Round 17 – GWS v Richmond: The Giants’ last laugh

 

by John Green

 

The first TV image of the Richmond players in the rooms at Spotless Stadium before the clash with the Giants displays a laughing Dylan Grimes. Even Dustin Martin is getting in on the act. After they enter the field a playful Jack Riewoldt points in the right direction for the tiny mascot who accompanies him. The merriment continues when Grimes conducts his stretching exercises with fellow defensive gang members in Astbury and Rance.

 

They’re a happy team at Punt Road, sitting on top of the ladder after sixteen rounds, a game and percentage ahead of their nearest rivals. Greater Western Sydney is vulnerable and in need of a win to keep in touch with the eight. They are missing the services of Jeremy Cameron due to suspension. Cameron was the miscreant who stole the points from the Tigers in the corresponding clash in 2017 when he goaled with seconds remaining. Even Nathan Wilson, who launched that fateful kick-out that led to Cameron’s conversion, was missing, having absconded to the Dockers over the summer. Toby Greene has returned to their line-up but will surely be well below his best after several months on the sidelines with a foot injury. There’s no histrionics, no pounding on the locker doors, no blood and guts exhortations from Hardwick. Just a bunch of footy players who enjoy each other’s company and believe they have the fitness, the personnel, the manic intensity and the game plan to repeat the success of last season if they continue their present course.

 

I’m reminded of another happy team back in 1975. I was a member of the Dallas-based Holy Child under-15s when we were top of the table and drawn to play bottom team Fitzroy Districts at the Brunswick Street Oval. I remember the laughing and joking as we poured out of parents’ cars for the stroll across the Edinburgh Gardens. We were physically bigger than our rivals (a huge advantage at under age level), assured of victory and headed for premiership glory. The confidence of youth. For the record, we performed in a lacklustre fashion on the day, winning by six goals before eventually finishing second at the end of the season. We lost the second semi to St. Francis de Sales and went down to St. Michael’s by five points in the prelim, the greatest disappointment of my junior career.

 

Perhaps the demise of the Hellcats of that year could be traced to the cavalier fashion in which we behaved after we hit top spot, or the top end of town, as Bill Shorten might say. I reckon Richmond’s attitude is a whole lot better.

 

The Giants make two decisive bursts in the match. The first of them comes when Kelly, Griffin, Coniglio and Langdon make it four goals to one, thrusting GWS 21 points ahead at the 17-minute mark. Dimma doesn’t look at all relaxed in the box. The home team has completed their homework. They take possession with one-touch assurance, move the ball into space with quickness and precision, freeing themselves from Richmond’s suffocating pressure around the ball. They prevail in a number of contests in the Tigers’ front half, preventing the visitors from trapping the ball in their attacking zone. Richmond rally and control the final ten minutes of the term but waste their opportunities to score.

 

When Martin snaps truly at the 18-minute mark of the second quarter the Tigers lead for the first time in the match. The Giants reclaim their lead with the last goal of the half.

 

In the third term GWS launch their second offensive. They score the only three goals of the term, two of them coming in quick succession to Taranto, taking their lead out to 24 points. The visitors are in trouble and I’m not finding anything to laugh about. The first term pattern is repeated when the Tigers sharpen their claws and charge again. But they are unable to take advantage of half chances as Cotchin misses on the run, Riewoldt shanks a deliberate shot at goal and both Castagna and Corey Ellis miss relatively simple shots.

 

Then the AFL’s last quarter specialists get to work. Rioli and Nankervis score in the first seven minutes and the Tigers are within eight points. Here they come again! The Giants’ poise evaporates. Richmond players crowd their opponents, induce errors and cause clearing kicks to lob harmlessly in the arms of defenders. There’s an intense struggle between the teams until Greene marks on the lead halfway through the term and goals from an acute angle to put the Giants up by 13 points. Short replies from long range.  Castagna completes his evening of horrors with his fifth behind from only 30 metres out. I slide out of my lounge chair willing the last of his attempts to pierce the uprights by a centimetre or so, but the ball cannons into the post. Corey Ellis kicks out on the full to squander an incisive Richmond move into their attacking zone. Shai Bolton sprays it into the crowd after receiving a pass from Martin. Even a behind would have been useful. Then the indefatigable Riewoldt hammers it home from the square and it’s a point the difference with 26 seconds left on the clock. Win the clearance! The ball is bounced, Dawson Simpson wins the duel with Nankervis and taps it down to Shiel, who pops it across to the waiting Greene on the wing. Sam Reid sends a long ball forward and it bounces through for a point. The siren sounds. That’s a two-point defeat to go with the three-point heist that the Giants inflicted on us in 2017.

 

Despite the fact that Richmond controlled whole swathes of the game, the Giants were able to score with more efficiency when they had the upper hand in the first and third quarters. The Tigers’ inaccuracy cost them dearly and they never led at any stage of the second half.

 

Hardwick is as diplomatic and measured as ever at his post-match press conference, apart from a reference to “duckers”. He doesn’t think the club has a problem winning on the road, reminding the pundits of the strong teams they met at the foreign venues. He goes out of his way to defend Jason Castagna. He re-affirms his belief that you can learn important lessons from defeats.

 

Come on Dimma, help us to laugh again back in our home state, where the games that really count are played. Give full licence to Jack Higgins to deliver his comedy rev-ups to teammates at three-quarter time. It always works.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Peter Warrington says:

    we went out. there were quite a few errors as it was cold but dewy. many of our leaders were down and i thought we got the umpiring pineapple, but we still almost nicked it.

    cohesion was a big issue.

    and delivery into the F50 from Prestia, Ellis and Grigg pretty dire.

    another great game by Grimes who must be a smokey for Jack.

    at least we didn’t lose to Brisbane at our fortress…

  2. Stainless says:

    Probably the “best” loss you can have. Plenty of our key players below par, two strong comebacks, shocking conversion and up against GWS at their most in-form this year – and still got within a kick.
    And, in contrast with the fortunes of some of our strongest opponents, no injuries.
    Hopefully it’s the wake-up call we need.

  3. John, it will be interesting to see if this is just a minor bump along the way
    or if it will be a match that gives other teams some real clues into how to defeat Richmond.

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