While the AFL is on COVID-19 hiatus, David Schout is reliving some of the most notable upsets and bad beats over the years. This week, a coming-of-age classic from back in 2014.

When the GWS Giants entered the AFL competition in 2012, there was a collective sense the newcomers were on a hiding to nothing. And for good reason. With a eclectic mix of young guns, recycled veterans and even rugby stars, the new kids on the block had their work cut out. Compounding this was the fact crosstown rivals the Swans were, by contrast, one of the AFL’s most accomplished and experienced sides. And it made The ‘Battle of the Bridge’, as it is now termed, one-way traffic in the early days.

Big brother bullies

The Swans took out the inaugural derby by 63 points in Round 1, 2012 after starting as $1.01 favourites (Giants $15.33). Despite the relatively easy win, there were promising signs for the Giants who finished the game strongly. “Giants hang tough in last,” broadcaster Gerard Whately tweeted at the time. “Only comprehensively outplayed in third. Able to grind out sustained periods with Swans was commendable.” The second game that AFL season, in Round 14, saw the Swans home by 94 points, again starting as $1.01 favourites (Giants $21.75 this time). The Sydney Morning Herald however were sceptical of the rivalry in the post-match review. “No amount of marketing and hype can make a decent football match, let alone a rivalry,” it read. “While the Swans and the Giants are rivals geographically, they are worlds apart on the football field.”

Swans continue dominance

If 2012 was tough, 2013 was even tougher for the Giants. While they managed two wins in their debut season, they sang the song just once in the next season, sealing their second successive wooden spoon. And although they were competitive in the opening fixture of the AFL season, losing to the Swans by just 30 points in ‘Derby III’ (and covering their pre-game line of +43.5), the Round 16 return clash at the SCG saw them hammered to the tune of 129 points – the club’s fifth-highest ever win. Despite giving up an enormous 79.5 point head-start, the Swans would easily cover their line that day.

‘Little brother’ no more

Given the Swans had defeated their crosstown rivals by an average of 79 points in their first four encounters, it’s perhaps no surprise they entered Round 1 of the 2014 season as $1.05 favourites against the Giants in Buddy Franklin’s showpiece debut for the club. While the boys in orange had a strong pre-season behind their belt, few gave them a chance in the game at the Showgrounds. And that was reflected in the markets – Leon Cameron’s men opened at $12.50 before moving into $10.17 before the first bounce. They were also given a 44.5 point head-start in the handicap markets. But what transpired on that wet afternoon would perhaps change the club’s perception in the AFL community.

After a relatively tight opening exchange the Swans shot out to a four-goal lead in the second term and all was going to plan for John Longmire’s side. But the Giants kicked back and remained within touching distance. Halfway through the final term the Bloods held their slender lead. That was, until the Giants incredibly kicked the last six goals of the game to seal at famous win. Twin towers Jeremy Cameron and Jonathon Patton (now a Hawk) kicked seven goals between them while Adam Treloar (now a Pie) led the possession count with 34, plus eight tackles.

A narrative shift

The narrative shifted on this day; an upset that started a now testy rivalry between the two. The two Harbour City sides don’t like each other, plain and simply. And while the media might have scoffed at the so-called manufactured rivalry in the early days, it’s one of the competition’s fiercest these days. The Swans still edge the overall rivalry 11-7, but importantly the Giants have won six of the last nine. Included in this is two AFL finals wins (the 2016 Qualifying Final and 2018 Elimination Final). But one could argue the most important win that kick-started it all was back on that wet afternoon on March 15, 2014.

(The Swans were due to play GWS this weekend in what would have been Round 5 of the 2020 AFL season)