Our first look at Optus Stadium under the bright lights of finals footy this season, as Western Australia gear up for a monumental grand final.
There’s no pressure on the Giants, who have already outperformed the expectations of many, and will be without Toby Greene.
The contrast couldn’t be any starker for the Cats, who’s poor finals record is under the microscope like never before.
Will Geelong keep their season alive, or will the underdog Giants stun once again?
Last time they met
The last meeting between these sides was recent, with GWS getting the better of Geelong by 19 points in round 21.
The only difference? Toby Greene was the star of the show, booting four crucial goals from 16 disposals. Unfortunately Greene’s season is over following his untoward contact with veteran umpire Matt Stevic, so he won’t be a factor this time around.
To be fair to GWS, they were missing Josh Kelly, Phil Davis, Jacob Hopper, Shane Mumford, Jesse Hogan, Daniel Lloyd and Sam J Reid. All of whom featured in last week’s elimination final
That makes the form-guide hard to read.
But it also means this was a typical backs against the wall GWS win. And while they’ll be without Greene on Friday, they’ll have a host of names they didn’t have last time around.
The Giants’ other standouts performers included Tim Taranto (34 disposals, nine tackles, two goals), Isaac Cumming (34 disposals, 997 metres gained) and Sam Taylor, who blanketed Tom Hawkins.
It was a sorry result for the Cats, stunned by a depleted GWS. You can only expect last week’s Port Adelaide humiliation further shattered their confidence.
Mitch Duncan led the way for their midfield with 33 disposals, while also picking up 10 intercept possessions. Jack Henry was strong down back with 11 intercepts.
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Esava Ratugolea, Max Holmes and Zach Tuohy are coming into the Geelong team that was soundly beaten by Port Adelaide. Luke Dalhaus, Mark O’Connor, Sam Simpson and Shaun Higgins are the outs.
For GWS, the suspension of Toby Greene along with injuries to Tom Green and Sam J Reid have paved the way for Bobby Hill and Conor Stone to be included.
Why Geelong can win
Geelong is the better team on paper, and this is a game they should win.
But they must win. The Cats have been top-four mainstays for the past decade yet have nothing to show for it, and their investment in players north of 30 means a premiership window’s closing rapidly.
The players are aware of that, and it could drive them.
Geelong’s controlled and considered brand of football supposedly doesn’t stand up to the heat of finals footy, but it had them four goals up in a grand final last year. People are too quick to write the Cats off.
There’s more than enough quality for this team to push very deep into September, and they’re facing a GWS side missing its star in Toby Greene.
Why GWS can win
Beware the depleted Giants. It’s in their DNA to win a game like this.
Last week’s victory had shades of the 2019 preliminary final – a momentous occasion where they prevailed in Greene’s absence. Yes, he’s a key player, but GWS play the underdog card better than anyone. In some ways it could work to their advantage.
And while the win against Sydney was far from convincing, it was certainly morale boosting, and the Giants come up against a Geelong outfit low on morale following a 43-point loss at the hands of Port Adelaide.
And although Geelong’s gameplan isn’t as brittle as it’s made out to be, it could be less damaging late in the game against a Giants defence out on their feet. Unlike the fast-transitioning Swans.
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Players to watch
Gary Rohan needs to find something, he has a dismal finals record and put in a sub-par performance last week, only notching two disposals in the first half before being flung to half-back.
On the topic of Cats who need to find something, Patrick Dangerfield. He’s a star, but superstars take their game to the next level in finals. Dangerfield hasn’t done that yet, and he has to if he wants to join the game’s top echelon of players.
Then there’s Geelong’s wingers, the work they do in both attack and defence underpins their gameplan. And in Sam Menegola and Cam Guthrie, they have two of the best in the business. Could punish GWS on the outside.
Jesse Hogan only kicked two goals last week and missed opportunities, but he played a strong game and was influential, clunking six contested marks and four in the third quarter alone. A smokey to break the game apart.
The Giants engine room has been spearheaded by Josh Kelly, Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper all season, and if they can get the edge over Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan, it’ll be a big boost for the Giants.
Geelong’s low on confidence, and the forward line isn’t firing like they hoped it would. Jeremy Cameron only kicked one goal last week and Rohan went missing. Unless those two can improve, it’ll take a massive showing from Tom Hawkins to lift the Cats over the line.
Toby Greene is a massive out for the Giants, but as the 2019 preliminary final and last week’s elimination final showed, they just find a way. And they'll find a way to upset the Cats in Friday night's semi final.