Greater Western Sydney have won the city’s most bruising and high-stakes AFL derby, earning a home preliminary final with a 36-point triumph at ANZ Stadium.
GWS were anything but overawed on finals debut and increased their lead at every break of Saturday’s 12.19 (91) to 7.13 (55) upset victory over minor premiers Sydney.
Swans stars Josh Kennedy and Kurt Tippett both underwent concussion tests after early hits, while Callum Mills played no part in the second half of the qualifying final because of a suspected hamstring injury.
The undermanned favourites rallied and were only two points behind early in the third term, when GWS key forward Jeremy Cameron took control of the pulsating contest.
Cameron booted three goals in the space of five minutes to give his side a 21-point lead at three-quarter time.
In a low-scoring affair, it looked a big buffer – much to the dismay of most the 60,222 crowd.
Early goals from Stephen Coniglio and Tom Scully ensured it was more than enough as the Giants triumphed.
The match review panel (MRP) is likely to scrutinise Steve Johnson, for felling Kennedy, and Shane Mumford but, otherwise, coach Leon Cameron has few concerns after the most-important win in GWS’s short history.
The expansion side, in their fifth season, are one win away from reaching the grand final.
GWS will enjoy a week off before facing Hawthorn or the Western Bulldogs in a home preliminary final, while the Swans confront Adelaide or North Melbourne in a SCG knock-out clash.
It is the first time the league’s minor premiers have lost their first final since West Coast in 2006 – although the Eagles battled back to defeat Sydney in the grand final that year.
The Giants announced themselves as flag contenders long ago but there remained a question of how a side with 16 finals debutants would handle the heat of September.
They started nervously but the answer had come by quarter-time, when GWS held a one-point lead despite conceding the opening two goals of the game.
Johnson finished with 22 possessions and five behinds but delivered arguably the turning point of the match when he tried to run through on-baller Kennedy in the first term.
A dazed Kennedy eventually returned to the field after a long stint in the rooms but he was unable to halt GWS’s damaging runs through the middle.
Ruckman Tippett was also given the green light to return after his clock was inadvertently cleaned in a first-quarter ruck contest.
Burly counterpart Mumford delivered a concussion test of his own, slinging Tippett to the turf with a fierce tackle.
It epitomised the approach of GWS, who laid 32 more tackles than the Swans.
The MRP will look at the incidents involving Mumford and Johnson, while a handful of players could be issued fines after a few heated spot fires.