After the semi-final match between Geelong and Sydney the night before had turned into a 'fizzer', hopes were high that Saturday evening's other semi final between GWS and the West Coast Eagles would be a more closely fought affair. Those hopes were sadly dashed by half time at the Sydney Showground, by which stage the home side had opened up 35-point lead. From there the Giants went right on with the job, eventually winning by 67 points - the biggest margin of the finals so far - to book a spot in next Saturday's preliminary final where they will take on Richmond.
The Giants led by 16 points at quarter time but even then the signs were ominous for West Coast and it was only accuracy from them and the opposite from GWS that saw the margin as close as that. By the long break the margin was beyond five goals and with the pressure out of the game, veteran Steve Johnson - who had been dropped for the Giants' final against Adelaide - turned back the clock with a magical second-half display that saw him kick six goals, including four in the third term.
With both sides taking a cautious approach in the opening minutes of the match, neither side could mount an effective attack and it was almost nine minutes before a score was registered, a behind to Giant Toby Greene after a mark. Greene's teammate Dylan Shiel finally brought up the game's first major soon after, and the Giants had two further scoring opportunities not long after but that were both squandered by Jonathon Patton, who previously this season had been very accurate in front of goal.
West Coast finally hit the scoreboard midway through the first term when Nathan Vardy marked strongly and converted, and when teammate Josh Kennedy kicked his first three minutes later the Eagles - against the tend of play - were in front. The Giants appeared to be stung into action from there and Greene, Tom Scully and Tim Taranto each added a major over the next 10 minutes as GWS jumped to a 16 point lead. Mark LeCras clawed one back for the Eagles with his first but skipper Callan Ward kicked a captain's goal late in the term to give the Giants a 16-point quarter-time lead.
The Giants made their move in the first half of the second quarter, kicked off by a chain of handballs that saw Matt de Boer on end of it, and his first major gave the home side a 24-point lead at the three-minute mark. Follow-up goals came to Harrison Himmelberg and Toby Greene, the latter's second major after a free kick giving GWS a commanding 37-point lead midway through the term.
West Coast was hanging by a thread, but a goal from Sam Mitchell - playing what would be his last AFL match if the Eagles lost - gave his side some renewed hope at the 22-minute mark. The Eagles had a couple more chances to make inroads soon after, but Kennedy missed a shot as the Giants repelled a separate foray forward, and when Greene marked and kicked his third it was a dagger to the visitors' hearts. LeCras had one final chance to keep West Coast in touch with a shot after the half-time siren, but he missed and it was GWS by 35 points at the long break.
The Eagles went into the third quarter in urgent need of the first major of the term but after four scoreless minutes, the game broke GWS's way, first with a behind to Lachie Whitfield and then a major to Patton after a strong contested mark extended the Giants' lead to 42 points and the game was at breaking point. It was at that stage that the first act of the 'Stevie J Show' commenced, with Johnson kicking a crumbing goal at the eight-minute mark and then following up with a mark and second major two minutes later, putting his team nine goals ahead.
Ex-Tiger Brett Deledio kicked his first goal at the 12-minute mark to make the Giants' lead an even 10 goals and then six minutes later Johnson commenced 'Act II' of his display with a snapped goal after he weaved through several Eagles players. Luke Shuey provided an all-to-brief highlight for the visitors with a lovely long goal but all eyes then returned to Johnson as he marked and kicked his fourth of the quarter. At the last end change, the Giants held a commanding lead, 100 to 32.
With the result well and truly beyond doubt, all that remained to be seen in the final quarter was what the Giants' final winning margin would be, and whether the Stevie J Show would extend to a third act. The second question took just 16 seconds to answer. GWS gained an immediate centre clearance with a long kick landing in Johnson's arms just inside 50. Johnson played on immediately, and kicked his fifth goal.
The Eagles then got on a bit of a roll, and kicked three consecutive 'junk time' goals through LeCras, Drew Petrie and Jack Darling. But it was, of course, all too little, too late. The Giants steadied with a goal to Stephen Coniglio and then Johnson producing one final piece of magic with an 'around the corner' snap for his sixth goal. Each side added one further goal, the last of the match fittingly going to the retiring Mitchell in his 329th and final AFL match.
Cogniglio was one of the match-winners for the Giants, collecting 35 disposals and laying seven tackles. Whitfield (11 marks and 28 possessions) and Ward (28 touches, nine marks) were also excellent. For the Eagles, Matt Priddis, who along with Mitchell and Drew Petrie is also now hanging up the boots, closed out his career with another fine game, picking up 30 touches and laying seven tackles, while Shuey (29 possessions, nine tackles) and Mitchell (28 disposals, two goals) played more than solidly.
GWS will now turn their attention towards the MCG on Friday night. The Giants will take on Richmond in an attempt to reach their first-ever AFL Grand Final. As good as they looked against West Coast, they will be expecting a far tougher test against the Tigers and the match should be a fascinating affair.
With their season over, West Coast will now take stock and reload for 2018. The retirements of Priddis, Mitchell and Petrie, along with the return of Nic Naitanui from a season-long absence through knee injury, means the Eagles will approach next season with a new-look team, something the Eagles' coach Adam Simpson says he's very excited about. In a two-team town, the pressure will be on Simpson to lift his team at least another rung or two on the ladder next year.
Greater Western Sydney: Johnson 6; Greene 3; Patton 2; Shiel, Scully, Taranto, Ward, de Boer, Himmelberg, Deledio, Coniglio
West Coast: LeCras, Mitchell 2; Vardy, Kennedy, Shuey, Petrie, Darling
BEST - AFL.COM.AU
Greater Western Sydney: Coniglio, Whitfield, Johnson, Ward, Corr, Kelly, Shiel, Wilson
West Coast: Priddis, Shuey, Mitchell, Hurn, Redden
BEST - THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
Greater Western Sydney: Coniglio, Ward, Shiel Johnson, Corr, Patton, Whitfield, Wilson
West Coast: Shuey, Priddis, McGovern, Redden, Hurn
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
West Coast: Nil
UMPIRES: Stevic, Schmitt, Ryan
TELEVISION BROADCAST: Seven Network
COMMENTATORS: Luke Darcy, Basil Zempilas, Matthew Richardson, Cameron Ling
Video sourced from YouTube, courtesy of the AFL.
|Greater Western Sydney||Match Stats||Career|
|3||Coniglio, Stephen||14||3||21||35||1||0||0||7||0||2||23y 275d||94||39|
|35||Corr, Aidan||6||4||5||11||0||0||0||1||0||3||23y 122d||58||1|
|1||Davis, Phil||5||2||5||10||0||0||0||3||1||1||27y 17d||120||6|
|24||de Boer, Matt||5||2||8||13||1||0||0||6||0||2||27y 190d||152||56|
|7||Deledio, Brett||7||4||8||15||1||0||0||0||0||2||30y 151d||249||187|
|4||Greene, Toby||13||8||4||17||3||1||0||2||2||1||23y 356d||116||123|
|19||Haynes, Nick||11||5||8||19||0||0||0||2||2||0||25y 121d||80||8|
|27||Himmelberg, Harry||4||3||5||9||1||1||1||3||1||2||21y 131d||15||5|
|2||Hopper, Jacob||11||4||8||19||0||0||0||6||1||2||20y 222d||22||9|
|17||Johnson, Steve||10||4||3||13||6||0||0||2||1||1||34y 74d||292||516|
|22||Kelly, Josh||12||3||21||33||0||1||0||8||2||1||22y 216d||83||52|
|37||Lobb, Rory||3||3||8||11||0||0||39||4||1||0||24y 219d||54||53|
|12||Patton, Jonathon||15||10||8||23||2||2||7||3||1||2||24y 119d||76||119|
|9||Scully, Tom||10||6||10||20||1||0||0||4||1||1||26y 124d||150||72|
|23||Shaw, Heath||13||5||4||17||0||0||0||2||1||1||31y 293d||261||39|
|5||Shiel, Dylan||11||1||14||25||1||1||0||7||2||1||24y 191d||111||58|
|14||Taranto, Tim||10||4||7||17||1||0||0||1||0||0||19y 231d||13||7|
|20||Tomlinson, Adam||1||1||5||6||0||0||0||1||1||0||24y 37d||90||19|
|8||Ward, Callan||19||9||9||28||1||0||0||5||1||1||27y 159d||191||96|
|6||Whitfield, Lachie||17||11||11||28||0||2||0||5||0||0||23y 60d||89||43|
|29||Williams, Zac||5||1||9||14||0||0||0||10||0||2||22y 361d||75||20|
|16||Wilson, Nathan||13||3||5||18||0||0||0||1||1||0||24y 252d||76||16|
|West Coast||Match Stats||Career|
|37||Barrass, Tom||12||7||3||15||0||0||0||1||4||0||21y 343d||32||0|
|15||Cripps, Jamie||5||0||5||10||0||0||0||4||3||1||25y 146d||119||143|
|27||Darling, Jack||5||3||7||12||1||0||0||5||2||2||25y 95d||151||271|
|14||Duggan, Liam||3||2||7||10||0||0||0||2||0||0||20y 279d||46||7|
|3||Gaff, Andrew||20||7||5||25||0||0||0||2||0||0||25y 92d||156||55|
|25||Hurn, Shannon||17||10||6||23||0||0||0||3||0||0||30y 12d||223||49|
|34||Hutchings, Mark||8||2||5||13||0||0||0||2||1||1||26y 114d||75||36|
|23||Jetta, Lewis||3||3||4||7||0||0||0||3||0||0||28y 135d||154||114|
|17||Kennedy, Josh||6||2||3||9||1||1||0||1||4||2||30y 22d||207||519|
|2||LeCras, Mark||11||9||5||16||2||1||0||4||0||0||31y 17d||196||409|
|16||Mackenzie, Eric||3||6||11||14||0||0||0||0||1||1||29y 120d||147||7|
|20||McGovern, Jeremy||12||8||3||15||0||0||0||1||3||1||25y 154d||79||29|
|1||Mitchell, Sam||17||5||11||28||2||0||0||3||1||1||34y 339d||329||71|
|21||Petrie, Drew||3||5||4||7||1||0||18||1||0||0||34y 336d||332||444|
|11||Priddis, Matt||11||3||19||30||0||0||0||7||0||2||32y 179d||240||73|
|8||Redden, Jack||17||7||12||29||0||0||0||2||1||2||26y 281d||163||61|
|4||Sheed, Dom||12||6||9||21||0||0||0||2||1||1||22y 159d||60||23|
|5||Sheppard, Brad||8||4||2||10||0||0||0||1||0||0||26y 116d||131||17|
|13||Shuey, Luke||14||3||15||29||1||0||0||9||3||2||27y 106d||157||122|
|19||Vardy, Nathan||2||2||3||5||1||0||33||5||0||1||26y 83d||47||35|
|12||Wellingham, Sharrod||10||5||4||14||0||0||0||1||0||0||29y 71d||171||73|
|6||Yeo, Elliot||12||7||3||15||0||0||0||1||1||2||23y 350d||107||45|