Nothing like a good bottom-of-the-ladder clash to kick off Saturday footy! It’s the GWS Giants hosting Melbourne at Skoda Stadium. We’ll have live scores and a blog from 1.45pm.
Since the VFL expanded outside Victoria in the early 80s, no team has gone through an entire season without managing at least one victory.
That includes several expansion teams from around Australia over three decades, and even the dying Fitzroy Lions saluted once during their final season in 1996.
And yet with just five games to play, Greater Western Sydney find themselves without a win in season 2013.
Looking at their fixture, you’d have to think today is their best chance to avoid being the only team to record a winless season in a national Australian Rules league.
After all, when they last played Melbourne, in Round 4 at the MCG, they led for large chunks of the game, only for the desperate Demons to run over them in the last quarter.
And they’ve had some respectable results lately, getting within a kick of Western Bulldogs in Canberra and pushing Collingwood for three quarters last week.
So the motivation is clearly there for the young Giants today.
Melbourne’s motivation, however, might be a matter for debate.
Certainly they’d be keen to show that they have in fact improved on their ordinary efforts under Mark Neeld early in the season, and caretaker coach Neil Craig wants to establish himself as a candidate for the job full-time.
But then, with the club making an application for priority picks in this year’s national draft on the basis they need extraordinary assistance, it must’ve occurred to one or two people around Melbourne that a loss today would strengthen their case.
Such is the paradox of the AFL’s equalisation policy: sometimes it is better to lose.
Personally though, I reckon a smart club would be more concerned about developing the youngsters they’ve already got rather than worrying about the players they might get in the future, and I’m sure Neil Craig and the Melbourne faithful hope for and expect a full throttled effort to pick up their third win of the season.
On the field, the man everybody wants to see is of course young Jeremy Cameron.
Incredibly, the 20-year-old in the winless team is still a realistic shot at the Coleman medal, just four goals behind with five games to play.
His job might be a little easier today with Melbourne full back James Frawley missing with a hamstring injury.
At the other end, Fitzpatrick, Howe, Watts and Dawes will give the Demons a number of goalscoring options, although they’re probably lacking a dominant forward.
As usual, the most interesting match-up will be in the midfield. No doubt Melbourne will have the edge in experience, where Jones, Grimes, Trengove and Byrnes will try to run the young Giants into the ground.
Shiel, Treloar and Ward have probably been GWS’most consistent performers in that part of the field and they’ll need big games this afternoon.
Former Melbourne number one draft pick Tom Scully has also shown some good form this year for GWS.
He performed well in the game against his former club earlier this year, despite the jeers of his former fans, and I’m sure he’ll want a big performance today.
Some bookmakers have installed GWS as favourites, for the first time in the club’s short history.
You could make a case for the Giants, particularly if they can get the ball to Cameron often enough, but they’ve faded away in the final quarter in almost every game where they’ve been some kind of chance this season.
That’s no coincidence: this young team just don’t have the physical maturity to run out four quarters of footy at AFL-level intensity.
They were belted in the final quarter when these teams last met and I don’t really see why that would change. Expect Melbourne to finish stronger this afternoon.
In this round last season the Giants got over the battling Port Adelaide at Skoda by rocketing out to an early lead. I think they’ll need to do something similar if they’re going to win today.