Greater Western Sydney have sewn up a top-four spot with a 37-point win over North Melbourne in what could be Brent Harvey’s last AFL game on Victorian soil.
The Kangaroos took it up to the Giants on Saturday night after a tumultuous week in which Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo were told they wouldn’t continue with the club next season.
GWS led by 11 points at the main break and set up the 14.16 (100) to 9.9 (63) win with a four-goals-to-one third term, defeating the Roos for the first time in six meetings.
With leading Giants goalkicker Jeremy Cameron well held by Robbie Tarrant, Jonathon Patton led the way in attack with five goals, while Steve Johnson added four in typically eye-catching style.
Heath Shaw expertly marshalled the troops in defence for the Giants, while Dylan Shiel and Tom Scully provided the drive through the midfield.
Harvey, who was among the Roos’ best players with 26 possessions and two goals, waved and clapped the crowd after the final siren in a show of appreciation before he led his team off the ground.
Given it was possibly the last opportunity for North fans to farewell their champion foursome, the crowd of 22,295 at Etihad Stadium was disappointing.
The Roos, who were top of the ladder after 12 rounds, couldn’t move out of eighth place regardless of the result, but take worrying form into an away elimination final having lost their past four games.
The Kangaroos’ cause wasn’t helped by influential defender Jamie Macmillan departing the game in the first quarter due to a hip injury.
“This was a big game for us,” GWS coach Leon Cameron said.
“We knew the Kangaroos would be up for it with what happened through the week.
“We came down here and we wanted to see how we handled that pressure in an environment where there were going to be lots of Kangaroos supporters and the game was going to be hot.
“I was really proud that the boys stood up.”
Roos coach Brad Scott praised the focus of his playing group, and the four departing veterans in particular, after a week of headlines.
But he admitted there were still areas of his side’s game that needed plenty of work before the finals campaign.
“I thought we started ok, we were playing to a pretty reasonable method there for a while, but we were a bit lacklustre after halftime,” Scott said.
“We’re winning enough of the ball and we’re doing a few things reasonably well but we’ve got some work to do on our scoring efficiency – that’s for sure.”