AFL grand finalists GWS have replaced inaugural co-captains Phil Davis and Callan Ward with Stephen Coniglio for 2020.
It might have only been the 184th AFL match in their existence but it could easily be described as Greater Western Sydney’s best.
They had players who were hurt and out of form, the opponent was red hot. It seemed as though the walls were closing in at GWS and they were heading for an early September exit.
Despite being at home and finishing a game and eight per cent clear of the Western Bulldogs, the Giants started the elimination final as underdogs.
It wasn’t surprising, given the fact that two games before, the Dogs destroyed the Giants at the same ground.
Missing a host of players including superstar Stephen Conigilio and co-captain Callan Ward, not many people gave the Giants a chance.
For so long they have been branded as a team that plays fast, slick, and fancy footy.
But last weekend, Leon Cameron put away the Ferrari and brought out the Ford F-50 Raptor. A tough, uncompromising, relentless unit that just bulldozed anything in its way.
The final scoreboard might have shown a 58-point differential, but the overall statistics showed the scoreboard was flattering for the losers.
The Giants had 39 more inside 50s – a new record for finals – +42 in contested possessions, +12 in overall clearances including +10 in stoppages.
It was polar opposites to the Round 22 hiding they copped, where the Dogs won contested possession by 20, +23 inside 50s, while also winning the tackle count by a whopping 22.
The Giants barely whimpered, especially in a second half in which they failed to kick a goal, as they were steamrolled by 71 points.
For a brief period during the second quarter of the elimination final there were signs that it might have been a repeat. But instead of crumbling and ‘laying down’ again, the Giants continued to fight.
Although it was only three years ago that the Bulldogs won a premiership, a distinct advantage of finals experience aided the Giants’ performance. Using their bigger and older bodies to muscle and terrorise the young pups.
Their attack on not only the ball but also the opposition was ferocious, especially their targeting of Marcus Bontempelli, who was restricted to just 13 disposals.
While Toby Greene no doubt overstepped the line with his treatment of Bontempelli, it was his statement during his tribunal hearing that really showed his side’s intent.
“My actions were a reaction to an incident that occurred during the tackle,” Greene said during his hearing.
In Round 22, when Bontempelli caught GWS defender Nick Haynes high with a late hit, hardly any Giants players remonstrated with the superstar.
There was no chance anything like that was going to happen again, with Bontempelli left bloodied, scratched and ruffled.
While Greater Western Sydney have won finals in the past, won other games by much bigger margins and played in front of bigger crowds, it was the way they brutally smashed the young and in red-hot-form Bulldogs that made this the best win in their history.