It was a typical Sydney day, at least going by this year’s standards. The humidity meant handling the ball was always going to the tough and a real test of the player’s skills.
Collingwood went into the game without the usual star-studded line-up – captain and vice-captain Nick Maxwell and Scott Pendlebury respectively alongside power forward Travis Cloke were the three headlining omissions.
Adam Cooney, Brian Lake and Shaun Higgins were rested for the Dogs, as were young guns Dylan Shiel, Jon Patton and Will Hoskin-Elliot from the Giants.
Game 1 – Greater Western Sydney v Western Bulldogs
Greater Western Sydney 126.96.36.199 def. by Western Bulldogs 0.5.5.35
Greater Western Sydney’s first game for 2012 was almost an unlikely victory in a slippery contest against the Western Bulldogs, but they fell short, losing by five points.
Both teams’ effectiveness by foot and hand were below the general standard, possibly due to the humid Sydney conditions, but ultimately it hurt the Giants more.
A poor Phil Davis handball from deep inside the Giants’ fifty gave them a rushed behind instead of the almost-certain and score-levelling goal with seconds left on the clock.
They trailed by thirteen points at half time, with thanks going to Zephaniah Skinner kicking two of the Dogs’ three goals, but an inspiring Callan Ward supergoal halfway through the second gave them the momentum to hit the scoreboard with more frequency.
However, if it weren’t for a dubious ‘double-goal’ – the ball being thumped away after a Bulldogs goal resulting in a free kick in the goalsquare and another goal – who knows which way the match would have swung?
Matthew Boyd was a man amongst kids on his way to seventeen disposals and Daniel Giansiracusa worked his way to fourteen touches and six marks, while Ryan Hargrave proved his fitness with eleven disposals in the backline and Zephaniah Skinner showed a bright future ahead, with two very good goals to go with eleven possessions.
Palmer and Sam Darley were the only Giants to record disposals in double figures, hitting ten each, the latter looking very impressive with the former a little shaky by foot. Jonathan Giles and James McDonald both sent similar messages to their old clubs – something along the lines of being delisted too early, with the two working well together in the centre.
It’s easy to write something about the majority of GWS’ list, but the Jonathan Giles versus Ayce Cordy contest in the ruck was impressive to watch from either team’s perspective. Skinner was one of the Dogs’ best while Tom Liberatore tackled hard.
Young Tasmanian Sam Darley’s ten disposals were valuable while Curtly Hampton worked hard in the forward half of the ground, kicking GWS’ first goal. Jacob Townsend was also amongst the Giants’ best.
James McDonald once again proved why his forced retirement from Melbourne was the wrong move, with nine disposals and three tackles proving his diligence remains at the standard he set for so long.
Game 2 – Western Bulldogs v Collingwood
Western Bulldogs 0.3.1.19 def by Collingwood 0.4.2.26
It was a scrappy and low-scoring contest, but it was still a win to Collingwood, victorious over the Western Bulldogs by seven points.
Both teams only managed one goal apiece in a tight contest where the humid conditions played a large factor, where two substitutions were made – Ryan Griffen injuring a hip and Brent Macaffer doing his knee, potentially seriously.
However, thanks to Dane Swan’s best work gut-running down the wing to follow up and goal, Collingwood finished stronger. He recorded nine disposals while Dale Thomas and Steele Sidebottom led the tally with eleven and ten respectively, while Marley Williams pushed his case to play senior footy in 2012 with an impressive two-goal performance.
For the Bulldogs, nothing could stop the ball-magnet captain Matthew Boyd, on his way to twenty disposals, an incredible effort in two twenty-minute halves, and a goal for good measure. First-round pick Christian Howard showed great signs for Dogs supporters with twelve disposals and nine marks, while Robert Murphy (fifteen disposals) and Liam Picken (five tackles) had very good games.
Swan, Thomas, Sidebottom and Williams were Collingwood’s best four comfortably, but Heath Shaw was his usual consistent self, recording eight disposals and five tackles, while Simon Buckley and mature-age recruit Peter Yagmoor both impressed with eight disposals each.
Williams and Yagmoor were the two standouts in a young Collingwood side and should be amongst discussions for an early senior berth, while Jordan Roughead was the dominant ruck on the ground and Howard showed signs he’ll be a player in the future.
Williams has received a mention in every section so far, but deservedly so. To kick two goals of your team’s four in a slippery and low-scoring contest on debut is a great effort, and hopefully Collingwood’s selection panel remember it – he could potentially feature well into Collingwood’s premiership aspirations as yet another small forward.
Game 3 – Collingwood v Greater Western Sydney
Collingwood 0.5.5.35 def. Greater Western Sydney 0.5.2.32
It was tense, and almost embarrassing, but Collingwood still got the all-important victory, beating Greater Western Sydney by three points.
The Giants led for the most part – by a goal at half-time, mainly thanks to the gallant work of Jonathan Giles and the exciting signs from relative unknowns Rhys Cooyou and Tomas Bugg. The three combined for 26 disposals and three goals between them, to go with Giles’ eight hitouts.
It took some good play from Dale Thomas, with fifteen disposals and a goal, and acting captain Luke Ball, with ten disposals and a goal, to get the lead back with three goals in five minutes early in the second half.
The Giants took the lead back with two in a row but some Jackson Paine brilliance put the Pies in front and there they remained for the last four minutes of the match.
Collingwood may have won, but the real message to take out of the match was that the Giants were here to play footy, and play footy they did.
Thomas and Ball were the two standouts for the Pies, but Heath Shaw kept at it as he does, with nine disposals and five marks. Steele Sidebottom racked up another ten disposal effort while Shae McNamara recorded another nine disposals on debut.
Cooyou was best-on for the Giants while Giles and Bugg weren’t too far off, all having great matches. Dom Tyson, pick three in last year’s draft, slotted right into it with nine disposals, and Stephen Coniglio looked good with eight.
Cooyou again was a standout for the Giants, while Bugg played a great game. Tyson, Coniglio and Anthony Miles also all made their pitches to the club as to why they should play in Round 1 against the Swans.
For Collingwood McNamara’s game was memorable for such a player. Tom Young should play a role in Collingwood’s home-and-away campaign with a strong performance, and Paine’s left-foot snap was the highlight of the night.
Giles, considering he’s a delistee of a team who finished second-last in 2011, proved to everybody he’s a perfectly capable AFL player. Against man-mountain Jarrod Witts and good tap ruckman Jon Ceglar he outplayed them both, and not just in the ruck. His around the ground work was one to watch and he should play a key role in Greater Western Sydney’s season.