TOBY Greene was the answer to everything on Friday night.
When the Giants needed a moment of magic against the run of play, Greene was the one to provide it. When they needed someone to convert on the scoreboard having finally secured a brief moment of respite, well, Greene was the one to deliver exactly that as well.
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In every pivotal moment during Greater Western Sydney's resilient 12-point victory over Richmond, Greene was the difference-maker. His five-goal haul, to go with 18 disposals, eight marks and seven score involvements, was key in the Giants keeping their season alive.
GWS had been forced to absorb wave after wave of Tigers pressure in their 9.8 (62) to 6.14 (50) victory. But having done that throughout several important passages of play, they then countered with surgical precision in a carefully meticulous and resilient performance.
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And when they did counter, Greene was at the heart of it.
Along with Josh Kelly (26 disposals, one goal) and Stephen Coniglio (24 disposals, six tackles), Greene ensured the memories of last year's Grand Final humiliation were slowly but surely scrubbed away. Another display like that would not be repeated, nor tolerated.
Instead, a spirited victory broke a run of successive defeats.
Richmond, dominant 89-point winners in last year's premiership decider, threatened to haunt GWS yet again on Friday night. But this time, it was in a different manner.
Having trailed by 27 points midway through the third quarter, Dustin Martin (23 disposals, two goals) inspired a comeback and quickly helped cut the deficit to just one kick.
But the Giants showed a newfound sense of strength. And when they needed a match-winner, they had one. The man to kick the sealing goal? You guessed it. Toby Greene.
The big guns duke it out on a Friday night
This was a heavyweight bout you would pay to watch. Dustin Martin v Toby Greene. In a battle of two of the League's most entertaining and polarising individuals, the Tiger and the Giant didn't let the neutrals down. Greene got the upper hand early, taking it to Martin with four goals by three-quarter time as the Giants created a 27-point lead midway through the third term. But when it came time to rally his troops, Martin – a dual Norm Smith Medal winner – did exactly that. His two majors just before the final change helped narrow that deficit to just six points. But on the bell, Greene landed the knockout blow. His fifth major, to go with 18 classy disposals, was ultimately the difference between the two sides.
Deledio's criticisms ringing in Giants' ears
"It is a bunch of 22 individuals against a collective team." They were the words of ex-Giant Brett Deledio during the week. They were also the words that might have been ringing in the ears of GWS players as they started Friday night's clash. On four separate occasions in the opening term, Giants players deliberately attempted to find teammates when they had the goal gaping. Twice, Josh Kelly did it – even setting up Sam Jacobs at the top of the goal square for the side's first major – before Jacob Hopper and Lachie Ash also took similar unselfish options. It set the tone for an improved, cohesive performance. But while those examples came in front of goal, perhaps Deledio's comments also set the tone for the defensive strength the Giants showed when the Tigers finished with a flourish.
Resilience was the difference from Grand Final day
Things were much, much different for the Giants 10 months on from last year's Grand Final loss to the Tigers. For starters, they'd kicked as many goals (and just three fewer points in total) in the first quarter as they did for the entirety of last September's decider. Then, there was the resilience. Having copped a barrage throughout the second quarter, conceding 17 of 18 inside 50s at one stage, the Giants just kept holding on. They allowed only one goal throughout that period, then nicked a quickfire double on the stroke of half-time to claim an unlikely seven-point lead at the main break. It was symbolic of their counter-attacking style, which saw them score 14 times from their first 20 entries on Friday night. They might not have controlled the territory throughout large portions of their Grand Final re-match. But what they did do was secure the four points in the face of adversity.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 3.4 5.4 8.6 9.8 (62)
RICHMOND 2.6 3.9 6.10 6.14 (50)
Greater Western Sydney: Greene 5, Jacobs, Himmelberg, Kelly, Finlayson
Richmond: Martin 2, Castagna, Aarts, Bolton, Riewoldt
Greater Western Sydney: Greene, Kelly, Coniglio, Whitfield, Haynes, Hopper
Richmond: Martin, Bolton, Short, Pickett, McIntosh, Castagna
Greater Western Sydney: Nil