The Greater Western Sydney Giants have battled through injuries to defeat an equally depleted West Coast at Giants Stadium on Sunday.
As their team song bellowed out around Giants Stadium, the words ‘We’ll never surrender, we’ll fight until the end’ could not have rung truer for a GWS side that battled away remarkably to record a stirring 16 point win over the West Coast Eagles at Giants Stadium.
In the absence of superstar forward Toby Greene, Jesse Hogan, Harry Perryman and with in-game injuries to key defenders Jack Buckley and Sam Taylor, the Giants demonstrated serious courage to hold out a powerful Eagles forward line for a win that takes them into the top eight.
While the Eagles are still missing star midfielders Luke Shuey and Elliot Yeo – who coach Adam Simpson said is a chance to return next week against Essendon – the defeat again raises questions about their performances on the road as they were overpowered in the clearances by the Giants midfield.
The loss also put a damper on a major milestone for the club with Shannon Hurn breaking the Eagles games record on 291, surpassing Dean Cox.
“We don’t want to have thirty less tackles. Efficiency of tackles is what we rate and we’ve been poor at that. That was disappointing,” Simpson said.
“Their midfield numbers are a bit healthier than ours but I don’t want to blame our mids either.
“If you don’t win on the road, you can be critical, go for your life. It’s reality so we need to own it.”
The performance of Jack Buckley exemplified what the Giants were all about as he not only held the in-form Jack Darling to one goal but did so seemingly on one leg for the final quarter as he battled an ankle injury.
“He’s a terrific story, the club has done a wonderful job to find him and then it’s over to him. He’s determined, quick, has a great motor and is a super competitor,” Giants coach Leon Cameron said.
“It’s a wonderful win, we’re a bit banged up at the moment. To have Buckley and Sam Taylor come back on when they’re clearly distressed was a wonderful moment for everyone.”
While GWS was depleted up forward, the side’s midfield brigade is still star-studded and all of Callan Ward, Lachie Whitfield, Jacob Hopper, Tom Green and Josh Kelly shone with their ability to win the clearances and then win the ball on the outside as well. It was the ultimate seesawing contest, with the margin not breaching four points at any of the quarter intervals, until Bobby Hill sprung free in the last to slam through the sealer for his second goal of the afternoon in a lively display across half-forward.
Up forward, Jeremy Finlayson bounced back from his week off through suspension to kick three goals, the little-known Zach Sproule kicked two more in just his fourth game while Matt Flynn added a double and helped Shane Mumford break even with reigning All-Australian ruckman Nic Naitanui.
He’s now pulled on the Eagles guernsey more than any other player but the enormity of that achievement for Shannon Hurn wasn’t enough to inspire the Eagles to victory. He reluctantly agreed to be chaired off the ground by Josh Kennedy and Jack Redden after breaking the games record mark but there was little to smile about for the Eagles’ 2018 Premiership skipper.
In a contest that was tight until the very end, the little breaks seemed to mean so much and the Giants were on the receiving end of an almighty one when a Jeremy Finlayson snap bounced in front of a contest near the goalsquare and turned like a Shane Warne fizzer on a day five SCG pitch to roll through for a crucial second quarter goal.
GWS GIANTS: 4.2, 7.8, 10.13, 13.15 (93)
WEST COAST: 3.4, 7.7, 10.9, 11.11 (77)
GWS – Finlayson 3, Green, Hill, Sproule, Flynn 2, Lloyd, Whitfield
WCE – Cripps 2, Petrucelle 2, Kennedy, Darling, Allen, Waterman, Redden, Kelly, Williams
GWS – Hopper, Ward, Buckley, Whitfield, Kelly, Green, Taylor, Finlayson, Flynn
WCE – Kelly, Redden, Barrass, Naitanui, Allen, Cripps
VOTES: 3. Hopper (GWS) 2. Buckley (GWS) 1. Josh Kelly (GWS)