IT WAS an opportunity too good to pass up for Greater Western Sydney.
Having been presented a golden chance to leapfrog Richmond inside the AFL's top-eight this weekend, nothing was going to stand in the way of Leon Cameron's side. Not even the normally unflappable ladder-leaders Melbourne.
On a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon at the MCG, the Giants continued their push for the most unlikely of finals berths with an upset nine-point win over the Demons that firmed their growing September credentials once again.
Their resilient 9.10 (64) to 7.13 (55) victory was inspired by the type of talent capable of lifting the team back into the post-season, with Josh Kelly (29 disposals, eight tackles, one goal) and Tim Taranto (28 disposals, one goal) fantastic in the midfield.
Christian Salem (31 disposals, nine marks, one goal) and Bayley Fritsch (eight marks, three goals) had attempted to lift a shell-shocked Melbourne over the line late in the game, but the Demons simply had fewer contributors across the field.
DEMONS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats
But this result wasn't about Melbourne's deficiencies. Rather, the focus – and, indeed, the credit – should be centred the way of GWS. Handed an incentive on Thursday night, Cameron's team were desperate to grasp it.
Toby Greene had an early treble on the board as the Giants booted four of the game's first five goals to shoot into a handy 25-point lead, winning every contest and stamping their authority on the match from the outset with their ongoing physicality.
The hot start created audible frustration among the Melbourne-dominated crowd, who had to wait 17 minutes before Kysaiah Pickett eventually got the Demons off the mark and then watched with bated breath as just two more goals were added before half-time.
A sense of belief began to seep through the Demons when Alex Neal-Bullen's snap on the stroke of the interval was followed by Fritsch's long goal on the other side of the break, reducing the deficit to just 10 points early in the third term.
But the Giants answered every question posed of them. Sam Reid, on as a medical substitute for the unfortunate Jack Buckley, snapped truly out of a pack before a composed set-shot from Harry Himmelberg restored their four-goal cushion.
Melbourne came with a full head of steam in a frantic last quarter, producing a bullocking spell capped by Fritsch's second and third goals of the afternoon to set GWS nerves alight and reduce the margin to single digits.
But the Giants did as they had throughout the afternoon and held firm. For a tense 16 minutes of football, the visitors repelled every Demons effort and didn't concede another major to secure their season's most satisfying win yet.
A giant opportunity taken by GWS
Richmond dished out another great chance for Greater Western Sydney to claim its spot in the top-eight on Thursday night. This time, the Giants weren't going to let it slip. Having watched as the Tigers lost back-to-back games against the Saints and the Suns, Leon Cameron's side couldn't miss a second opportunity to pinch a finals position after their own shock defeat to the Hawks last weekend. The Giants simply outclassed and outlasted a Demons side chasing the minor premiership, reaffirming their ambition to be a genuine September threat.
Bayley bounces but Dees need more
Melbourne forward Bayley Fritsch provided one of the highlights on Saturday afternoon, with his leaping mark in the third quarter getting the Demons faithful to their feet. But, perhaps reflective of the side's growing attacking concerns, the rather regulation set-shot that followed went wide of the target. Fritsch did kick three goals and, for long periods, kept his side in the game. However, fellow marking options Tom McDonald, Max Gawn and Luke Jackson didn't notch a single major between them. It will undoubtedly see the calls for out-of-favour pair Ben Brown and Sam Weideman grow in the days to come. Melbourne has just seven more games to find its best forward combination before finals arrive.
Horrible luck for Buckley
It had been a promising breakout season for Greater Western Sydney defender Jack Buckley, who had played in all 14 matches heading into Saturday's clash with Melbourne. However, his afternoon was ended after just a few minutes following a nasty knee injury. The 193cm youngster collided with James Harmes in a marking contest, with his left knee buckling upon impact. It didn't look great for Buckley, who needed assistance from trainers to leave the field before the club confirmed he had suffered a suspected ACL injury. He was replaced by substitute Sam Reid, with his afternoon – and likely his season – over.
MELBOURNE 1.3 3.6 5.9 7.13 (55)
GWS GIANTS 2.2 6.6 8.8 9.10 (64)
Melbourne: Fritsch 3, Pickett, Sparrow, Neal-Bullen, Salem
GWS Giants: Greene 3, Taranto, Ward, Kelly, Reid, Himmelberg, Whitfield
Melbourne: Salem, Petracca, Fritsch, Langdon, Rivers, Gawn
GWS Giants: Kelly, Ward, Taranto, Green, Perryman, Hopper, Whitfield
GWS Giants: Buckley (knee)
Melbourne: vandenBerg (unused)
GWS Giants: Reid (replaced Buckley)
Crowd: 16,963 at the MCG