, working every angle, he was shaman, prestidigitator and provocateur all in one. He’s having the time of his life.


The future is arriving at warp speed. The Giants need only to win the games they should from here to lock up a top four spot. Conventional wisdom says they should be found out for lack of finals experience, but there’s really no precedent for a team like the Giants, so convention might yet prove a poor guide. If the sun shines in September, and the Giants can muster a nothing-to-lose attitude, who knows what is possible?


An attractive young group capable of glorious football, the Giants’ small supporter base will likely find themselves with plenty of company come finals. They look a good prospect to be many peoples’ sentimental favourite. How long that lasts may prove another matter. For Carlton, and any other team trying to build toward their own dream, the Giants loom as a potential roadblock for years to come. That may test the limits of sentiment quite severely.


GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY  6.7    8.11    11.14    18.19 (127)
CARLTON                                    3.2    5.5       7.9       9.11   (65)


Greater Western Sydney: 
Johnson 4, Cameron 3, Shiel 2, Kelly 2, Williams, Patton, Whitfield, Scully, Coniglio, Lobb, Greene
Carlton: Walker 3,Wright 2, Simpson, Everitt, Tutt, White


Greater Western Sydney: 
Shiel, Coniglio, Johnson, Williams, Ward, Mumford, Kelly
Carlton: Gibbs, Docherty, White, Curnow, Wright, Simpson


Official crowd: 10,355 at Spotless Stadium

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Rulebook says

    JB agree in principal but there draft concessions were so good mistakes like not picking,Wingard don’t matter they have assembled a list that we will grow to hate the Orange tsumani.Fine weather and there pace will more than trouble any one in September.The blues by being honest with themselves and the footy public have started there rebuild unlike some other clubs

  2. Tony Robb says

    Hi JB
    The Blues weren’t disgraced and I thought 10 goal was a accurate picture where both teams sit. The Gnats are finals bound and have a show if they can get a home final. Lets hope the Blues touch up the filth this Saturday

  3. Richie and Eddie says

    The Giants are doing terrific missionary work for the code. Super read John.

  4. John Butler says

    G’day Rulebook. The Blues took a long time to come clean about rebuilds, so any applause should be muted. There’s a long way to go.

    TR, agreed. We were honest, but outclassed. Tomorrow night will be interesting in many ways.

    R & E, they’re persuasive missionaries. But are there enough converts? Cheers.

  5. Earl O'Neill says

    Nice summary of the Monaros development in yr first three paragraphs, John.

  6. John Butler says

    Earl, the biggest mistake GWS have made is ignoring your Monaros tag. It is perfect on so many levels that only the AFL marketing department would be capable of missing it.

    I hope you’ve copyrighted it. They may still come knocking.


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