Going into the 2019 preliminary final, many thought it would be a cake-walk for Collingwood, with the Giants having stars like Toby Greene, Lachie Whitfield and Stephen Coniglio all on the sidelines.
What went on to happen was one of the greatest finals in GWS’ short history, where, after making three of the last four preliminary finals, they finally could say that they made a grand final.
The Inner Sanctum spoke to Lachlan Keeffe about the history-making final, including that controversial touched goal.
The Giants were able to put together a string of great performances going into that preliminary final, which gave them the confidence they needed going into the game.
“It was an interesting one because I think we played the Pies in a semi-final the year before, which we lost by about 10 points, but we felt like we had chances in that game,” Keeffe told The Inner Sanctum.
“We took little bits from that game and the ability to play pretty good footy on a big stage.
“We limped into finals but we played the Dogs in that first elimination final and played really good footy, probably our best footy for the year, and we had a real confidence going into the rest of the games in finals.
“Even though it was a big stage and there was a bit of a hoodoo or an MCG hoodoo for the Giants, we still felt really good and really confident going into that game even though we had some pretty big-name omissions.”
The Giants were able to surge away in the third quarter when they started to get a string of consecutive goals while keeping Collingwood without a goal for the term.
“We felt pretty good, we felt like we had the game on our terms for most of it, obviously until they started to have that charge late in the third and into the fourth.
“We felt pretty confident the way that our system was holding up and the way the guys were going, but as it is in finals and especially prelims, you’re not going to have it all your way.”
The final message from coach Leon Cameron was simple, stick to the game plan and structures.
“He never gets too emotional or too high or too low or too angry, he was pretty positive on the way our footy was played and [that] the systems and structures that we played would hold up in the big moments.
“I think that’s something he pushed throughout the finals series, that if we play our way then our footy is good enough to beat whoever.
“So just come back, refocus on what was important in our game and have full confidence that will be what gets it done for us in the end.”
More AFL News
In the final quarter with just 14 minutes to go, Collingwood forward Josh Thomas kicked a goal that was later brought to score review, and although Keeffe knew he touched it, he didn’t know if it was conclusive enough to have the goal overruled.
“I knew I’d touched it but throughout that whole season there was a couple of not controversial calls, but calls that went one way and probably should have went the other way, the footage just wasn’t comprehensive enough to overturn the on-field umpire’s decision.
“I was like, it was so faint that it might not come up and what not. In the end, they called it a goal and it was play on which was not ideal for us, but I think we also got away with one in the same game, where I’m pretty sure Daniel Lloyd had one touched off the boot which was called a goal as well.
“They sort of even each other out but it was just kind of a funny moment because it was Josh Thomas and he’s a good mate of mine, we had a bit of a laugh about it on the ground and just sort of got on with it because you have to.”
The Keeffe touch wasn’t the only score review in that game, with the goal umpires calling for a review many times, although it wasn’t something Keeffe or the Giants dwelled on.
“It probably adds to the theatre of the game and for people watching at the ground and also at home.
“I wasn’t too aware of it as much on the ground because you’re so focused on playing your role and just getting on with the game, if you just dwell on those moments, you miss the next one. It wasn’t until after the game that I got interviewed that I realised it was such a big deal and during the game you just sort of run around like a headless chook, you don’t really read too much into it, you just get on with it. “
The last five minutes of the match was spent in Collingwood’s forward half, but the Giants were able to hold them out with the one percenters adding up that was able to get them over the line.
“The game was played in our defensive half the whole time, we just couldn’t move the ball with any fluency.
“The Pies lifted their level in the contest and then played out the game with the ball in their half.
“I think when you get to that point in time, a lot of the game plan and structures might be out the window and it’s pure willpower and want to compete and get it done.
“There were some real desperate acts in that last quarter. I just flash back to Sam Taylor throwing his body around, Jacob Hopper throwing his body on smothers and these types of things.
“I also remember Shane Mumford selling candy on the goal line against Scott Pendlebury which a kind of a funny one to see because you’d usually think it’s Scott Pendlebury selling candy to Shane Mumford, but just moments like that you reflect back on and think how did we get away with it, but it was sheer want and sheer will to hold on and get the game done. It was a great feeling when that siren went.”
When the siren went, the first thing that washed over the Giants was pure relief.
“I remember just being exhausted, I just remember thinking at the time how many repeat 50s they had and I was just thinking, I don’t know how long we can hold on for here, how many inside 50s they’re going to need to get that score that they needed.
“It was just sheer relief in the end.
“I just sort of remember that last inside 50 they had, where Sam Taylor had a chance to potentially mark it but with the heat of the game he went with the spoil, and it spilled out to Daniel Lloyd and was milliseconds away from getting holding the ball and the siren goes and there is just pure relief.
“You’re just sort of hugging blokes and you don’t really know what’s going on, it’s sort of a blur that last sort of 30 seconds before the game finished and 30 seconds after.”
There were some of the Giants’ best 22 and foundation players sitting on the sidelines with Toby Greene, Callan Ward and Stephen Coniglio all watching from the sidelines.
“There were a few boys that had been there from the start, like ‘Cogs’ (Stephen Coniglio), Toby Greene, Dave Matthews, our CEO was there and he’s been there since day dot too so there is the pure joy and jubilation.
“Those guys are the heart and soul of the footy club, ‘Cogs’ being the captain and Toby having been the stand-in skipper.
“[There is a] spill of emotions that come to the floor when you have significant wins and significant milestones like that.”
Subscribe to our newsletter!