GREATER Western Sydney has locked up a top-eight spot and spoiled Eddie Betts' final game, shaking off a slow start to beat Carlton by 14 points.
Zac Fisher set a few butterflies loose when he cut the margin to 13 points in the fourth quarter, but a stunning Callan Ward snap set the Giants to the 12.17 (89) to 11.9 (75) win at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.
After conceding a woeful 19 goals straight to Port Adelaide, Carlton – initially boosted by returning skipper Paddy Cripps – was focused and disciplined in the opening stages, while GWS looked as far as it could get from the slick, ruthless outfit which demolished Richmond last week.
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Cripps had a strange game, finding plenty of the footy, but all 17 of his disposals were handballs and he was subbed out halfway through the third quarter with a foot issue.
The Giants didn't kick their first goal until Daniel Lloyd saluted nearly 28 minutes into the first term, and it was only Carlton's occasional skill errors going inside 50 that prevented the margin from blowing out.
There were ominous signs for the Giants at the start of the second, as Levi Casboult combined beautifully with fellow last-gamer Betts, tapping the ball onto the waiting small forward and taking the margin to 19.
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But on the back of some excellent work from Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto, the Giants began to regain control of the clearances, and the former sold a box of chocolates' worth of candy to three separate Blues to kick a stunning second-term goal.
Zach Sproule's snap a few minutes into the third put the Giants in front for the first time, having been down by one point at half-time, and while not quite a tsunami, it was a decent orange wave that got going, piling on five straight goals.
Ed Curnow's third stopped the rot, before his equal career-high fourth cut the margin to eight at the start of the final term.
GWS skipper Stephen Coniglio made his return from two weeks off with a toe injury as medi-sub, coming on for a run in the fourth quarter to replace Xavier O'Halloran.
Tom De Koning took a stunning speckie in the dying minutes, but hit his head on the turf and was taken from the field on a stretcher.
Thanks for the memories, Eddie Betts
The man traditionally known by his full name ran out for the 350th and final time on Saturday night. Such is the regard he is held in by the competition, GWS wore its Indigenous jumper as a mark of respect for the retiring Betts. It was a fairly quiet game from the champion, who wore boots "decorated" by his kids, but he still finished with two goals. The last one came in the dying minutes, toeing the ball forward before running onto it and kicking truly.
A (former) captain's game
Callan Ward was outstanding against Carlton until injuring his elbow late in the game, keeping GWS in touch in a torrid first quarter with his hard work and creativity across half-forward. He was powerful out of the middle and showed impressive composure to pick holes in Carlton's defence when entering 50. In strong form at the right time of year, Ward kicked two fourth-quarter goals, finishing with 28 disposals, seven clearances and 12 score involvements.
Hogan overcomes goalkicking confusion
The Giants key forward looked exceedingly shaky in front of goal in the opening half, showing off some inventive set shot approaches. On at least two occasions, Hogan got at halfway through a traditional drop punt run up, before abruptly changing his mind and running at a right angle for a snap. He steadied as the game progressed, kicking three.
CARLTON 2.4 6.6 7.7 11.9 (75)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.3 6.5 9.10 12.17 (89)
Carlton: E.Curnow 4, Casboult 2, Betts 2, Durdin, McGovern, Fisher
Greater Western Sydney: Hogan 3, Ward 2, Lloyd, Hopper, Perryman, Greene, Sproule, O'Halloran, Himmelberg
Carlton: Walsh, E.Curnow, Kennedy, Newman, Weitering
Greater Western Sydney: Ward, Taranto, Kelly, Taylor, Hogan
Carlton: Cripps (foot), De Koning (head knock)
Greater Western Sydney: O'Halloran (leg)
Carlton: Dow (replaced Cripps)
Greater Western Sydney: Coniglio (replaced O'Halloran)