The GWS Giants have made it through to their first AFL Grand Final, defeating favourites Collingwood in the most dramatic of fashions at the MCG on Saturday.
Few gave the Giants a chance in this match, with two of their stars missing, Toby Greene through suspension and Lachie Whitfield, who suffered the wretched misfortune of having to have his appendix removed earlier in the week. But in a low-scoring, dour struggle, the Giants made a break in the third quarter, and Jeremy Cameron booted his third goal early in the final term, GWS was 32 points clear and had one foot in the Grand Final.
From there, though, the game went through a sudden and dramatic momentum shift. The Magpies found a gear they had not been able to capture for the first 90 minutes, and they set about reeling in the deficit over the remainder of the match. They fell agonisingly short, the last score of the match a Taylor Adams shot that would have given Collingwood the lead had it been a goal. It hit the post.
In the final three minutes of the match, the ball lived almost exclusively in the Pies' forward line, but they could not find a way to goal, as the Giants defended the ball as if their very lives depended on it. Their Grand Final hopes certainly depended on it, and they prevailed in the end by four points, the ball still deep in attack for Collingwood when the final siren sounded.
The first half of the match very much embodied the essence of modern finals footy — tough, uncompromising and very low-scoring. It is the sort of football that many followers of the game from the game from the 1970s, '80s and '90s lament, with goals coming at a premium, but what the half lacked in goals, it made up for in intensity and endeavour, highlighting the current skills of tackling, smothering and defending space.
Such intensity (along with rain at times) produced just three goals in the first quarter — two to Collingwood and one to GWS — and only two in the second term, one to each side. At the long break the Magpies led 3.2.20 to 2.5.17, no player having kicked more than one goal. A look at the match's 'score worm' shows a virtual flat line throughout the first half. The Giants' effort in restricting Collingwood's score was particularly meritorious given that captain Phil Davis had injured his back, forcing him to move to the forward line where he had limited effect.
Most expected that if one side was to make a break in the third quarter, it would be the Magpies. The Giants had other ideas. The ball lived in their forward line in the early stages of the term, with little reward at first, but when Brett Daniels swooped on the ball and snapped his first goal at the four-minute mark, it opened up the floodgates — at least by the standards of this match — with Zac Williams and Tim Taranto following up with majors over the next seven minutes.
Suddenly GWS was 16 points clear, a significant margin in the context of the match. Collingwood needed to respond but they could not. Jeremy Finlayson's second goal took the Giants' lead out to 23 points midway through the quarter, and Cameron's second extended that lead further. The Pies did not score until just before the term ticked into time on. Even then, that was only a rushed behind, and their two further scores for the quarter were only behinds Jack Crisp and John Noble.
With Cameron marking and scoring a lovely long goal early in the final quarter, Collingwood looked all but gone. Cameron had another shot at goal soon after and, had he kicked accurately, it surely would have closed the door on the Pies. But Cameron missed, leaving the door ever so slightly ajar, and the Magpies swooped.
Raising the pressure to a new level, Collingwood started to win the ball all over the ground, generating multiple attacks. The first of those resulted in only a behind to Jamie Elliott, but goals in quick succession to Jaidyn Stephenson and Josh Thomas, the margin was back to 20 points with plenty of time remaining.
With perhaps 70,000 of the 77,828 fans at the MCG behind them, the Magpies raised their intensity even further. Chris Mayne scrambled a goal at the 13-minute mark, and the deficit was just 13 points. A behind to Ben Reid made it an even two goals and Thomas drilled his second major on he run early in time on it was a six-point ball game. (Replays later showed that Thomas's kick had been touched, generating much debate about the score review system.)
Still Collingwood attacked. The Giants appeared to be out on their feet. The injured Davis through himself into the backline to shore up the Giants defence. A rushed behind brought the margin down to five points. One straight kick and Collingwood would be in front. The moment came. Taylor Adams received a handball and swung the ball onto his left boot from 45 metres out. It hit the left behind post, leaving the Magpies four points adrift.
That proved to be Collingwood's last chance. The Giants fell — almost literally — into their first Grand Final.
The desperately unlucky Magpies found a way to add another chapter to their book of finals heartbreak, not even a year after the previous one was written in the 2018 Grand Final. Magpie coach Nathan Buckley later referred to 2019 as a wasted season. It seems a very unfair assessment of a year which produced 15 home-and-away wins and an impressive Qualifying Final victory over top side Geelong. But the hard, cold reality is that the game is about winning premierships, and the Magpies will not be winning one this year.
Despite the fact that they will regain Toby Greene and probably Lachie Whitfield this week, GWS will start the Grand Final as firm underdogs. But they started as firm underdogs in the Preliminary Final against Collingwood and won. If the Giants can avoid being overawed by their first Grand Final appearance and bring the same sort of pressure they brought in the Preliminary Final into next Saturday, Richmond will have to fight every inch of the way to beat them.
Collingwood: Stephenson, Thomas 2; Reid, Elliott, Mayne
Greater Western Sydney: Cameron 3; Finlayson 2; Taranto, Williams, Daniels
BEST - AFL.COM.AU
Collingwood: Crisp, Grundy, Pendlebury, Maynard, Wills, Howe, Treloar
Greater Western Sydney: Williams, Taranto, Haynes, Perryman, Cameron, Kelly, Finlayson
BEST - HERALD SUN
Collingwood: Grundy, Crisp, Howe, Maynard, Moore, Thomas, Wills, Treloar
Greater Western Sydney: Haynes, Williams, Kelly, Taranto, Taylor, Perryrman, Finlayson, de Boer, Cameron, Shaw
Greater Western Sydney: Davis (calf)
UMPIRES: Stevic, Stephens, Meredith
TELEVISION BROADCAST: Seven Network
COMMENTATORS: Luke Darcy, James Brayshaw, Cameron Ling, Matthew Richardson
|13||Adams, Taylor||20||1||0||20||0||2||0||4||1||6||26y 1d||132||50|
|14||Aish, James||5||2||3||8||0||0||0||6||0||1||23y 317d||82||23|
|17||Brown, Callum||8||2||2||10||0||0||0||3||1||0||21y 147d||35||13|
|25||Crisp, Jack||16||7||10||26||0||1||0||9||0||0||25y 354d||134||47|
|5||Elliott, Jamie||9||6||4||13||1||1||0||4||2||0||27y 31d||105||164|
|4||Grundy, Brodie||11||3||14||25||0||0||73||4||5||0||25y 159d||132||43|
|32||Hoskin-Elliott, Will||7||5||1||8||0||0||0||1||0||0||26y 19d||119||121|
|38||Howe, Jeremy||20||7||8||28||0||0||0||2||2||0||29y 84d||183||89|
|37||Maynard, Brayden||14||3||9||23||0||0||0||8||2||0||23y 1d||97||15|
|16||Mayne, Chris||4||3||5||9||1||0||0||4||0||0||30y 323d||217||207|
|41||Mihocek, Brody||2||0||0||2||0||0||0||3||0||0||26y 229d||40||65|
|30||Moore, Darcy||10||4||7||17||0||0||0||2||2||0||23y 239d||71||61|
|49||Noble, John||11||5||5||16||0||1||0||1||0||1||22y 180d||5||0|
|10||Pendlebury, Scott||12||2||6||18||0||1||0||9||3||0||31y 257d||301||178|
|21||Phillips, Tom||12||4||6||18||0||0||0||3||2||0||23y 137d||74||39|
|20||Reid, Ben||3||2||1||4||1||1||5||0||2||2||30y 145d||150||70|
|23||Roughead, Jordan||7||1||1||8||0||0||0||1||1||1||28y 322d||162||35|
|22||Sidebottom, Steele||9||4||7||16||0||0||0||5||0||2||28y 262d||234||161|
|1||Stephenson, Jaidyn||10||5||6||16||2||0||0||2||0||0||20y 249d||40||62|
|24||Thomas, Josh||9||4||5||14||2||0||0||4||0||0||27y 355d||89||85|
|7||Treloar, Adam||7||0||15||22||0||0||0||8||0||3||26y 196d||163||96|
|33||Wills, Rupert||3||1||13||16||0||0||0||12||1||1||26y 124d||15||1|
|Greater Western Sydney||Match Stats||Career|
|18||Cameron, Jeremy||10||6||2||12||3||1||0||1||0||3||26y 173d||153||402|
|35||Corr, Aidan||12||5||7||19||0||0||0||2||0||3||25y 127d||82||2|
|16||Daniels, Brent||6||1||8||14||1||0||0||3||1||0||20y 196d||32||15|
|1||Davis, Phil||3||1||1||4||0||0||0||3||1||1||29y 22d||165||7|
|24||de Boer, Matt||4||1||5||9||0||0||0||8||1||1||29y 195d||186||74|
|31||Finlayson, Jeremy||10||2||2||12||2||1||0||1||0||2||23y 224d||37||48|
|19||Haynes, Nick||21||9||9||30||0||0||0||3||1||1||27y 126d||127||9|
|37||Hill, Bobby||5||3||2||7||0||1||0||2||0||0||19y 224d||8||7|
|27||Himmelberg, Harry||4||2||4||8||0||0||1||4||0||0||23y 136d||64||75|
|2||Hopper, Jacob||13||1||9||22||0||1||0||3||1||0||22y 227d||66||28|
|25||Keeffe, Lachie||6||3||1||7||0||0||0||0||1||0||29y 160d||58||14|
|22||Kelly, Josh||20||2||7||27||0||0||0||8||2||1||24y 221d||117||77|
|40||Kennedy, Adam||10||3||3||13||0||0||0||3||1||1||27y 71d||114||12|
|38||Lloyd, Daniel||12||3||7||19||0||2||0||2||1||0||27y 215d||38||31|
|41||Mumford, Shane||5||0||3||8||0||0||14||8||1||6||33y 78d||191||52|
|36||Perryman, Harry||14||6||9||23||0||0||0||8||1||0||20y 276d||35||4|
|50||Reid, Sam||5||3||3||8||0||0||0||6||0||0||29y 318d||89||29|
|23||Shaw, Heath||12||5||4||16||0||0||0||5||0||1||33y 298d||307||39|
|14||Taranto, Tim||23||5||3||26||1||0||0||6||2||0||21y 236d||62||24|
|15||Taylor, Sam||8||6||6||14||0||0||0||3||0||0||20y 139d||29||1|
|20||Tomlinson, Adam||13||7||2||15||0||1||1||3||1||2||26y 42d||139||35|
|29||Williams, Zac||22||6||3||25||1||0||0||6||2||2||25y 1d||101||25|