Friday night’s game – the first meeting between these two clubs since last year’s preliminary final at the MCG – will pit two serious finals contenders against each other.
But their performances so far this year have been poles apart. Collingwood have had one blip so far this season, having given up an established lead after leaping out of the blocks against last year’s premiers Richmond, while GWS have slumped to two successive losses against North Melbourne and Western Bulldogs after convincingly beating the Cats in Round 1.
Nobody doubts the Giants have plenty of talent, and with successful fitness tests possible for three of their injured players, they should run out onto Giants Stadium with a vastly more talented line-up than earlier in the year. Toby Greene, Lachie Whitfield and Josh Kelly are all recent best and fairest winners and, importantly, have already kicked over 300 goals between them for the Giants.
Although Collingwood has won six of the ten encounters between the two clubs, the Giants have won four of the past five games. The two coaches are locked at four games each, including one final apiece.
The meeting this time will see both AFL top 100 players in the game improve their standing. Heath Shaw, who played 173 games of his AFL career at Collingwood before his move to Greater Western Sydney in 2014, will play his 312th game and join four great champions on that number: Jack ‘Captain Blood’ Dyer (Richmond), Mark ‘Roo’ Ricciuto (Adelaide), Stephen ‘SOS’ Silvangi (Carlton) and the unlucky former captain of the Western Bulldogs who missed the club’s most recent triumph through injury, Robert Murphy.
Scott Pendlebury will play his 305th game of AFL football and draw level with former Geelong star and now commentator Jimmy Bartel and former Hawthorn captain Shane Crawford.
As a stark reminder of the difference of the depth of history between a foundation club and the league’s newest club, Collingwood will have only two top 100 game players on their game sheet (Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom) while Greater Western Sydney has only two of their top ten game players, neither of whom are still at the club (Adam Tomlinson and Dylan Shiel).
At the Giants, another ex-player, Tom Scully, will be joined on 121 games by Josh Kelly, one of the eight best and fairest winners in the eight seasons the club has competed in the AFL and a key player in this year’s bid for the flag by Greater Western Sydney.
Another key player is Jeremy Cameron, best and fairest winner in the Giants’ second year (2013) but better known as an AFL top 100 goalscorer. His 408 goals have him sitting at No. 96 on the list, the only one-club Giants player to feature on either the AFL games-played or goals-kicked lists.
Cameron needs only three goals to equal Melbourne’s Fred Fanning, who holds the record for the most number of goals kicked in a single game. Fanning had kicked double-digit goals on five occasions and won the club goal kicking five times and the league goal kicking four times. He also played in the 1940 premiership and won the Demons best and fairest in 1945. The 1946 season was his last of league football before transferring to Hamilton for what was then a massive amount of money. In his 104th and last game of league football he kicked an amazing 18.1 against St Kilda at age 25.
One goal higher up the list is triple Brownlow medallist Bob Skilton, so if Jeremy Cameron can kick four goals this week, he will move two places up the list. If he does so – and it is a big ask given he’s kicked only five goals in three games this year – I predict Greater Western Sydney will win the game in what would be regarded as an upset.