Round 20 – GWS v Melbourne: How to win a game in twenty minutes


How to Win a Game in Twenty Minutes


Greater Western Sydney v Melbourne


1.45pm, Saturday 5 August

Manuka Oval, Canberra

William Westerman


As a Victorian expat living in Canberra, I enjoy getting along to Manuka Oval to watch the three games Greater Western Sydney plays during the regular season as a reminder of what it’s like to watch live footy played at the highest level. Manuka is a quaint sporting arena; with an intimacy resembling a suburban ground you can watch the professional standard of AFL football being played. In addition, one of the more appealing aspects of footy during a Canberra winter is that, while the mornings are usually a combination of sub-zero temperature, fog and heavily frost, the daylight hours are bathed in glorious sunshine. The brightness helps offset the winter chill and marks the nation’s capital in stark contrast to Melbourne, with its dreary and sodden winter ambiance. These types of winter days can make an afternoon footy match in Canberra particularly pleasant.


Unfortunately, Saturday 5 August 2017 was not one of these days. Cold and slightly overcast, there were periods of sun and the potential for a little rain. Anyone not wearing a beanie and scarf was either foolhardy or a visitor from outside the territory naïvely unaware of how chilly Canberra gets in winter, even during the day. The temperature that day barely got to 10 degrees, with the breeze doing us no favours.


I had high hopes for this game. Although ladder position would suggest otherwise, my inclination was that a Melbourne side coming off a bad loss and hungry for their club to play finals for the first time since 2006 would match up well against an out of form GWS missing Jeremy Cameron, Jonathan Patton and Toby Greene (who’d be a great player if he’d stop hitting his opponents). In addition to a good contest, I was interested in watching the Max Gawn/Shane Mumford ruck battle and was curious at Brett Deledio’s return to AFL with the Giants. I also love the way Dylan Shiel goes about it (to employ a cliché) and I have a lot of time for Nathan Jones, who earned by admiration by consistently demonstrating a superb rate of effort (well beyond most of his teammates) during the Dees’ recent fallow years.


Looking forward to the Saturday afternoon match I headed off appropriately attired to join the curious crowd at Manuka. The game was a sell-out with over 14,000 in attendance; I’d judge a third were Melbourne fans, a third were GWS supporters (either from Sydney or one of the 4,000 Canberra based members) and the final third were interested neutrals such as myself. Although GWS is establishing a base of support in Canberra, many non-GWS footy fans attend their matches simply to watch professional football live, regardless of who’s playing. To pass the time before the match or in between quarters I like to see if I can spot a supporter all eighteen AFL clubs. I started my quest at the Kingo over a parma and a pint and without searching too hard by the end of the second quarter I had all but Port Adelaide (as well as good representation from the Canberra Raiders, ACT Brumbies and the Ainslie Football Club). At the half time siren a man emerged from the seat in front of me adorned in a white, black and teal scarf. Mission accomplished.


While this pursuit kept me amused, the game itself was not much of a spectacle. Twelve minutes into the first quarter Melbourne had kicked three goals straight and GWS were nowhere to be seen. At the end of the quarter twenty minutes later the game was effectively over (although we were not to know it at the time). GWS put on eight consecutive goals to record their highest ever first quarter score. Their style of football was exciting to watch; without big, key forward targets GWS made the most of their outside run and swarmed into the forward fifty, fashioning goals from everywhere and anywhere. Perhaps going short in their forward line was a blessing in disguise? It was the type of fast-paced attacking football that they had lacked during their recent form slump.


While at quarter time the margin was only 36 points – not insurmountable – and there was certainly sufficient time for Melbourne to get back into the game, Melbourne’s performance after their initial burst was tepid. They lacked either the ability to take the game on frenetically or to work the ball forward with methodical precision. Jordan Lewis, Bernie Vince, Clayton Oliver and Michael Hibberd saw much of the ball but were not able to use it to any beneficial tactical effect. At the end of the game Melbourne had a majority of inside fifties and the top five ball-getters had only reduced the quarter time deficit by a solitary point.


For their part, GWS were not able to recreate their blistering attack on goals from the first quarter but it did not matter; they closed down the contest with strong tackling and a very solid defence who resisted the sporadic attacks from the Melbourne midfield. Leon Cameron seemed content to negate Melbourne’s efforts rather than having his team fashion their own devil-may-care forays through the middle of the ground. Callan Ward, Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio and Tom Scully were among their best, providing both good defensive pressure and attacking thrust.


As for those I was watching at the outset, Deledio’s return was modest (in the second quarter he managed to spray a set shot from directly in front, 20 metres out that would have been his first goal for his new club), Jones was rusty coming off an injury and ultimately ineffective and Shiel showed the bursts of pace and class that I enjoy from him. Gawn won the ruck battle against Mumford (not without the latter employing a very questionable hit on him in the third quarter) and was probably the Dees’ best, winning the hit-outs, taking several quality contested marks and demonstrating an ability to be decisive at stoppages.


By the final term, Melbourne was mounting a late fight back although much of the atmosphere had dissipated from the crowd; many spectators began drifting out of the ground from the middle of the final quarter. As the shadows grew longer over the stands the temperature dropped, providing another reason to leave early for those who adjudged the contest to be over. At the final siren, the minority of the crowd who were supporting GWS celebrated their best victory for several weeks while the majority quickly made for the exits. Many, like me, sought the warmth of their cars in the dwindling light of a cold Canberra winter’s evening, possibly disappointed at what Melbourne had produced and curious about what lay ahead for GWS.



Greater Western Sydney      8.6       10.7     13.12   14.13   (97)

Melbourne                             3.0       5.1       7.1       10.2     (62)



Greater Western Sydney: Kelly 3, Johnson 2, Smith 2, Coniglio, Scully, Himmelberg, Shiel, Ward, Mumford, Deledio

Melbourne: Melksham 2, Neal-Bullen 2, Gawn, Tyson, T. McDonald, Pedersen, Watts, Maynard



Greater Western Sydney: Kelly, Ward, Coniglio, Scully, Shiel, Mumford, Williams

Melbourne: Gawn, Lewis, Oliver, Hibberd, Vince


UMPIRES: Chamberlain, Williamson, Ryan               CROWD: 14,274

OUR VOTES: Coniglio (GWS) 3, Kelly (GWS) 2, Gawn (Melb) 1

About William Westerman

Canberra-based historian. Author of 'Merger: The Fitzroy Lions and the Tragedy of 1996' Available here:


  1. G’day William

    Just catching up with some match reports. Welcome to the Almanac.

    I am a Kingo fan – and I’m particularly lazy when it comes to the Kingo. I prefer having a beer and a chat while the meal is prepared.

    Manuka is a treasure – for footy and cricket. The sun does shine; the shadows will freeze you.

    Congrats on your recent book Soldiers and Gentlemen. I haven’t read it, but I would like to. (Oh for more time) For me WWI remains a huge element of recent Australian history. This past fortnight I have been reminded of a visit to Tyne Cot.

    Do you see Bill Gammage in Canberra?

    Thanks again.

  2. William Westerman says

    G’day John

    Don’t normally run into Bill but I’m sure I will at some stage in the near future.

    Interesting fact regarding Australian infantry battalion commanders: Neil Freeman, CO of the 31st and 58th Battalions, was a Geelong College boy and played 45 games for Geelong from 1911 to 1914. I think he was on the selection committee for some time after he returned to Australia in 1919.


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