JOHN­SON LEADS A GI­ANT VIC­TORY

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SUNDAY SPORT - NEIL CORDY

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.

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