Had you told me at the start of the season that the final Friday night blockbuster for the home-and-away season would involve GWS and St Kilda, I don’t think I would’ve believed you.
But tonight’s game has so much riding on it for both sides that everything should be left on the field.
A finals-like game and finals-like atmosphere has come early for these two sides, but there’s no certainty that both of these sides will play another game in 2020.
For St Kilda, a win tonight should just about seal it. A loss (likely by a sizeable margin) puts them in danger.
And for the Giants, they need to win and win big…and then hope a couple of results around them work in their favour.
It’s probably not a place most of us expected them to be 12 months ago.
From the grand final in 2019 to possibly missing the finals just a season later. That scenario is not uncommon but the Giants appeared to be in great shape.
Of course, they bombed out in the grand final, but that didn’t seem to warn too many people off.
That’s most likely because it’s still a reasonably youthful team and the majority of the main players are still at the club. The talent is clearly there on the ground to be able to challenge again soon, but is it stacking up the same in the coaches’ box?
I won’t beat around the bush with the questions here: were the Giants too hasty in extending Leon Cameron’s contract?
You probably won’t get an answer out of this season alone. It’s something we may revisit in another 12 months down the track, but away from a few standout performances throughout the season, there have been a lot of downs.
For starters, the Giants have lost games to three of the bottom four sides. And they’re the only team the comp to have lost to the both North Melbourne and Adelaide, who sit 17th and 18th on the ladder.
In response to the loss against Adelaide, Leon Cameron dropped captain Stephen Coniglio to make a statement and send shockwaves through the rest of the side, but what the club desperately needed in that moment was leadership.
Sometimes a captain’s spirit is more valuable than the stat sheet will show and with the line up already missing former co-captains Phil Davis and Callan Ward, I think the decision to drop Coniglio was a mistake.
(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
And it appears Leon Cameron agrees, as he’s brought the captain back for tonight’s do-or-die clash.
I think the finals experience this group has got will help them over the line this evening but it may be too little, too late. Even if the Giants do win this evening, ultimately they’ll be relying on results around them to get them there.
You always want to be in charge of your own destiny.
Just ask St Kilda, who have been their own worst enemy in season 2020.
They could have (and should have) had a finals spot wrapped up a while ago now and while it does look like they’ll play finals for the first time since 2011, that can only be made certain with a win this evening.
There have been a number of games this season where the Saints have held halftime or three-quarter-time leads, only to let the game slip in the final moments.
All the way back in Round 1 against North Melbourne, they led at both the main and final breaks only to go down by two points.
Against Fremantle, they were up at halftime but ended up losing the game by a goal.
And even last Thursday, against a severely undermanned West Coast, they got out to a handy lead halfway through the final quarter only to let the game slip and lose by 15 points.
That’s just a handful of examples. There are a few other games on top of that one that the Saints could’ve won.
They will be okay. They’ve shown a number of times this season that they’ve really improved under Brett Ratten.
(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
He’s brought really good energy and feel to the club; that was obvious by the work the club did to bring in a host of players during last year’s trade period.
But a part of me feels that fans could reflect upon this season as a bit of a waste. That they could’ve done more.
Here’s hoping that the promising signs of 2020 create a solid platform for the club to build upon in the years ahead.
Tonight’s game should be interesting and with both sides pretty much on par, we will learn a lot about their seasons just past and what they need to do come finals and the 2021 season.
I’m tipping GWS simply based on experience and the reality that if they want any chance of playing finals (no matter how slim), they need to win this one.
That’s my Friday forecast. What’s yours?