It is hard to think of a better home and away win by Greater Western Sydney than that at Geelong on Saturday.
The Giants have previously knocked over the Swans at the SCG and the Eagles in Perth, but the Cats on their own home deck was a step up again, particularly when down nearly four goals early in the second quarter and having absorbed the trauma – in football terms – of Callan Ward’s season-ending knee injury.
But here’s the thing with the Giants. If they can beat a very good Geelong team on the road, then the MCG in late September should hold few fears for them. They played well in both their MCG finals in 2017 and 2018 in hostile environments, indeed Giants people still wonder what might have happened in the 2017 preliminary final had they not lost Dylan Shiel to a concussion in the first half.
We’ve had some upstart premiership winners in recent years, but the Giants fit the mould of some of other flag winners we have seen, those who have experienced some September disappointment before breaking through.
And they seem a better balanced team in 2019. The losses of Dylan Shiel, Tom Scully and Rory Lobb hasn't appeared to have affected them, not with the Stephen Coniglio and Lachie Whitfield in career-best form and Josh Kelly almost back to his best.
Jeremy Cameron has that imperious look about him once again and Harry Himmelberg and Jeremy Finlayson give the Giants a dangerous look close to goal. The acrobatic Himmelberg mark late in the final term and the cheeky Finlayson “shhh” to the Cats fans will make the Giants highlights video at the end of the season. It says here that Shane Mumford has given the Giants some swagger and a touch of mongrel and it has flowed through the rest of the playing group.
The caveat? It is only round four of what is shaping as a really even season. The injury gods have had their fun with the Giants in the past and who knows? Perhaps the Ward ACL is the start for this year and certainly, there will be games when his leadership and hardness will be missed.
But they can forge ahead from here knowing that with the exception of a difficult three-week mid-season stretch from rounds 12-14 that features consecutive away games against Adelaide (Adelaide Oval), North Melbourne (Blundstone) and Essendon (Marvel), it is a pretty favourable draw.
In a season such as this, 15 wins might even be enough for a top-two berth with all the requisite advantages that flow on from there. The Giants appear good things to win at least that many.
WHAT ELSE I’M THINKING
1 – Here’s what happens now at Carlton. The ‘moneyed types’ as Jake Niall referred to them in The Age on the weekend would have been working the phones within minutes of Jack Bowes kicking the winning goal for the Suns against the Blues on Sunday afternoon. A generation ago at Carlton, coach Brendon Bolton would have been clearing out his desk on Monday and there will be those who believe they have influence who will be trying to make that happen today. But this is where the likes of chief executive Cain Liddle, list manager Steve Silvagni, football director Chris Judd and adviser Robert Walls call for calm, and remind folks that despite the 0-4 loss, the Blues are better than last season and are developing some serious talent. The feeling is that when the wins eventually come, they’ll do so with a rush. They’ve been remarkably patient at Ikon Park. They just need to stay the course, as hard as it is.
2 – Richmond’s triumph on Saturday was one of great coaching and development. Anyone who read Konrad Marshall’s great Yellow and Black book about the 2017 premiership season knows that the Tiger coaching and development staff is ahead of the curve on most things. So it wasn't an uncomfortable situation for them to prepare the team for a trip to Port Adelaide without the ‘Big Four’. This was a remarkable win in so many ways, from the commanding defensive performance from Dylan Grimes in the final quarter, the six-goal haul from Tom Lynch and the slashing 25 disposals on debut from Jack Ross. At 2-2, with Martin and perhaps Riewoldt back this week, the Tigers are going OK.
The Tigers produced a stirring win in Adelaide without their 'Big Four'
3 – You could say the same for St Kilda. Alan Richardson’s first deliverable this season has been effort and the Saints have brought that in spades so far this year. On Sunday they kept coming at Hawthorn and in the end got the win they deserved, even if the free kick that led to Jack Lonie’s winning goal was a touch controversial. And the Saints have found a player – emerging ruckman Rowan Marshall is a beauty. It might have taken them five years but they might finally have found a replacement for Ben McEvoy. Saturday’s twilight clash with the Dees should be fun.
4 – We’re not sure how much petrol Melbourne co-skipper Nathan Jones has left in the tank, but he was magnificent at the SCG on Thursday night and his two goals within a minute helped get the Demons back in the game. Jones is a great footballer and even better person. If Melbourne was to somehow get itself back in the flag race – and the win over the Swans was at least the beginning – winning a flag for Jones would be a key motivator.
5 – When it comes off, Essendon’s slingshot footy is a sight to behold. And when the wonderful Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is on the end of it, well, then it's even better. He might be the barometer of the Bombers.
6 – It is Brisbane’s turn to manage the five-day break this week. So far Geelong has a win and the Swans a loss. But a disappointing as the Lions were against Essendon last Saturday, you’d think the rare prospect of a near sell-out at the Gabba against Collingwood, in a reprise of the great rivalry from the early to mid ‘00s, will have them up and about on Thursday night. It is the start of footy’s nirvana, with 10 games of footy in 11 days and we can’t wait.