Potential has long been the buzzword accompanying Greater Western Sydney’s maiden AFL campaign, but on Saturday it was Melbourne coach Mark Neeld who left Canberra with high hopes of a bright future.
The Demons recorded their first win away from Melbourne in over a year, a 25-point triumph over GWS at Manuka Oval.
It was a match that failed to hit great heights – with the exception of high-flying Demon Jeremy Howe, who clutched a trademark screamer in the third term and kicked 3.3.
But the Demons did what they had to, securing a 11.18 (84) to 9.5 (59) win and souring Luke Power’s 300th game.
Neeld lamented the way his side allowed GWS to make the margin more respectable in the last quarter.
But overall, he rated the Demons’ fourth win of the year as one for the believers – and pleasingly a result driven by the club’s youth stocks.
“The majority of our players (today) … were averaging 60 games per player. Which is extremely inexperienced,” Neeld said.
“I think some of the tough times – there’s a lot of alarmist media reporting that goes on.
“We’re aware that a lot of people that watch the game have seven-day goggles on, and writing about long-term plans is clearly not sexy.
“But we’ve certainly made some gains in the second half of the year, there’s no doubt.
“Our ball movement, our work at the clearances is improving – as is the way that we’re defending.”
The Giants trailed by only two points when young gun Toby Greene goalled in the fifth minute of the second quarter.
Unfortunately for most of the crowd of 7,561, the hosts’ next goal would come in the sixth minute of the last term through key defender Phil Davis.
This was a clash between two sides anchored to the bottom quarter of the ladder, and in many ways it showed.
Turnovers resulted in goals – or behinds more commonly – and too many passes failed to hit their target.
But it was a match with no shortage of feeling – Melbourne’s Sam Blease went for Sam Darley’s jugular in arguably the most heated of a series of spot fires.
While the snow that GWS coach Kevin Sheedy was hoping for failed to eventuate, a strong wind made the goalposts sway for most of the game.
Power was given a guard of honour post match by both teams after becoming the 66th man in VFL/AFL history to achieve the milestone.
“It was a special time,” Sheedy said.
Power, a three-time premiership player with Brisbane, gave a moving speech to his teammates in the rooms after the game.
“Leigh Matthews, who was a great influence on me, always talked about putting yourself in the bubble,” Power said.
“I was just trying to treat it like any other game, but there were a few more text messages on my phone.
“I was proud of the group the way we fought it out.”
The result essentially hands the wooden spoon to GWS, with the Giants unlikely to cause an upset in their remaining clashes with St Kilda and North Melbourne.