ONE GIANT LEAP
GWS WINS NAIL-BITER TO MAKE AKE FIRST EVER GRAND FINAL
THE Giants have brought down Goliath.
Banned, broken and bruised, the AFL’s so-called plastic club showed their bottomless character.
Toby Greene’s face was an explosion of emotion on full time as the superstar, who was sensationally suspended for the preliminary final, was given a chance to live out his dream on grand final day following the drama of one of the most bizarre finals games ever played.
Phil Davis, the club’s inaugural captain, produced one of the most warrior-like performances ever seen in September, playing through the pain of a dislocated finger in the pre-game, a bung shoulder and most profoundly, a calf he pinged in the first quarter of the game.
Lion-hearted and courageous, Davis played out the match up forward and took a key mark in the midst of Collingwood’s late tsunami that proved critical. He is confident he will play the grand final.
Lachie Keefe – a Collingwood reject – replaced the irreplaceable Greene and played the game of his life. Keefe played on Brody Mihoceck and going into the final stretch, Mihoceck had literally not touched the football the entire day.
Half-back Zac Williams went into midfield to fill in for his best mate Lachie Whitfield, sent for appendix surgery on Wednesday, and the indigenous kid from country NSW was the best on ground.
Most wrote off GWS the moment Greene and freak talent Whitfield were ruled out.
Just like the critics who overwhelmingly foreshadowed GWS missing the finals this year.
Just like those same critics who once they made it, said they were making up the numbers for the playoffs. Just like the even greater army of naysayers who said a team in rugby league’s heartland would fall flat on its face.
But in the final quarter when Collingwood swarmed, GWS mustered every ounce of grit that has been ingrained in them ever since they first ran the club out of a back room Rooty Hill RSL, because they had no other home.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire was one of the most damning voices, yet last night he ventured into the GWS rooms to give credit where it was due.
Only eight years old, GWS proved on the biggest stage and against all the odds that all the ‘fake club’ jibes are fake news.
“Have a look at that spirit out there today,” said chairman, Tony Shepherd. “Players like Lachie Keefe come in (for Greene) and play their hearts out and made that game happen. That’s not artificial. Lachie didn’t come out of the AFL academy system. That’s a great club. That’s a club with true spirit. And truly a spirit that the other 17 clubs aspire to.
“This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. Lots of injuries, lots of setbacks. Tonight shows we are there. We have arrived. We’re a young club in foreign country. A grand final after eight years is truly remarkable achievement.”
The scenes in the GWS rooms at fulltime were extraordinary.
Every year two teams make the grand final, but it is a rare moment in history when a side gets there for the first time. In GWS’s case the people involved on the field and off it have literally built the club from scratch.
“I’m just so proud,” said GWS’s inspiration, Phil Davis. “We played some amazing footy for 100 minutes and they were unbelievable for 15 minutes, which we expected, and then the last five minutes, just the size of the fight and the heart in the group, I was just really proud of them.
“It was more my back (which was sore). I just hurt my back a bit, and it caused me a few other things. But I’ll be fine. We’ve been through some serious hardships — not just this year but the previous seven years as well. That makes you better. We’re excited.”
Giants captain Phil Davis.