GIANTS vs West Coast
Saturday, September 16
The GIANTS finished the season in fourth spot behind Adelaide, Geelong and Richmond, with 14 wins, finding themselves on the road for the first week of the finals to play the top-placed Crows. It wasn’t a good night: the Crows kicked seven straight goals in the first half – including five to none in a dominant second quarter – and there was no way back for the GIANTS, who went down by 38 points. "They're a super side, they finished top for a reason and they're hard to beat here, but I'd just love to have our time over again in that second quarter," said coach Leon Cameron. "But we finished top four for a reason, we get a second chance, and we'll bounce back. I think there's a lot of light at the end of the tunnel for us." Steve Johnson returned from injury for the semi-final against West Coast the next week at GIANTS Stadium, as did first-year midfielder Tim Taranto, but the team went in without two big, important names: Jeremy Cameron had a hamstring strain and Shane Mumford was battling the foot injury that would see him (temporarily…) retire.
B: Nick Haynes, Aidan Corr, Zac Williams
HB: Heath Shaw, Phil Davis, Lachie Whitfield
C: Nathan Wilson, Josh Kelly, Tom Scully
HF: Jacob Hopper, Jon Patton, Tim Taranto
F: Matt de Boer, Harry Himmelberg, Toby Greene
FOLL: Rory Lobb, Stephen Coniglio, Callan Ward
I/C: Adam Tomlinson, Dylan Shiel, Steve Johnson, Brett Deledio
After a tight start the GIANTS got the first goal on the board thanks to a classy Greene snap. But they had to wrestle control back late in the quarter after West Coast’s intercepting defenders took charge and the Eagles kicked two goals in a row to take the lead midway through the term. Together, Davis, Shaw and Haynes put in some huge defensive efforts. The run of Scully, Shiel and Whitfield got the GIANTS moving and they scored goals via Scully, Taranto and Ward to take a four-goal lead into the first break.
Quarter-time: GIANTS 5.4 (34), West Coast 3.0 (18)
With two quick goals through de Boer and Himmelberg the GIANTS stretched the lead to 30 points, and were starting to dominate the game, winning the contested ball and finding plenty of room to move. The Eagles steadied but weren’t able to hit the scoreboard until the last five minutes, with two goals to Greene pushing the team well clear and towards an emphatic win. This was the GIANTS at their clean, fast, desperate and hard-running best.
Half-time: GIANTS 9.7 (61), West Coast 4.2 (26)
Patton got the second half started in nice style, taking a strong contested mark and slotting a tricky set shot to make it 9 goals from the last 11 for the GIANTS. The influence of Whitfield and Wilson grew, the midfield kept working and then the Stevie J Show started. Johnson kicked four goals for the term and they included a little bit of everything: he pinched the ball out of Tom Barrass’ hands to set up the first, he took a two-on-one mark to score the second, he nailed a left-foot snap on the run and took another strong grab 20 metres out to put No. 4 on the board and push the GIANTS out to a very big lead.
Three-quarter-time: GIANTS 15.10 (100), West Coast 5.2 (32)
It took just seven seconds for Hopper to win the ball in the middle and find Johnson in space. He kicked his fifth goal (from his fifth second-half kick) and while the Eagles went on to muster four late goals, this
game was over. Josh Kelly kept running, and so did Whitfield. Corr and Tomlinson continued their excellent jobs on Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling, Patton bobbed up to kick his second goal and Coniglio kicked his first before marking in the forward and dishing the ball off to Johnson, who curled through his sixth goal from the boundary line.
Final score: GIANTS 19.11 (125), West Coast 9.4 (58)
6: Steve Johnson goals
33: Josh Kelly possessions
10: Zac Williams tackles
8: Toby Greene marks
8: Stephen Coniglio clearances
1: The Scully tackle
The GIANTS had one goal on the board and were working their way through the tight start to the game when Scully ran down an unsuspecting Matt Priddis – playing his final AFL game - just as he was about to send the ball inside 50 for the Eagles. It was a sign of what was to come for the GIANTS: they were tough, fast and urgent, with the team whizzing the ball quickly to the other end of the ground as soon as Scully won his free kick.
2: The Taranto goal
Taranto, playing just his 13th game and his first final, did not look at all out of place in such a high stakes game. He showed off his power and strength early in the game in kicking his first goal and the GIANTS’ fourth; after Shiel and Ward created 50-50 balls with smothers and Whitfield got rid of Brad Sheppard and sent a handball his way, the teenager took one small step and threw the ball onto the outside of his boot from 40 metres out, his shot sneaking past the outstretched arm of the West Coast defender waiting on the goal line.
3: The Greene mark
With two minutes left in the first half – and two scene-setting goals already on the board –Greene got a nice little ride on Barrass’ back after Scully sent a long, searching kick inside 50. He took the mark, went back, slotted his third goal and sent the GIANTS into the half-time break with a hard-to-beat lead.
4: The Stevie J goal
The first of Johnson’s six goals was pure genius. He was smart, sharp and onto Barrass as the West Coast defender picked up a loose ball in the back pocket and looked to handball up to McGovern. Johnson knocked the ball out of his hands, scooped it back up and scooted off towards the goal line.
5: The other Stevie J goal
There were plenty to pick from but let’s go with the last of them. Johnson was by Coniglio’s side within a split second of the GIANTS midfielder taking a mark in the forward pocket. Coniglio handed the ball off and Johnson needed just a momentary look before curling through goal No. 6 from the boundary line.
The win pushed the GIANTS into their second straight preliminary final. This time they came up against Richmond at the MCG and the Tigers were far too strong. They kicked 15 goals to beat the GIANTS by 36 points, winning their way into the club’s first Grand Final since 1982 before beating Adelaide to win the premiership.