Saturday's Second Elimination Final at the Sydney Showground between the GWS Giants and the Western Bulldogs provided footy fans and pundits alike a stark reminder of the difference between home-and-away encounters and their finals counterparts. It provide the same reminder to the Bulldogs players, too. It was only three weeks ago that the Bulldogs broke away from GWS after half time to record a crushing ten-goal win. Two games later, at the same venue, the Giants have turned the tables, doing exactly what the Dogs had done to them just twenty days earlier.
The Bulldogs had set up that win on the back of manic handball on the back of fast ball movement. Indeed, the Dogs last three home-and-away wins were obtained with that method, each time producing scores of more than 120, a relatively rare figure in football's current era.
And when Saturday's Elimination Final got underway, the Bulldogs gave every indication that this would follow a similar script. The Dogs got the centre clearance and quickly delivered the ball to a running Matt Suckling who sized up his options before unleashing one of his trademark sixty-metre bombs. The Dogs were kicking into a slight breeze, Suckling's kick scythed through it to bring up the first goal of the match after only 21 seconds.
Bulldogs fans who had made the trip to Sydney's west — and there were many of them — were looking forward to another day of Doggies domination. Alas, it ended then and there. The Giants settled into a routine of playing tight football, harassing the Dogs midfielders at every turn. the Bulldog's free-flowing game was immediately stifled. For the seven minutes, that resulted in a stalemate. The Dogs couldn't score but neither could GWS.
Eventually, something had to give, and it was the Dogs who faltered. The Giants started setting up repeat forward entries and by midway through the term they had 2.2 on the board. They added two further behinds before the Bulldogs finally escaped from defence and Pat Lipinski found Aaron Naughton, who kicked a goal against the run of play. The Dogs looked to have done well to be within five points of the Giants but a very late goal to Toby Greene, his second, gave GWS an 11-point quarter-time buffer. The scoreline of 3.5 to 2.0 suggest that the Giants could have made better use of the breeze.
The Bulldogs were looking to make better use of the wind advantage than the Giants had in the second quarter but, such was the pressure applied by GWS, the ball rarely made it into their forward line in the first 15 minutes. A goal to Jeremy Finlayson too the Giants' lead out to 20 points before Bailey Dale and Marcus Bontempelli, who was being well held by tagger Matt De Boer, finally added a couple of scores for the Dogs, albeit behinds. Still the Giants came, and an 'out the back' goal had them four goals clear heading into time on, the match rapidly slipping from the Bulldogs' grasp.
Then, almost from nowhere, the Dogs found their mojo. Suddenly everything they touched turned to gold or, more accurately, goals. Toby McLean, Naughton and Tim English all added majors in a five-minute burst and the margin was back to just five points with all the momentum now with the visitors. Bontempelli then had a set shot to give the Bulldogs the lead, but he missed a gettable shot, as he has done perhaps too often this season. Lachie Hunter also had a chance to put the Dogs in front but his running shot from a tight angle also missed. Just before the half-time siren, the momentum appeared to shift again and Finlayson's second goal had GWS ahead by 10 points at the long break, the match seemingly on a knife's edge.
An early third-term goal had the Dogs back within four points but the Giants continued to dial up the pressure. Majors to Josh Kelly and Daniel Lloyd pushed the Bulldogs close to breaking point. Again the Dogs did not buckle and a magnificent running goal brought them back within two goals. Lipinksi had the chance to cut that to a solitary goal but missed an easy set shot. Sensing that the Bulldogs were on the ropes, the Giants pounced in the quarter's last ten minutes. Flinalyson, Daniel and Green all added goals and the Dogs, now 29 points behind had the staggers. Adding to their woes, Naughton landed awkwardly in a marking contest, and his knee buckled beneath him. He was helped off the ground with what looked to be a serious injury. To rub salt into the Doggies' wounds, Himmelberg added one final goal for the term, and the Giants turned for home six goals clear.
Six goals behind, the Bulldogs began the final term with the breeze behind them, but they needed the first goal of quarter to give themselves a realistic chance of victory. Instead, a minute in, Josh Kelly ambled in four his second major. GWS were 41 points ahead, and they had delivered the knock-out blow. They added four more goals to blow the margin out to 65 before a consolation goal to Sam Lloyd, one of many Bulldogs who had very little impact on the match, settled the final margin at 58 points, a comprehensive thrashing.
It was a sobering lesson for the young Dogs, who went into the game as slight favourites. They were 'monstered' all afternoon and were unable to cope with the Giants' aggression, which at times went close to crossing the line. But taking a positive outlook, the Bulldogs were comfortably the youngest and most inexperienced of the eight finalists, and their return to finals, having missed twice since their fairy tale flag of 2016, indicates an upward trend.
Meanwhile, the Giants, whose impressive victory was set up by midfielders Lachie Whitfield, Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, live to fight another day. The result makes them the only team to have won at least one final in each of the last four seasons. Their premiership window, which some thought had closed, remains open. But if they are to win their first premiership this year, they'll have to do it the hard way. The first step will be defeating Brisbane at the Gabba next Saturday night.
Greater Western Sydney: Finlayson, Greene, Kelly 3; Lloyd, Himmelberg, Cameron 2; Whitfield
Western Bulldogs: Naughton 2; Suckling, McLean, English, Schache, Richards, Lloyd
BEST - AFL.COM.AU
Greater Western Sydney: Whitfield, Taranto, Hopper, Greene, de Boer, Shaw, Finlayson
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Wood, Suckling, Hunter, Lipinski
BEST - HERALD SUN
Greater Western Sydney: Whitfield, Hopper, Greene, Finlayson, Taranto, De Boer, Kelly, Williams, Daniels
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Wood, Hunter, Suckling
Greater Western Sydney: Deledio (calf)
Western Bulldogs: Naughton (knee)
REPORTS: Matt Suckling reported for rough conduct on Josh Kelly.
UMPIRES: Foot, Williamson, Ryan
TELEVISION BROADCAST: Seven Network
|Greater Western Sydney||Match Stats||Career|
|18||Cameron, Jeremy||17||8||8||25||2||3||0||3||2||0||26y 159d||151||396|
|35||Corr, Aidan||9||3||3||12||0||0||0||1||1||1||25y 113d||80||2|
|16||Daniels, Brent||12||3||9||21||0||3||0||3||1||2||20y 182d||30||13|
|1||Davis, Phil||7||4||1||8||0||0||0||0||0||2||29y 8d||163||7|
|24||de Boer, Matt||9||1||9||18||0||0||1||8||2||5||29y 181d||184||74|
|7||Deledio, Brett||5||4||6||11||0||0||0||4||2||2||32y 142d||275||197|
|31||Finlayson, Jeremy||13||3||5||18||3||3||5||0||0||1||23y 210d||35||44|
|4||Greene, Toby||14||5||6||20||3||1||0||3||2||6||25y 347d||143||164|
|19||Haynes, Nick||10||2||8||18||0||0||0||1||0||0||27y 112d||125||9|
|27||Himmelberg, Harry||6||2||6||12||2||1||0||3||3||2||23y 122d||62||75|
|2||Hopper, Jacob||13||3||17||30||0||0||0||4||2||2||22y 213d||64||27|
|22||Kelly, Josh||13||1||9||22||3||1||0||2||4||0||24y 207d||115||76|
|40||Kennedy, Adam||11||3||5||16||0||1||0||1||0||0||27y 57d||112||12|
|38||Lloyd, Daniel||6||3||3||9||2||0||0||1||1||1||27y 201d||36||30|
|41||Mumford, Shane||1||0||8||9||0||0||39||4||2||5||33y 64d||189||52|
|36||Perryman, Harry||9||4||10||19||0||0||0||4||2||0||20y 262d||33||4|
|50||Reid, Sam||5||0||8||13||0||0||0||1||0||1||29y 304d||87||29|
|23||Shaw, Heath||21||9||4||25||0||0||0||2||1||1||33y 284d||305||39|
|14||Taranto, Tim||19||7||9||28||0||0||0||5||0||1||21y 222d||60||23|
|15||Taylor, Sam||7||4||4||11||0||0||0||2||1||1||20y 125d||27||1|
|6||Whitfield, Lachie||21||7||9||30||1||1||0||6||1||1||25y 51d||131||60|
|29||Williams, Zac||11||2||9||20||0||0||0||3||1||0||24y 352d||99||23|
|Western Bulldogs||Match Stats||Career|
|4||Bontempelli, Marcus||9||2||4||13||0||2||3||7||3||2||23y 287d||127||115|
|12||Cordy, Zaine||7||3||3||10||0||0||0||1||1||3||22y 315d||71||10|
|9||Crozier, Hayden||12||5||3||15||0||0||0||2||2||2||25y 257d||108||45|
|31||Dale, Bailey||4||2||3||7||0||1||0||1||1||0||23y 47d||50||53|
|5||Dunkley, Josh||10||2||10||20||0||0||4||7||4||2||22y 241d||66||36|
|15||Duryea, Taylor||13||2||4||17||0||0||0||6||3||0||28y 136d||132||23|
|44||English, Tim||12||3||5||17||1||1||30||4||3||2||22y 28d||29||9|
|32||Hayes, Will||1||1||6||7||0||0||0||3||0||0||24y 94d||9||4|
|7||Hunter, Lachie||10||2||14||24||0||1||0||4||2||1||24y 268d||128||57|
|39||Johannisen, Jason||10||1||7||17||0||0||0||3||0||0||26y 303d||126||41|
|27||Lipinski, Patrick||7||6||17||24||0||1||0||1||1||1||21y 52d||32||23|
|22||Lloyd, Sam||6||3||4||10||1||0||0||1||0||0||29y 188d||80||107|
|11||Macrae, Jack||14||5||18||32||0||0||0||10||3||1||25y 35d||141||34|
|16||McLean, Toby||5||3||3||8||1||1||0||4||2||3||23y 219d||79||54|
|33||Naughton, Aaron||4||3||1||5||2||0||0||3||2||2||19y 281d||41||34|
|20||Richards, Ed||4||1||8||12||1||0||0||0||1||0||20y 66d||41||17|
|13||Schache, Josh||5||2||2||7||1||0||0||3||1||1||22y 17d||54||66|
|6||Smith, Bailey||7||4||9||16||0||0||0||3||0||1||18y 274d||23||11|
|1||Suckling, Matt||19||4||4||23||1||0||0||1||0||1||31y 44d||171||82|
|14||West, Rhylee||3||2||7||10||0||0||0||0||0||1||19y 57d||3||2|
|10||Wood, Easton||9||6||5||14||0||0||0||2||4||4||30y 3d||160||18|
|2||Young, Lewis||9||1||2||11||0||0||0||2||1||1||20y 261d||14||0|