GWS bounce back, West Coast hit an off-season of uncertainty

Cameron Rose Columnist

By , Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    GWS impressed in their officially sanctioned training run against West Coast on Saturday night.

    The first indication that it was a training session was the size of the crowd. The second was the blue and yellow witches hats parked in various positions around the oval.

    To be fair to the Eagles, they weren’t generally considered to be a top-eight side for most of the year, and only snuck into the finals based on a patented Melbourne Football Club fail, and by beating a travelling Adelaide Crows outfit resting stars and with nothing to play for.

    West Coast will hit Mad Monday at least knowing they have provided the highlight of the finals series so far, with their after-the-extra-time-siren victory in week one, but the toll of such an emotional high is usually seen the next week. Add in the back-to-back travel factor, and the fact that GWS were comfortably a better team over the course of the season, and the result wasn’t a surprising one.

    The Eagles will make a fascinating study for footy nerds during the off-season after two years in a row where they have made the finals, but been a long way from premiership contention.

    There have been four confirmed retirees already, in Sam Mitchell, Matt Priddis, Drew Petrie and Sam Butler, and they have a number of players that are adding nothing to the AFL landscape. Think of Lewis Jetta, Jamie Cripps, Sharrod Wellingham and Mark LeCras.

    West Coast have to work out whether they need to make the courageous decision of taking a few steps back and embarking on a mini-rebuild, cutting dead wood and trading some players of value to attack the draft, or do they press ahead with what they’ve got, keep their depth players and try and add some more mature talent to their squad?

    These are questions for the Eagles coaching staff to decide, and fans to debate about in the forums.

    GWS still have a week or two of finals still to come, but will be running into more resistance than they found against West Coast.

    When there was at least some heat in the game, in the first half, the Giants were good inside the contest, winning clearances and contested possession, but also applying physical pressure that was causing the Eagles to fumble and turn the ball over.

    They are regarded as a quick side, but they look a lot quicker when using that speed to lay tackles and hit bodies.

    Steve Johnson GWS GIants AFL Finals 2017

    Steve Johnson of the Giants (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    Once the inside battle was won, GWS were able to show the best of their outside game, running hard, linking cleanly, and putting their skills to good use.

    The Giants lost two talls, Jeremy Cameron and Shane Mumford, coming into this match, and replaced them with two mediums in Steve Johnson and Tim Taranto. Johnson kicked six goals, but didn’t do anything to inspire confidence that he can survive a game played at a more frenetic pace. Taranto showed his usual quality, with moments that make it hard to believe he’s a first year player.

    There is no doubt GWS went into this game with a smaller side, with one eye on Richmond at the MCG next week. The Tigers have the smallest 22 in the league, and run the larger dimensions of their home ground better than any team in the competition.

    The Giants did look too top-heavy against Adelaide in week one of the finals, but look more balanced this time around. It’s hard to see any changes to that 22.

    GWS made the preliminary final last year and has that experience to draw on, which Richmond do not. To offset that, the Tigers are used to playing in front of enormous crowds at the MCG, while the Giants have minimal experience on that kind of stage. Advantage Richmond, in that regard.

    West Coast are gone, with more questions than answers in front of them.

    GWS are in the final four again, as expected. Now to see if they can go one better than 2016.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.