Gold Coast Suns on the end of historic first win for GWS Giants
Comparisons between the AFL’s two expansion sides are fraught with danger, but the early signs are Greater Western Sydney have gotten a lot more right.
COMPARISONS between the AFL’s two expansion sides are fraught with danger, but the early signs are Greater Western Sydney have gotten a lot more right.
It’s foolish to judge a side on one match, but the final quarter of their clash in Canberra on Saturday featured one team desperate to win and the other – Gold Coast – lacking “intensity” according to their coach Guy McKenna.
The younger Giants aren’t a better side yet, but they’re generally more willing to have a crack and less prone to drop off in matches.
As the weekend showed, when new boys the Giants triumphed 13.16 (94) to 9.13 (67) for their historic first AFL win, it’s the stuff victories are made of.
GWS’s recruiters went about their task with a simple mantra: uncompromising players who will win the contested ball.
The results over the past seven weeks have shown that – the Giants have often been outclassed, but rarely humiliated in the fashion Gold Coast experienced in their debut season last year.
The head-over-the-ball attitude isn’t restricted to GWS’s midfielders either.
Forward Jeremy Cameron’s exploits have been well noted while ruckman Jonathan Giles’ 15 contested possessions on Saturday was a game high – more than Suns superstar Gary Ablett or anyone else could muster.
The Suns showed interest in Giles while he was in the SANFL – instead they banked on Zac Smith and Collingwood discard Josh Fraser, who ran around with the reserves in Canberra.
Fraser epitomises the differences in the two clubs’ approach to their unprecedented access to uncontracted players.
Fraser, the No.1 draft pick in the 1999 draft, had played in two grand finals and was seen as a man of valuable experience.
He’s played only 18 AFL games for the Suns – due to a series of injury concerns and, most recently, form.
The Giants got their old hands via other methods – tempting Dean Brogan, Chad Cornes, Luke Power and James McDonald out of retirement.
GWS instead focused exclusively on young guns with their uncontracted recruits – Tom Scully, Callan Ward and Rhys Palmer seen as fresh-faced midfielders who will be with the club for the rest of their days.
Last week McKenna commended how his side’s on-ballers lifted while leading lights Ablett and Michael Rischitelli missed two weeks with injury.
GWS have been doing the equivalent for their short existence.
“This is all going to go on for the next 10 or 15 years about our list vs their list and their wins vs our wins,” McKenna said after the game.
But the Giants still have the capacity to poach a handful of uncontracted stars – with Travis Cloke the No.1 target if you believe the gossip mill – and can trade two more nominated 17-year-olds in exchange for players or draft picks.
GWS will again profit from a compromised draft, while their salary cap exemptions will last longer.
And their youngsters will be better prepared for AFL.
Gold Coast blooded 12 debutants in their maiden AFL match – GWS fielded a record 17.
“I don’t know if we’re doing it any better,” opined GWS coach Kevin Sheedy.
“You couldn’t complain that they didn’t want it in the second quarter – they smashed us.
“The team we played today was only 22 games ahead of us, so it was a fair opportunity. Some of our experienced players were a bit more experienced at the end.”
Recruitment is a fickle art soaked in speculation, and the true results won’t be known for some time.
But it’s clear to all that GWS have made a more impressive start to their AFL life. - AAP
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