Giants and Suns give AFL a glimpse into future
On the second half of the curious opening fixture of the 2013 home and away AFL season, the footy world was treated a host of pleasant surprises.
Early in the day, NAB Cup champions Brisbane Lions were shocked by the lowly rated Western Bulldogs, led from the front by mature aged rookie Brett Goodes.
The stories only got bigger and better from there.
In the Harbour City, the second-year GWS Giants clashed with the reigning premiers Sydney Swans.
The thought of last year’s cellar dweller team of baby faced talents knocking off the seasoned champions seemed impossible, however there were more than a few nervous red-and-white clad faces at ANZ Stadium in the second quarter.
Although predictably the Swans ran away with a sizeable 30-point win, the Giants certainly brought some unexpected heat to the quiet Saturday twilight affair.
After going goalless in a hard-hitting first quarter, the Giants exploded with the first six goals of the second quarter including two from big Jonathan Patton.
Playing more like his surname was Brown, Patton slotted three for the game, demonstrating a solid ability to outmuscle veteran Heath Grundy and efficiently convert in front of goal.
The Giants played a hard brand of football, pointing to Kevin Sheedy’s ability to enforce a culture upon a club of youngsters.
Dylan Shiel and Adam Treloar looked right at home running alongside the All-Australian calibre Kieren Jack and Ryan O’Keefe while Stephen Coniglio was able to get the better of 2009 Rising Star Daniel Hannebery for most of the day.
The signs are extremely promising for the second year club, the solid challenge to the Swans came in spite of Callan Ward’s absence, an off day for young gun Toby Greene and sluggish debuts for top-flight draftees Lachie Whitfield and Plowman.
With their next four games coming against Port Adelaide, St Kilda and Gold Coast, pundits would be ignorant to ignore the Giants after their impressive outing against the Swans.
If the Giants were the story of the afternoon, they were mere warm-ups for the night fireworks coming at Metricon Stadium.
Going into the Gold Coast Suns – St Kilda clash, the biggest story was the frustrating lack of compelling games on the first big Saturday night of the football season.
Fortunately for Channel Seven and the AFL, this one became something no one expected.
The Suns leapt out to a quick two goal lead, though it was predictably erased by the Saints.
Although never breaking away from the Suns, St Kilda held a steady lead throughout the game and never looked in danger of losing it until the closing ten minutes of the final term.
An inspired performance by superstar Gary Ablett Jr, flanked by Charlie Dixon and Dion Prestia, led the Suns to an upset 13-point victory over a lethargic St Kilda outfit.
Rory Thompson in just his 19th senior game held Nick Riewoldt to 2.2 for the evening, and Brandon Matera provided crucial run as the substitute after coming on in the third term for the cramping Karmichael Hunt.
Before we allow ourselves to get carried away, the Suns and Giants haven’t ‘arrived’ yet.
They’re not going to be pushing for a September berth just yet, and they’re still going to be victim of a bevy of thumpings, particularly in the tail end of the season when both sides have shown a tendency to tire.
However, the AFL have to be delighted at the early progress of both clubs and for all those who were frustrated at the wave of triple-digit thrashings, this is a welcome sight.
If this is the future, then the future is a scary sight.
It wouldn’t be unforeseen if in three years time Jonathan Patton is receiving his first Coleman medal in the same season Gary Ablett collects another Brownlow en route to a Gold Coast versus GWS grand final.
Can we predict that it will happen? Of course not. There’s a lot of football, player movement and drafting to do before that.
But that’s no longer a laughable prospect. Take note, the kids are alright.