Even Shane Mumford got in on the fun, kicking his first goal in more than 1000 days by manhandling Ben McEvoy in the ruck, grabbing the ball and slamming it on his boot from 40 metres out – part of a chain of five unanswered majors from the Giants which opened up a game-high 39-point lead in the third quarter.
Hawthorn replied with four of the next five goals to close back to within 21 points, but the Giants weathered the storm and a set shot from Jeremy Cameron put the result beyond doubt early in the final term.
Josh Kelly (30 disposals), Lachie Whitfield (28 disposals) and Harry Perryman (28 disposals) were the leading possession-getters on the ground, with GWS captain Stephen Coniglio chipping in with 24 touches and seven clearances after an uncharacteristically quiet game against the Magpies last week.
The Giants were largely dominant but finished the match with only 25 inside 50s entries – and they yielded 18 scoring shots, underlining the team’s frightening efficiency going forward but also where they have room to improve.
“We’d prefer another 10 or 12 – clearly we’re aiming for around that 40 mark,” Cameron said.
“It’s been a little bit of an issue the last few weeks, we need to keep looking at ways to get it inside [more] … but pleasing, against a really good defensive side in Hawthorn, their back seven are really hard to pierce and when we got it in there, we made them pay.
“I can’t argue with some of the efficiency we displayed tonight.”
Hawks coach Alistair Clarkson was also drawn to the 38-25 ledger for forward entries and his side’s 34-24 advantage in clearances.
“If we’d have said we’d won those two stats by plus-10 or more, clearances and inside 50s, at the start of the game … we’d reckon we’re going to win the game if that’s the case,” he said.
“But it wasn’t the case, they were just really polished with the footy when they went inside and took their chances. On the flipside, we couldn’t take our chances anywhere.”
Making matters worse for the Hawks were injuries to Jack Scrimshaw (ankle) and Mitchell Lewis (hamstring), who hobbled off in the third quarter within minutes of each other.
Neither made it back onto the field and they’ll both be facing a race against time to recover, with Clarkson expecting they will both be doubtful for their return to Giants Stadium to face Collingwood in five days’ time.
But Hawthorn should regain key forward Jonathon Patton, who had hoped to take on his former GWS teammates but was not selected and instead watched from the cheap seats.
Patton missed the Hawks’ win over North Melbourne with a foot injury sustained in the kitchen. Patton had been cooking salmon and was pouring hot oil down the sink when some of it splashed and struck his foot, soaking through a sock to cause a blister that later became infected.
Patton is now fully fit and made the trip north to Sydney along with the full Hawthorn squad, Clarkson said.
Himmelberg and Finlayson got GWS off to a cracking start, kicking the first four goals of the game between them as the hosts raced out of the blocks in front of around 4000 fans, spaced responsibly in the stands at Giants Stadium for the first AFL game in the city since restrictions eased on public gatherings in NSW.
Himmelberg’s second should have given coach Alistair Clarkson pause for thought over his experiment with McEvoy down back. Latching onto a booming kick into space from Cameron, Himmelberg threw off a chasing McEvoy with a simple step, brutally exposing his lack of agility before running into an open goal.
A blowout looked on the cards as the Giants led by 23 points at quarter-time, but the Hawks turned the tide in the second term, kicking three of the next four goals to bring the margin back to 10 points.
Perhaps they should have actually been ahead – by the long break, they had recorded twice as many clearances (20-10) and inside 50s (22-11) than the Giants.
But when Scrimshaw and Lewis went down, GWS seized the moment, maximising their two-rotation advantage and pressing down hard on the accelerator.
The win improves the Giants’ record this year to 3-2 and while the rest of the competition seems to be moving to Sydney, they’ll be out of town next weekend, with a trip to the Gold Coast on the cards to take on Port Adelaide.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.