The belief that Greater Western Sydney will struggle to win an AFL game this season came under fresh scrutiny after the Giants’ competitive start to the pre-season.
That the newcomers, with limited experience and potential more than polish, will finish dead last in their maiden season was considered a fait accompli a long time ago.
Over the past month the bar was lowered once again, with AFL legend Leigh Matthews the most notable to suggest GWS would be doing well to win one match in 2012.
On Saturday night the Giants were given their first chance to answer the critics on the field.
It was a response muffled by the fact the NAB Cup contests featured 20-minute halves, and were devoid of a handful of Collingwood and Western Bulldogs stars.
Nonetheless, it was an answer of some sort – especially the three-point loss to the Magpies where Phil Davis was the only Giant with AFL experience to play.
“You’ve got to give credit to that group of young players,” Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said.
“They could have easily won the Bulldogs game as well. So they’d be rapt with their performance.”
Time will tell just how meaningful the Giants’ competitive pre-season losses were, but already Buckley suspects the likes of Matthews may have got it wrong.
“What you saw was great enthusiasm and exuberance from a young group of players,” he said.
“The problem that you get with that over the course of a football season at an elite level … is that you’re going to get your ups and downs.
“(But) it was a one-on-one contested brand of football all over the ground, and if you can play that brand of footy, well then you can compete against anyone.
“So there’s no reason why they can’t compete well and compete hard, and win a few games. Their fair share of games.”
Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney also praised the Giants after the Dogs’ five-point win over the hosts.
“They were terrific. I think they showed with ball in hand what they’re going to be. They were good around the ball, had some stronger bodies,” McCartney said.
“They’ll get better and they’ll improve, and if you keep doing that – well the game takes care of itself.”
GWS chief executive Dave Matthews was impressed with how his side performed in the spotlight.
“This is a group of guys who obviously don’t read the papers,” he said.
“The critics aren’t inside the club, so they don’t actually understand the sort of training and preparation.
“…We’re hopeful that we can sneak in for a couple of wins.
“And more than anything, just show a lot of competitiveness and spirit like we did last night.”