Round 2- GWS v Melbourne: The Loss of a New Hope

Three thousand one hundred and forty-four days. That’s how long the drought was for Melbourne between visits to the AFL top four. Four hundred and forty-nine weeks if you’d prefer. Long enough for the AFL to bring in two new teams. Long enough for Australia to have four different Prime Ministers.

On 27 August 2006 the number one movie in the country was Snakes On A Plane, and the number one song SexyBack by Justin Timberlake. There were no iPhones in 2006, no Tinder, no Vine or Instagram. Geelong hadn’t won a flag since ‘65.

And the Demons were in the four.

The Giants,one of the two new teams brought into the league since the Demons last flirtation with respectability, have become the closest thing to a rival for the hapless Melbourne. That’s probably not good news for either club. The Giants arguably started the war by stealing former number one draft pick Tom Scully with an extremely audacious offer. Then they signed former Melbourne captain James McDonald, two years after he was pushed out the door of the MCG.

The Demons probably responded by calling the new club a bunch of “whippersnappers”, and yelling at them to get off their lawn. They also pinched two young kids back from GWS along the way.The rivalry has flourished because they’ve both had memorable games against each other. GWS scored their first win at the ‘G against Melbourne. Melbourne had their biggest fourth quarter comeback of all time against the Giants, perhaps their biggest highlight of the previous few years. And both clubs seem to be following a similar list profile, supplementing a plethora of young talent with a few high quality veterans from other clubs.

I’ll note here, for want of a better place, that I’m a fan of both clubs. I was born into Melbourne, with family ties and stories of the glory days. My relationship with the MFC is probably the longest, and most dysfunctional, one I’ve ever had. Work and circumstance brought me over to GWS, not to mention their attractive brand of footy. I wanted to hate GWS, for Scully and Junior and all of that, but found I couldn’t.

Manuka sets the stage like few other grounds, a suburban reminder of footy’s gestational period. It’s as big as the MCG but feels as small as a postage stamp when you’re actually there. When the teams marched out, it looked like they were on the MCG, for all intents and purposes. The Dees could find nothing but free men and space, and GWS didn’t know what to do with the ball when they managed to get it. Dean Kent, a man who wasn’t good enough for the WA under 18 team a couple of years ago, was tearing the game open like a Dangerfield or Boak. Aiden Corr was all at sea against Jesse Hogan, who is a man seemingly built for the sole purpose of playing football. Tom McDonald had the ever-dangerous Jeremy Cameron under control. Quickly and surely, the Demons had raced to an early lead, and built on it solidly.

Dees fans were giggling in the outer, like the last decade was just a dream.

The next half proved that there are no dreams, just depressing nightmares.

Shane Mumford leapt back to life, turning around his battle with Jamar. Sam Frost started jawing with his former teammates, slowly losing focus on the game. Miraculous goal after miraculous goal piled in for the Giants, impossible snaps from improbable positions. The heads of Demons players slowly started to drop in that familiar way. Stephen Coniglio was utterly brilliant, putting together possibly his finest game to date, justifying his early hype. Dylan Shiel dominated in the middle, and Callan Ward was Callan Ward, under-recognised and unflappable. In the second half the Melbourne midfield, so good for the first six quarters of the season, was essentially shut out of the game. Tom Scully even kicked a goal, putting the final dagger into the hearts of Melbourne fans.

The only light relief of the final quarter was Toby Greene’s troubles inside the forward 50, delivering a series of ever-escalating stuff-ups that left him with 0.0 from four marks/free kicks inside the 50.

By the end of the game, the roles had completely reversed. The oldest club of them all were no longer in the four, resuming their default position. The newest club had entered it for the first time in their short history, perhaps starting a new norm for them.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY    0.2   2.6   11.8   15.11 (101)
MELBOURNE                                    4.2   7.3     7.6    8.8   (56)

GOALS
Greater Western Sydney: McCarthy 3, Shiel 3, Coniglio 2, Smith 2, Treloar, Wilson, Cameron, Scully, Mumford
Melbourne: Hogan 2, Newton 2, McDonald, Kent, Jamar, Garlett

BEST
Greater Western Sydney: Coniglio, Ward, Haynes, McCarthy Mumford, Shiel, Treloar
Melbourne: McDonald, Viney, Salem, Cross, Hogan, Lumumba

About Cody Atkinson

Cody Atkinson talks too much about football, and girls he kissed in grade 4. It's all granola and beer, a calling card and a silk cut souvenir. He also writes for BMA Magazine about music and Hurling People Now about sports stats.

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