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Five things we learned: Taggers work, GWS midfield can do the job

Greene haunts Dogs with terrorising performance Toby Greene was at his tantalising best, scoring three goals and ruffling the Western Bulldogs all game
1. Toby Greene is the Giants' most important player

The Giants have no shortage of individual stars on their books, but Toby Greene is the one who can take the game away from an opponent within an instant. The Dogs found this out the hard way on Saturday afternoon. Greene was damaging, influential and everywhere throughout the first term, winning six disposals, kicking two goals and having a hand in five score involvements in the opening quarter alone. But it wasn't just his output, there was also the intangible aura that Greene possesses that almost drew the footy his way and put the seed of doubt into the Dogs' mind every time he was around the ball. He played a pivotal part in a big Giants win, finishing with 20 disposals and three goals.

Toby Greene proved his value in the win over the Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos

GIANTS STAY ALIVE Full match coverage and stats

2. Elite midfield can keep GWS in the flag hunt

They're not a perfect team by any means, but the Giants' elite midfield can match it with the best in the competition. On Saturday, they collectively destroyed a prolific Bulldogs onball brigade that has driven the side's improvement over the second half of the year. The Giants won the contested ball count 167-125 and the clearance count 47-35, ensuring the hosts had the upper hand in the territory battle all afternoon. Impressively, they managed to do it without injured star Stephen Coniglio and with fellow gun Josh Kelly relatively well held throughout the first three quarters. Instead, Jacob Hopper (30 disposals, seven clearances) and Tim Taranto (28 disposals, seven clearances) provided the grunt, while Lachie Whitfield (29 disposals, 698m gained) added the outside class.

Tim Taranto will have a big part to play in the rest of the finals. Picture: AFL Photos

3. Taggers work

The Giants' midfield domination had plenty to do with Matt De Boer shackling Marcus Bontempelli. The Western Bulldogs superstar was held to just 13 disposals for the match – his smallest output since round 22, 2017. Limited so effectively throughout the game, it forced Bontempelli and the Bulldogs to get creative in an effort to break the tag, with the midfielder moving into the ruck in an attempt to free himself from the relentless hassling and following of De Boer. It worked momentarily, though the bumps and knocks from Shane Mumford wouldn't have helped a disappointing afternoon for Bontempelli. 

4. The Dogs will bounce back

Things didn't go their way on Saturday, but the Dogs will still loom as one of the most dangerous teams in the competition next season. Young midfielders Josh Dunkley, Pat Lipinski and Bailey Smith were among the biggest improvers in the competition this year, Aaron Naughton is one of the best young key forwards in the League and a number of their stars have signed long-term extensions over the last 12 months. Plus, they have around $1.5 million to play with in their salary cap after Tom Boyd and Liam Picken's premature retirements. Linked with the likes of Darcy Moore, Josh Bruce, Jack Martin and Alex Keath ahead of the trade period, expect plenty of exciting inclusions at Whitten Oval this summer.

The Dogs still have plenty to be excited about next year. Picture: AFL Photos

5. Bevo might regret Trengove snubbing

Jackson Trengove played a pretty handy role as a secondary ruck in Footscray's VFL finals loss to Port Melbourne on Saturday morning, finishing with 17 disposals and nine hitouts. When the Dogs were being monstered in the ruck at Giants Stadium – forced to rely on Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Josh Dunkley to help the slender Tim English – they might have wished they had Trengove's experience and craft. They might have also liked to have had him aiding Zaine Cordy down back, with the Giants' tall forward trio of Jeremy Cameron, Jeremy Finlayson and Harry Himmelberg combining for seven goals between them. Sitting back on Saturday night, it's a selection decision Luke Beveridge might regret.