All on the line
After 17 rounds it’s all going to come down to Friday night’s game against St Kilda - as well as other teams' games - with Melbourne’s five-point lead keeping them in the hunt and making it tougher for the GIANTS to reach their fifth straight finals series. After conceding the first three goals the GIANTS fought their way back into this one in most areas of the game and most parts of the ground. There was plenty of scoring, there were some brave efforts, there were some huge one-on-one contests and after a few tough weeks the GIANTS were in this one. Both teams had won all but three of their last quarters heading into the final term, but it was Melbourne who forced things their way, had all the run and got the win both teams desperately needed to keep one hand on a finals spot. Down by seven points, the Demons kicked three goals in a row to take the lead and were able to hang on in the last 30 seconds after a Brent Daniels snap gave the GIANTS one last chance to win the game.
Back after a week off with some hamstring soreness, Brent Daniels’ buzz was back. The small forward’s effort, energy and work rate has been important for the team all year and was there from the first bounce against Melbourne, as a well as a bit of brilliance. You may remember Binga’s first goal at the Gabba: it made sure the GIANTS won last season’s semi final against the Lions. He scored his second while tucked up against the boundary line on the same side of the ground: flicking the ball up to himself, looking inside for options and curling a low kick towards the goal square, where it bounced, curled, bounced, twisted, bounce again and went through before anyone could reach it, for one of the season's best goals. There was more to come – Daniels snapped his second in the third quarter while being swung in a tackle – while he teamed up with Zac Williams twice: once with a clever pass off the side of his boot, the other with a re-gather and handball across to the goal line. His third – with 33 seconds left to play – gave the team a chance, but came just a little too late.
Welcome, Jack Buckley
He had to wait three years, and Jack Buckley started his first game like he was well and truly ready for it. The 22-year-old, listed as a local rookie after the 2017 draft, shot a short pass to Daniel Lloyd to set up the GIANTS’ first shot on goal for the game, ran hard to cover ground and showed a huge amount of courage in the air, all night. He backed back in defence to take a mark, he parked himself bravely underneath a Shane Mumford-Max Gawn contest and he threw himself at another high ball in the third quarter. Nick Haynes and Harry Perryman flew for the same ball, and all three were lucky not to take each other out, but they all had their eyes fixed on the ball. He put his body on the line at ground level too, in a big clash with Neville Jetta. They were small moments, but ones that will quickly endear GIANT No. 105 to his teammates.
Welcome back, Tom Green
Green has had to wait patiently for his second chance this season, but he absolutely made the most of his first senior game since round six. Coming in as one of eight additions to the team he was big, strong and hard to shift around the ball, playing alongside Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper and Josh Kelly and getting the ball moving the GIANTS’ way with his clean hands and well-placed handballs. He had the most productive night by far, and got his hands to the ball more than any other player on the ground, notching seven kicks and 22 handballs - and 21 contested possessions - in an extremely good return to the side.
The sight of Zac Williams on the bench having his shoulder checked two minutes into the game was not a particularly pleasant sight, but the No. 29 was soon back out on the ground and into things. Away from the half-back line he knows so well, Williams spent his night around the middle, in the forward line and all over the place really, getting things moving and kicking two goals to go with his 17 possessions, four marks and three tackles.
The milestone men
Both Daniel Lloyd and Matt de Boer made their way to the GIANTS the tough way: Lloyd was a 23-year-old working full-time as a carpenter on the NSW Central Coast when the GIANTS picked him up as a rookie at the end of 2015, while de Boer was grabbed at pick 58 in the 2016 draft after being delisted after 138 games in eight years at Fremantle. Lloyd’s first goal (in game 50 for him) got the GIANTS on the board late in the last quarter; de Boer’s first goal, midway through the third term in his 200th match, grabbed the team the lead for the first time. Both have given the team plenty of themselves, and both have lots left to give.