Port Melbourne trails GWS by three points, just seconds remain on the clock.
The Sherrin sails to the top of the goal-square, the Borough throwing everything they have at a steadfast Giants defence.
It falls into the lap of Matthew Signorello, who’s engulfed by an orange tackler, but his handpass finds Angus Curry.
Curry dishes it to Anthony Anastasio, who snaps over his shoulder, 15 metres out.
The siren sounds, footy tumbling through the air. A collective breath is drawn. It skips over the line, to the left of the tallest uprights.
It’s a behind.
A stunned silence falls over ETU Stadium. Hands find heads, jaws hang low, disbelief fills the faces of spectators and players alike, Giants celebrations subdued by the fatigue it took to get to that point.
For the final quarter was willing, with a young GWS team that hadn’t encountered a margin of less than 39 all season, tested like they hadn’t been. The Giants withstood Port Melbourne’s advances, and remained composed with ball in hand en route to the 11.7 (73) to 10.11 (71) victory at ETU Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Despite having less scoring shots, a strong argument could be mounted that GWS were deserving victors. Port Melbourne spent just six minutes and 51 seconds in front on the scoreboard, a figure shadowed by the 106:55 that the Giants lead for.
And if it wasn’t for a third-quarter Borough blitz, the margin may have looked very different.
It was GWS that began the better of the sides, wasting no time in hitting the scoreboard as Josh Fahey sharked Sam Naismith’s tap out of the centre square and sliced through the red and blue midfield, before hitting up Max Gruzewski with a pinpoint kick. Gruzewski converted, and the Giants had their first major inside the opening minute.
They didn’t look back from there, racing away to a 5.2 (32) to 1.1 (7) quarter-time lead.
There wasn’t much separating the sides around the ground early, but efficiency going inside 50 proved to be the Borough’s Achilles heel. The wind did them no favours, and the slow, high kicks to space that worked for Archi Manton in his five-goal haul last Monday night were missing the mark.
Manton was the man to produce their only goal of the quarter however, outbodying his opponent one-on-one when the footy did come directly to him. The 22-year-old would finish with 2.1 from eight touches.
The Borough found their feet in an evenly-poised second-quarter to go into the main break trailing 5.5 (35) to 9.5 (59), but were marred by lapses in concentration.
Tom McCaffrey was allowed to turn a near-impossible snap from the pocket into a straight-forward conversion as he played on to open up the angle, with the Port defence napping. While a soft 50m penalty for overstepping the mark started the Giants’ chain that lead to Riccardi’s second goal.
Port Melbourne also turned the footy over time and time again kicking out of their defensive 50, gifting the Giants repeat entries and allowing them to pile on the pressure.
The script of the previous two quarters was flipped on its head entirely in the third term however.
The Borough came out blazing. Rejuvenated. They looked like an entirely new team.
The Giants were held to a singular point for the quarter as Adam Skrobalak’s men kicked four goals of their own to take a 9.7 (61) to 9.6 (60) lead into the final term.
It was GWS who now looked nervy with ball-in-hand.
With less than a goal separating the sides, the match was crying out for a hero, a game-breaker. And in a low-scoring final term, that man was Jake Riccardi.
In a defining two-minute patch, Riccardi nailed two pivotal goals. First, he snatched the ball out of the ruck and snapped spectacularly from the pocket, then, he converted a strong front-and-centre mark at the top of the goal square.
They were the Giants’ only majors of the last quarter, but they would be enough.
Signorello got one back late for Port Melbourne, but the rest was history.
It was a crucial win for GWS, bouncing back from their second 80-point defeat of the season at the hands of Brisbane last week.
Riccardi was arguably their best, with 4.2 from 20 disposals. The 23-year-old has eight goals in his last two games and is going from strength to strength at VFL level.
Drafted in last year’s mid-season rookie draft by GWS, 197cm key forward Wade Derksen has been operating as a makeshift ruck. And he did so gallantly, winning 12 hit-outs against the formidable Sam Naimsith, but it wast around the ground where he made his presence felt, with a whopping 30 touches, three tackles, and three clearances.
Josh Fahey (one goal, 25 disposals, 13 marks) and Cam Fleeton (30 disposals, five tackles) were also among the Giants’ best.
Mid-season draft prospect and former AFL-Swan Sam Naismith shone yet again for Port Melbourne; with 38 hit-outs, 24 disposals, eight clearances, and six tackles.
Harvey Hooper lead the Borough from the front with 36 disposals and 12 clearances, while Dylan Clarke had 31 disposals and seven clearances.
GWS will look to make it two wins on the trot when they take on Footscray next Saturday, while Port Melbourne have a bye.
Carlton and Brisbane will kick off the VFL’s round seven action on Saturday, and you can catch that game on Casey Radio via 97.7fm or the Casey Radio website from 10:35am!