The type of game in which you were left thinking the future looks bright for both sides. Whilst the weather cleared up just before the siren, it was a dewy footy that perhaps saw a rise in tackle numbers, and maybe exacerbated the difference in skill level between these two sides. Brisbane started brightly in the first term, but the Giants lifted a notch from then on and progressively pulled away. Nonetheless, it was an exciting brand of footy played by both sides and helped whet the appetite for the real stuff to come!
What we learnt
Stefan Martin: Pretty simple here. Looked exactly like he did last year, with that incredible aerobic capacity getting him around the ground and allowing him to be the outlet pass, or the link in a chain. Mumford gave him all he had in a physical sense, but Stef was one of the few to still be running strongly late in the last term. Hard to see how he doesn’t produce similar scoring feats to that of the last season and a half.
Mitch Robinson: As always, he provided another battle hardened performance in the heart of midfield. The question must become, does Mitch receive the role that he had at the back end of last season? Rockliff out does throw this into conjecture, but perhaps it’s a risk worth taking. He was under pack after pack, laying the big tackle or feeding the ball out of the stoppage. Typical Robbo game. Planets aline and this guy could be the pick of the bunch up forward.
Ryan Bastinac: The former Roo produced a quality performance in that inside midfield role. He was reasonably clean in the contested possession, and often was able to pick the right option when deciding who to give it to. I was a little disappointed at one stage in the game that he didn’t make a defensive minded run, late in the first quarter, but did appear to be blowing very hard. Ryan will be better for the run, and on today’s evidence, he’s another mid price option across the formats.
Daniel Rich: Daniel begun his day as a free roamer, starting off the half back flank but regularly drifted up the field to try and hurt the Suns with his lethal left leg. It was apparent that Rich no longer attends many centre bounces, but was perhaps more interested in winning the outside ball where he can put his skills to greater use. He truly is one of the most built guys for his height, but I do think that may hinder his running capacity somewhat. Also spotted him resting forward every so often. After a season spent gathering his feet post-ACL, can Rich become the premium back we are all looking for? Hard to answer, but improvement appears a certainty.
Ryan Harwood: Rebounding off half back once more, using the ball with composure and provided a real presence in the one on ones. The Lions look to be using Harwood as one of the key rebound 50 kicks. He has great penetration in his leg and seems to have really worked on his efficiency since his inside mid days. Certainly one to consider.
Rhys Mathieson: Copped a big hit to the head from a mistimed Cameron bump in the third, and didn’t enter the field of play thereafter. Rhys was struggling to win it outside today, perhaps due to the conditions and the increased speed of the game as we close in on Round 1. The positive was that he held his own in the stoppage situations, something which Leppitsch identified as a key requirement for the season ahead. Also managed to stand up to Mumford at one stage when the former Cat and Swan went after him at a stoppage. That won’t be lost on the coach, so I believe he’s still a firm chance for Round 1 if his head is okay.
The corner stones of their next competitive side are already there. The endeavour of the guys was first class, and there was no real dropping of the heads at any stage. There is reason to suspect that this young side may find it difficult to produce a sustained effort over four quarters, although that is perhaps more likely than not when young sides are concerned. The Zorko report will be interesting, but as it occurred a long way off the ball, the punishment may be severe. Christmas will have come early for Melbourne fans if I’m proved correct.
What we learnt
Heath Shaw: Just looks to be doing exactly the same as he did in 2015. Everything moves through him in the defensive end, and his range of passing from the flatter efforts to the longer high balls continues to be measured to perfection. On this evidence, it’s almost impossible to see how Heath Shaw does not rank as a top 6 defender come the end of the season, injury permitting, and thus needs to be strongly considered.
Josh Kelly: If we didn’t know already, the Giants have another star to add to their ranks. Josh had it on a string all day, winning it both at the coalface, and on the outside where he’s even more damaging. I think his inside game is where we’ll see the real improvement this season, as that had clearly gone up a level on his 2015 output. Looks to be in the Giants first on ball rotation, and won’t ever have to wear the dreaded vest again. Sky is the limit for Josh.
Dylan Shiel: Produced the kick of the NAB Cup after being pressured around the Giants attacking goal-face and still managing to hit a ball thirty metres behind him to an unmarked man with a snapped delivery. Not sure how he even saw the option, but Dylan will continue to beggar belief for a number of years. Never really got out of third gear but still couldn’t be tackled, a trait that the best of the best all possess. Extremely clean in every situation. We’ll all be blessed to watch Shiel’s career unfold.
Devon Smith: Very noticeable that he was far more able to get involved up the ground with Johnson on the field, but was brought back into a more deep lying position when the former Cat went off the ground at half time. Moving really well and appears capable of hitting top speed once more, something which I felt he may have been struggling with towards the back end of last year. Really liked what I saw from Devon, and he did strengthen in calculations after this game, regardless of fantasy score.
Steve Johnson: If Johnson can stay fit and firing all season, the Giants will be one hell of a force in 2016. I was left laughing when he and Smith started pulling out there magic. This is going to be tremendously enjoyable to watch for all Giants fans and footy lovers in general. Steve had three to half time, all with varying degrees of difficulty. He rarely pushed more than 70 metres out from goal, but perhaps thats where his limitations are this stage in his career. Stevie did make a couple of poorer defensive efforts when he ventured a little further from goal, so we shall see whether that plays a part in exactly where Cameron decides to field Steve game to game. Just be wary of the fact that due to role, he may vary in relevance more dramatically than others based around fixtures. Will be an exciting selection for anyone bold enough!
Toby Greene: Has clearly lost the inside mid role that saw him score points by the truckload. Spending the bulk of his time as a half forward, with the odd stint chasing around the pill when the second rotation of mids need a break. Played a decent enough game and doesn’t seem to be turning it over as much recently. I’m waiting to see if this translates into the regular season though. Perhaps the additional time to identify an option from a mark kick scenario is helping him, rather than winning it under pressure in a contest. Lets wait and see what eventuates, but I don’t think he hurts the non-owners in this current role.
Hard not to get excited about what the Giants are building, and it appears only a matter of time before the much vaunted ‘flag window’ opens. The standards at the club were set early, and the Giants now produce a physically strong game along with that flair and skill. Sit back and enjoy what will be some of the most scintillating football we’ve been treated to in recent years. Across the board expect more possessions, more goals and more fantasy points. Very difficult to argue against picking anyone wearing the orange jumper this season.