Upset throws finals hopes into free fall
The Giants played with fire all day at Mars Stadium – and it finally burnt. Badly.
Greater Western Sydney will fall from the top eight after a dramatic and controversial one-point loss to the plucky Gold Coast Suns in Ballarat.
They were outplayed for much of a windswept match in Ballarat, but courtesy of 10 stellar minutes with the breeze before the final break and a stern last-term defensive effort into it, the Giants appeared as though they’d only be singed.
But Suns veteran David Swallow was awarded a free-kick for what seemed a very gentle push in the back at the point of the goalsquare with minutes remaining after his original kick dribbled into the right post.
The subsequent kick sailed straight through the middle as the Suns hit the front for the final time for their sixth win of the season.
Giants skipper Toby Greene had two of his three goals verging on the miraculous before the frantic closing minutes with his team surging forward.
But when he took an out-of-bounds free-kick deep in the right forward pocket in the final minute, Greene took an all-or-nothing approach by trying to kick a goal when a point for a draw might have been more prudent.
More telling, though, was that when the ball finally landed in the goalsquare, it was marked by the Gold Coast with three towering Giants unable to bring the ball to ground for a mad scramble or a rushed point.
It’s this inattention to detail that will mystify coach Leon Cameron, even if he remains calm outwardly.
With a win against then ladder leader Melbourne spliced in the middle of a maddening month, the Giants have now taken just six premiership points from clashes against battlers North Melbourne, Hawthorn, Carlton and Gold Coast — all with September action beckoning.
It was also disappointing for Jacob Hopper in his 100th game for GWS to have racked up a career-high 41 disposals and drive his team back into the contest, only to see it come up agonisingly short.
But the plaudits should definitely be rich for the Suns, who showed great gumption, particularly into the wind in the first quarter and early in the third term to keep their winning target in reach when the breeze was at their back in the final term.
Matt Rowell wasn’t prolific, but was dogged in the final minutes and booted a critical bouncing goal as well.
The heroes for the Gold Coast were former Tiger Brandon Ellis (career-best 41 touches) and his white-hot mate, Touk Miller who had 34 disposals – including 16 contested – laid 14 tackles and kicked two goals.
Courage to the end
He hadn’t been his usual prolific self in the first term, so it was not surprising to see the ultra-talented Lachie Whitfield throw himself into a contest early in the second quarter to give himself a spark.
But in another gutsy act in a weekend where they’ve been a great talking point, Whitfield’s heroics proved his undoing.
The reigning Giants’ best-and-fairest winner leapt with the flight of a piercing pass from Harry Himmelberg and clung to a fantastic mark despite the inevitable contact from oncoming Suns Jackman Jack Bowes.
Whitfield immediately took a wobbly step when he found his feet, but was both skilful and courageous enough to slot his team’s only second-term goal across the wind.
But not long afterwards, the midfielder came to the bench and his match was over he failed the concussion protocol.
Star Giants recruit Jesse Hogan played his first game since round nine on Sunday. (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Rodan to nowhere
The wind made it tough to judge how far the ball would fly, but it’s safe to say that Giants ruckman Shane Mumford made a fundamental mistake midway through the third term.
With Sam Day kicking for goal from 40m out into the teeth of the wind, it always appeared touch and go whether the ball would reach the goal line.
But so far back was Mumford, in a position far better suited to still conditions, that he couldn’t quite reach forward far enough to get to the footy as it dropped right near the line.
It initially appeared as though Mumford might have been shepherded by former player turned goal umpire David Rodan in place on the line, but replays showed “Mummy” simply didn’t have the time to reach the ball.
For the second week in a row after last week’s Swans-Eagles clash in Geelong, two non-Victorian teams drew an unexpectedly impressive crowd to regional Victoria.
It’s obviously impossible to know the demographics of the crowd at Mars Stadium, but it’s safe to say most made a rookie mistake in choosing their vantage points.
There were only five goals all day to the northern end, behind which the grandstand presumably offered respite from the northerly wind that gusted in excess of 40km an hour at times.
2.4 (16) 3.4 (22) 8.10 (58) 10.5 (65)
GOLD COAST SUNS
1.1 (7) 5.3 (33) 7.3 (45) 9.10 (64)
3: Touk Miller (Suns)
2: Jacob Hopper (Giants)
1: Brandon Ellis (Suns)
GWS: Hopper, Greene, Ward, Perryman, Kennedy.
Gold Coast: Miller, Ellis, Bowes, Burgess, Fiorini, Swallow.
GWS: Greene 3, Himmelberg 2, Whitfield, Hill, Lloyd, Finlayson.
Gold Coast: Sexton 2, Day 2, Miller 2, Atkins, Burgess, Rowell, Swallow.
GWS: Whitfield (concussion).
Gold Coast: Greenwood (right knee).
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