Round 7 – GWS v Brisbane Lions: A Bespoke Football Experience


1.45 pm

Saturday 18 July 

Giants Stadium, Sydney


I went to an AFL game on Saturday. In any other year that would be an unremarkable statement, but this is 2020 and, as we’re constantly being reminded, these are unusual times. Greater Western Sydney v Brisbane Lions was the game, with a 1.45 pm start on Saturday 18 July at the Sydney Showgrounds – the perfect time and location for me to drive up from Canberra for the day. Why not? I was able to do so; Lions supporters in other parts of the country were not so lucky.


It was an interesting feeling being at the ground. Certainly we were all aware of the current climate and the restrictions on our game-day experience: reserved seats, strictly allocated to allow space between groups of supporters, an extensive list of entry conditions concerning my current health and my responsibilities upon entering the stadium, and hand sanitiser and face masks in abundance. Yet sitting in my allocated seat, enjoying a beer and lunch in the sun as the stands slowly filled, it was not all that different from my experience the previous year (when I travelled up from Canberra for the same fixture). Indeed, it was quite nice to spread out a little, knowing that I did not need to accommodate other spectators trying to move down my row.


Yet with privilege comes responsibility. I felt the pressure to be vocal, to represent those who could not be there and justify my presence. Lions support in the crowd was emaciated, and looking back on the highlights, I realise the broadcaster played fake crowd noise when we scored – obviously we in the stands were not doing a good enough job of getting excited by our goals.


Stripped of much of the corporate pre-game guff, the build-up was enjoyable. As the teams ran out and commenced their warm up, I had the distinct feeling of being at a bespoke football game, as if a top-flight match had been arranged for my private enjoyment.


When the game started, the Lions were out of the blocks early, a good thing with the shorter quarters this season. We continued our trend of scoring most effectively from open play and crumbing at the fall of the ball – when we earned set shots we initially struggled to convert. I’m now resigned to this, although several important contested marks in the second half elicited spontaneous and exasperated cries of “that’s what I want to see!” More Cam Rayner and Eric Hipwood converting from contested marks please.


I got a good sense of the midfield battle (including a tough day-long joust between Mumford and Martin) – there were no quick and easy breaks from centre bounces today. We needed to work for our clearances (indeed, while clearances around the ground were practically even, centre clearances were 16-8 in the Giants’ favour). Neale was being well held by De Boer, but Zorko continued to be sharp around the contest. As usual, I was impressed by the Giants’ clean and quick ball-movement by hand in close, which, particularly towards the end of the game, resulted in some fast breaks off the half-back line. Yet, as with many of their forays forward, they were usually stopped in their tracks by an increasingly resolute Lions defence, led ably by Harris Andrews (surely the man of the match) and Darcy Gardiner.


With four early goals, we established a lead and refused to give it up, despite some errors and lapses keeping the Giants in the contest. In the often-fierce battle inside the congestion against the skilful Giants midfield, I felt we held our own, seldom giving them easy outside run and swift access into their own forward line. And unlike the third-quarter capitulation to Geelong the previous week, we held our nerve when it looked like the game was turning. Cam Rayner’s terrific mark and goal late in the third quarter was the steadier we needed after four consecutive Giants goals (which had reduced the margin to a fragile eight points).


Errant Giants kicking in the final quarter eased our position and Rayner’s second goal gave us some breathing room. Goals to Bailey and McCarthy in quick succession sealed the win with several minutes remaining, making for an enjoyable denouement as the sun began to drop below the stands. At the final siren, our small core of Lions fans in sections 240 and 241 celebrated, and I was quietly pleased that we had managed to kick more goals than behind this week. The players came together and then disappeared down the race at the other end of the ground, heading back to Queensland, possibly for a very long time.



Great Western Sydney           2.3       4.4       8.5       10.8 (68)

Brisbane Lions                         4.4       7.5       10.6     13.10 (88)



Great Western Sydney: Himmelberg 3, Taranto 2, Cameron 2, Finlayson, De Boer

Brisbane Lions: Cameron 2, Rayner 2, Bailey 2, McCarth 2, Zorko, Neale, Lyons, Hipwood, Martin



Great Western Sydney Coniglio, Whitfield, Perryman, Taranto, Kelly, Cameron

Brisbane Lions Andrews, Zorko, Bailey, Cameron, Neale, J. Berry


Our Votes: Andrews (BL) 3, Coniglio (GWS) 2, Zorko (BL) 1



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE


About William Westerman

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


  1. Phil Hill says

    Lucky bastard being able to go to a game. How was the throat after the game?

    Thanks for the write up

  2. Shane Reid says

    Glad we had at least one fan there, William. Thanks for your report, I don’t think many of us will take an ordinary day in the grandstands for granted any more.

Leave a Comment