I think many people expected the GWS Giants to embarrass themselves in their historic first match last night. Instead they did themselves proud.
With 17 first gamers and 14 teenagers in the side, expectations were not high. Only 2 of the 52 tipsters from The Age and the Herald Sun picked GWS to beat the Swans. They were the Kiss of Death and The Village Idiot.
But the lads from Blacktown (actually Breakfast Point) showed a manic intensity in the opening exchanges as well as slick skills to stay with the older Sydney enterprise. They trailed by just 17 points at quarter time and a not too shabby 31 points at half time.
Even when the Swans kicked 5 straight goals in the third term to lead at the break by 64 points, and a repeat of the Suns’ horrible debut was on the cards, it didn’t quite seem to reflect the state of play – although showing signs of fatigue, the Giants were still getting plenty of the ball but were made to pay for their errors and lack of key forwards by the skilled and efficient Swans.
In a promising display the Giants outscored the Swans in the last quarter by a point. Their tenacity was highlighted by a powerful tackle by Israel Folau on a hapless Dan Hanneberry who lost the ball and temporarily the use of his body.
So what could be said about the GWS Giants after their baptism of fire? One aspect of their play that stands out is the hardness at the ball which reflects the head of development Alan McConnell’s belief that “teams who win premierships win the contested ball”.
They must be careful that by replicating this physical style of play they don’t damn their young players’ bodies to premature chronic injury. Many youngsters have already emerged from the TAC Cup with osteits pubis and poor shoulders.
They’re a long way off a premiership but with the addition of the experienced Luke Power and Dean Brogan, the classy Tom Scully and the man mountain Jonathon Patton (who was seen dwarfing Matthew Richardson and Brian Taylor in the commentary box) they are going to give a few teams a torrid time of it.
It’s a shame, but not a surprise considering the conservative nature of AFL footballers, that a few more experienced players didn’t make the move to GWS. The fear of moving away from home, club loyalty and not wanting to play for a struggling venture, no doubt all played their part.
So how do we describe this historic night in western Sydney? The crowd of over 38,000 was a healthy one and the evening, with the help of the slightly chaotic but mirthful new Channel 7 commentary team, had a carnival atmosphere.
Hopefully some kids from rugby league households with bodies not suited to that game will have watched and had their interest piqued.
Or, perhaps some of them saw the lights on and wandered over to see what all the fuss was about – just like those Melburnians in 1998 who popped into Olympic Park to see the city’s new rugby league team play for the first time.
Finally, to the boys wearing the orange and charcoal (colours that go surprisingly well together), you did yourselves and western Sydney proud.