Heath Shaw conducted a depleted GWS defence with aplomb, as the Giants overcame more wretched luck with their key defenders to beat Western Bulldogs by 25 points on Sunday.
Jeremy Cameron kicked five goals as the Giants overcame the first quarter loss of two defenders to record a gritty 15.8 (98) to 10.13 (73) victory at Spotless Stadium.
The result shored up third spot in the AFL for GWS, who extended their club record win streak to six and moved them to 7-2, their best ever start to a season.
Giants coach Leon Cameron rated it a gutsy win while ruing his side’s continued ill luck with the fitness of their key backs.
Already missing key defenders Aidan Corr, Caleb Marchbank and Phil Davis, the Giants lost injury-prone Tim Mohr to a hamstring injury and Matt Buntine to concussion early on.
Another key defender Nick Haynes sat out part of the final quarter with concussion, but a makeshift defence including key forward Jon Patton kept the Bulldogs at bay.
GWS scored the first 20 points and took control with five successive second-quarter goals.
Despite losing contested possessions by 13, the Giants were competitive on the inside and dominant on the outside.
Shaw, who amassed 38 disposals, 36 of them kicks, controlled the tempo masterfully, while midfielders Callan Ward and Stephen Coniglio were also outstanding for GWS.
“Heath Shaw is a super competitor and he wants to win every contest he competes in,” Giants’ coach Leon Cameron said.
“He played a really smart game.
“I was really proud of our leaders, (Dylan) Shiel. Ward, Coniglio, (Shane) Mumford, Johnson and Shaw.”
“All the older players really contributed and stood up when they needed to.”
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge refused to use injuries and suspensions as an excuse for his side’s loss in their first game outside Victoria this season.
“We were a bit messy with the ball and their star quality forwards, particularly Jeremy Cameron, got the better of us,” Beveridge said.
“The boys are disappointed, They felt they were in the game for long periods, but at no stage did we really threaten, so it’s a bit of a numb feeling after this one.”
The Bulldogs led briefly in the second quarter, but GWS kicked the next five majors to set up a 17-point buffer by halftime.
Two opportunistic goals to veteran forward Steve Johnson swelled their advantage to 34 points by the final change.
Marcus Bontempelli had 32 touches for the Bulldogs, who had Lin Jong reported for a first quarter bump on Buntine.