JOHNSON LEADS A GIANT VICTORY
STEVE Johnson’s back ... and so are the Giants.
Inspired by six-goal hero Johnson the AFL’s newest club fired a warning shot at the AFL’s fairytale side, Richmond, as they made it backto-back preliminary finals, belting West Coast by 67 points at Spotless Stadium last night.
GWS have done what their cross-town rivals the Swans couldn’t on Friday night against Geelong and are now just a win away from their first grand final appearance.
But the win came in front of a shocking crowd, with the 14,865 figure the lowest for an AFL/VFL final since 1916.
Four of Johnson’s goals came in the third quarter, which was the first time he’d achieved the feat in 27 finals appearances.
“It was pleasing from a team point of view and we take a lot of confidence out of that win onto the MCG next week,” Johnson said. “We are against a team in good form but we’re pretty confident.”
The veteran’s comeback performance was remarkable after being dropped for the Giants’ first final when they were crushed by the Crows in Adel- aide as he continued to battle degenerative knees.
“My knee in the last week or two is the best it’s been for 20 weeks,” Johnson said.
“I’m really just grinding to the end but tonight things seemed to turn for me.”
It was a ringing endorsement of coach Leon Cameron’s decision to recall the triple premiership player after many declared his career was over.
“He is a special player,” Cameron said.
“For him to do that in a semi-final at 34 years old is quite unique, to kick six goals and have 11 possessions is a
pretty good performance from a guy playing his last couple of games. It hurt him going out of the team but he was the first to admit his performances weren’t up to scratch.”
Next Saturday’s clash against the Tigers at the MCG will see Brett Deledio play against his old team for the first time in his 250th game, 243 which were played in yellow and black.
Deledio looked comfortable in a new role for the Giants playing across halfback, adding a cool head and direction.
The win was his first in a final in five attempts, with three at Richmond.
The changes in the GWS set-up were plentiful after the losses of Jeremy Cameron and Shane Mumford to injury.
Rory Lobb made the most of his opportunity in the ruck marking strongly around the ground and beating Nathan Vardy and Drew Petrie convincingly in the ruck. He was also strong on the ground winning six contested possessions and laying 4 tackles.
The Giants’ injury-enforced smaller forward set-up looked to be a big improvement, cre- ating more defensive pressure and goals.
Wild child Toby Greene was in great touch finishing with three goals for the night.
He was on the job from the outset, snapping his first from an acute angle in the pocket, earning his second from a high tackle from Jeremy McGovern and claiming his third from a stunning leap and conversion.
Jonathon Patton kicked two and could have had five if he had kicked straight.
The Giants out-worked the Eagles in almost every facet of the game, winning contested possession (+14), tackles (+23) and clearances (+10).
Steve Johnson and (right) Toby Greene. Picture: Phil Hillyard
GWS players celebrate after last night’s victory.