Giants feeling de Boer effect
For all the high draft picks Greater Western Sydney have welcomed through the door, it's a player unwanted by another club whose absence has thrown out the Giants.
Matt de Boer is by no means the most talented player on their list but he is proving difficult to replace.
The Giants are finding it hard to cover Matt de Boer.Credit:AAP
His injury, on top of that to Lachie Whitfield, is being keenly felt by a Giants side, which, in the words of their coach, are "clearly out of form" despite dominating key statistical areas since the bye.
The sample size is not large but Leon Cameron's men have lost both games since de Boer fell victim to Ben Cunnington and North Melbourne's uncompromising style of play under Rhyce Shaw.
De Boer, who has clamped down on stars such as Patrick Cripps, Dustin Martin and Tim Kelly, had established himself as arguably the most effective tagger in the competition. His outstanding form had mitigated the damage from Callan Ward’s season-ending injury.
Some had de Boer in All-Australian discussions before he was ruled out for eight weeks with a fractured shoulder.
It has hurt the Giants on several fronts. Firstly, they have lost a man in whom they could bank on to shut down the opposition's most damaging midfielder.
Brisbane's Lachie Neale benefited from not having de Boer following him, polling nine of a maximum 10 votes from the coaches with his 31-possession game. Martin will be rapt he won't have de Boer's arm across him all day on Sunday at the MCG.
Giants tagger Matt de Boer (left) has been ruled out for eight weeks with a fractured shoulder.Credit:AAP
Not as evident is the knock-on effect, or the de Boer effect, it has had on others like Stephen Coniglio and Tim Taranto, who have had their roles changed. It has thrown their midfield balance out of kilter.
De Boer had been the second most used Giant in their centre bounce set-up across the first 13 rounds. Without him, Coniglio and Taranto have increased their attendances. The latter's numbers have dropped off.
In the past fortnight, Coniglio has played more on the inside, as shown by his contested possession rate of 51 per cent compared to 34 per cent before this.
Coniglio is a rare breed of midfielder who can play both inside and outside at a high quality but with Whitfield injured it's arguable the Giants need him out in space setting the game up rather than in the packs dishing it out.
In their defeats to Essendon and Brisbane, the Giants won both the contested (by 25 each time) and uncontested possession counts (by 34 and 32) but lost. Against the Lions, they also had more entries inside 50.
"We're not getting our outside game right," Cameron said.
It is a startling admission for a team once referred to as the 'Orange Tsunami' so destructive was their running game.
Whitfield's return this week should help in this area though another injury to Josh Kelly, who has played 28 of a possible 39 games since his stellar 2017 season, offsets this to a degree.
One opposition analyst has noted how players are now standing back shoulder to their Giants opponents at stoppages to reduce their potency. It may give the Giants first access to the ball but they are under such pressure they cannot easily release outside.
Since scoring 12 of their 14 goals from stoppages against North, they've managed four and seven. Scoring from turnovers, and not stoppages, is considered the model for finals success.
Of the last 10 premiers, only one – the Bulldogs – ranked outside the top three in scoring differential from turnovers. Since round 12, the Giants rank 17th.
Against Brisbane, they managed just one point from 29 forward-half turnovers. This shows the Giants can lay forward pressure, contrary to perceptions, but are lacking what coaches now refer to as connection between the midfield and forward line.
Which brings us back to the de Boer effect.
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