THIS was Toby Greene personified.
There was the brilliant – the mercurial touches and memorable moments of individual quality – that dragged a severely depleted Greater Western Sydney side back into the AFL's top-eight with an upset 19-point victory over Geelong.
CATS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats
Those moments, which culminated in 16 disposals and four goals, were the driving force behind one of the season's great upsets. Eight changes were forced on the Giants – playing off a five-day break – due to injury, yet Greene's genius masterminded the stunning 13.6 (84) to 8.17 (65) win at GMHBA Stadium.
But then there was the inevitable controversy, the type that must fill Leon Cameron with a sense of dread. His raised elbow, part of an attempted fend-off to shrug the tackle of Patrick Dangerfield, caught the Geelong superstar to the throat. It forced him to be substituted before quarter-time, then sent to hospital for precautionary checks.
Accidental or not, it was an incident that will surely draw the eye of the Match Review Officer on Saturday morning. Given Greene's remarkable importance to this GWS side, its chances of retaining a spot in the finals picture could ultimately hinge on Michael Christian's findings.
When it came to Friday night, however, the good almost certainly overshadowed the bad for the Giants. Without a goal as the first quarter ticked into time-on, Greene's snap started a barrage of four majors in the next six minutes as the visitors quickly soared into a 25-point buffer on the other side of the opening change.
But this was no one-man show. Tim Taranto (34 disposals, nine tackles, two goals) dug deep in the midfield, Isaac Cumming (34 disposals, 997m gained) ran all night, while Sam Taylor (21 disposals, 12 marks) shaded his battle with reigning Coleman Medal winner Tom Hawkins.
Many of them did the heavy lifting when Geelong answered strongly with successive majors early in the second term. The result was GWS steadying to restore its four-goal buffer by the main break.
Greene had two by that stage, but added two more midway through the third term as the margin continued to balloon. A couple of goals for first-time Irish starter Callum Brown made it six of the last seven for the Giants, and soon had that buffer stretch to as much as 38 points.
Geelong needed a response. Jed Bews (23 disposals, seven marks) and Jake Kolodjashnij (20 disposals, one goal) attempted to repel the damage at one end, while Jack Henry (16 disposals, seven marks, two goals) was swung forward and had an impact at the other. It came as sluggishness was replaced by urgency across the field.
The Cats had nine consecutive scoring shots as the margin was slashed to just nine points midway through the fourth quarter. But that comeback coincided with Gary Rohan being withdrawn due to a leg injury and Zach Tuohy making his way to the bench with a hamstring issue.
A disappointing Jordan Clark set-shot miss from nearly point-blank range, which could have brought Geelong to within three points, reflected a night of frustration for the Cats. Tanner Bruhn and Harry Himmelberg made him pay at the other end, and instead one of the season's bravest victories was secured by the Giants.
A bleak night for sorry Cats
Not only would the result have caused Chris Scott some headaches, but the long-term ramifications of Friday night's defeat could also bring some stresses. Patrick Dangerfield was subbed out of the game and taken to hospital with a throat injury following Toby Greene's contentious fend-off, while Gary Rohan (leg) and Zach Tuohy (hamstring) were also withdrawn from the match in the final quarter. Luke Dahlhaus and Mark Blicavs were others to spend time with the medical staff. Joel Selwood could also be looked at by the Match Review, having elected to bump Sam Taylor in an incident that left the Giants youngster rubbing his head. Dangerfield's injury, and the threat he misses a substantial period heading into the finals, will undoubtedly be Geelong's biggest concern.
Giants decimated in Geelong
This was a win that took guts. Just when Leon Cameron didn't think it could get worse, having already been forced into seven alterations for the trip to GMHBA Stadium due to injury, the Giants also lost star midfielder Josh Kelly to quad tightness just two hours before the first bounce. His absence compounded the woes of a severely understrength side, who were already without Phil Davis (concussion), Jacob Hopper (concussion), Shane Mumford (back), Jesse Hogan (soreness), Tom Green (hamstring), Daniel Lloyd (ankle) and Sam Reid (ankle) following last week's defeat to Port Adelaide. The side then lost Brent Daniels to a hamstring injury late in the third quarter, forcing the small forward to be substituted out of the game. He was in tears on the sidelines and is now facing the prospect of another stint on the sidelines. Given the result that followed, all that went before it made for one famous win.
Kolo the goalkicking king at the Cats
Before the drama came the end of a drought. Geelong defender Jake Kolodjashnij had waited 127 games for his first ever AFL goal. But he had to wait just 31 seconds on Friday night before finally breaking the duck and putting the Cats on the board. His long effort, drilled from beyond 50m out, even had coach Chris Scott on his feet in the coaches' box. Receiving the ball in space from Patrick Dangerfield, the big defender didn't think twice before effortlessly slotting the effort through from long-range. His teammates got around him, and deservedly so. This was a moment 127 games, eight seasons and 10 behinds in the making. Unfortunately, it ended up being the high point on a sour night for the Cats.
GEELONG 1.3 3.9 5.10 8.17 (65)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 4.3 7.4 11.5 13.6 (84)
Geelong: Henry 2, Ratugolea 2, Kolodjashnij, Blicavs, Hawkins, Tuohy
Greater Western Sydney: Greene 4, Brown 2, Taranto 2, Himmelberg 2, Buntine, Sproule, Bruhn
Geelong: Bews, Selwood, Stewart, Henry, Kolodjashnij
Greater Western Sydney: Taranto, Greene, Taylor, Cumming, Whitfield, Ward, Himmelberg
Geelong: Dangerfield (throat), Rohan (leg), Tuohy (hamstring)
Greater Western Sydney: Kelly (quad) replaced in selected side by Buntine, Daniels (hamstring)
Geelong: Narkle (replaced Dangerfield)
Greater Western Sydney: Shipley (replaced Daniels)
Crowd: 0 at GMHBA Stadium