Giant debut leaves Suns in their shadow
Greater Western Sydney's Kevin Sheedy is an Ideas Man. (Slattery Images)
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Well, that was relatively painless. Greater Western Sydney’s debut is done and dusted, and it was nowhere near the bloodbath the football world was expecting.
Yes, a 10-goal loss, but that’s about the best that could be hoped for a new team against an ultra-professional, battle-hardened side like the Swans.
The story of Saturday night wasn’t the margin or the result, but the performance.
Using the only relevant measuring stick we’ve got – Gold Coast’s debut against Carlton last year – the Giants came away with full marks.
Not that those on the Glitter Strip would be appreciative of that contrast. If anything, the pressure on the shoulders of Guy McKenna and his coaching staff is now greater after GWS’s bright start.
There should be an unspoken rivalry between the two AFL expansion sides. Maybe rivalry isn’t the right word – ‘arms race’ is probably more appropriate. We know they’re both going to be good, and they have the tools, but who will get there first?
Both clubs were born with silver spoons in their mouths. In terms of talent, neither team can really complain with what they’ve been given.
The tough part is putting it into practice – making sure that players like David Swallow and Steven Coniglio become the superstars they can be.
One imagines that they’ll be peering over the fence and having a good look at what the other is doing in terms of development, if they haven’t already.
It’s handy to know there’s someone else in the same boat, dealing with the same challenges. But what’ll be most fascinating is watching two different schools of thought at work.
Gold Coast, led by second-year coach McKenna, are getting there slowly. However, their pre-season has been disappointing and McKenna is no guarantee to be offered a new contract by the club for 2013.
Their expansive, first-option gameplan is good when it works, but they get blown away when it doesn’t. They also can’t run out a full game yet.
Neither can GWS. But it’s clear Kevin Sheedy and Mark Williams are approaching things differently. From what we’ve seen in the NAB Cup and on the weekend, they’re a little more in-your-face.
Against Sydney, the Giants were a lot harder at the ball than the Suns were on debut. Maybe they actually listened to Sheeds’ pre-match address. What he said was what they did.
Of course, they were soundly beaten – but when you consider the depths of Gold Coast’s stage fright in their game against Carlton, they weren’t disgraced. That’s good enough.
Make no mistake – this is still going to be a very tough year for Greater Western Sydney. There’s no way they’ll maintain that level of intensity in every game.
However, there is reason for a little more hope. If we use Gold Coast’s first match as a benchmark, then GWS passed with flying colours.
They dealt with the hype and the build-up of the occasion better and pulled out a mature performance to match. So far, so good.
But the Suns, a year older and a year wiser, would have been watching intently. They know the excuses won’t wash as easily if GWS continue to snap at their heels.
The Giants’ debut caught plenty by surprise, but now Gold Coast must prove that they’re ahead.
Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he's now sports editor of The Area News in Griffith, NSW.