“I can’t question the boys effort,” said Cameron. “[But our] concentration levels need to be spot on, especially when you play a side like the Eagles. Effort good, execution got better as the game got on, but cost us early.”
Not even the return of talisman Toby Greene was enough to put things right, with GWS held goalless in the first quarter for the third consecutive game. It would have been the entire first half were it not for a late effort from Brent Daniels, just minutes before the long break.
By that stage, West Coast had already booted five unanswered majors – the first four coming in an utterly dominant opening term. Naitanui kicked one himself, to go with his eight possessions (seven contested) and six clearances for the quarter, while Jack Darling booted two of his three goals for the night.
The Giants were better in the second but had nothing to show for it until Daniels struck. When they returned from the sheds, Daniels set up first-gamer Jake Riccardi for his debut AFL goal, which sparked their best sequence of the match.
Stephen Coniglio chimed in next, and all of a sudden a 31-point deficit had been trimmed back to just 10. That’s as close as they got, with Xavier O’Neill and Brendon Ah Chee giving the Eagles back their breathing space.
It got uglier: former GWS skipper Callan Ward, in a routine contest, landed awkwardly on his finger, sustaining a gruesome compound fracture that ended his evening.
“It doesn’t look good, clearly, I think there’s probably some photos around of that finger being out of whack,” Cameron said. “He’s a tough player … he’s had a wretched run of luck the last year and a half with all the injuries he’s had but if they have to operate and he’s out for a while, that’s [an] opportunity for someone else to come in.”
The Eagles took their foot off the pedal in the final term when the game looked well and truly won, permitting a late flurry from GWS which allowed the final margin to flatter them to a degree. Even as they celebrated their third goal in a row from Harry Himmelberg, closing the gap to two straight kicks with two minutes left, the Giants didn’t appear to be a team that felt like they could win.
“Nic set us up and Gov probably saved us,” said Eagles coach Adam Simpson. “Between that we had some really good performances – probably didn’t handle the run-on as well as we would have liked in the last 15 minutes, but apart from that I thought we played a quality side on the rebound, almost full strength. To get the win we’re really happy with our players but we’ve got the Tigers this week and we’ve got to go up another level to compete with them.”
There were certainly for GWS. Riccardi presented as the kind of key forward target they have been sorely missing and finished with two goals (although he should have had three), while usual suspects Harry Perryman, Josh Kelly and Lachie Whitfield all were lively.
The pieces are all there; they’re just not coming together particularly well at the moment. In the end, West Coast did it too easy.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.