Greater Western Sydney are no longer AFL “kids” and will have no excuses when they face a revitalised and hungry Melbourne outfit, says forward Devon Smith.
The Giants are fancied to come out on top against the Demons in Saturday’s surprise top-eight clash, and seal their best-ever start to a season after a round one win over St Kilda.
Melbourne are the only team the Giants have beaten more than once, having emerged victorious in their last three encounters.
But Smith isn’t expecting a fourth successive win over the Victorian side to come as easily as some might expect, especially given they haven’t won a game at Canberra’s Manuka Oval since 2012.
The 21-year-old said the Demons’ upset 26-point filleting of Gold Coast, in which they took an opening-round high 16 contested marks, hadn’t gone unnoticed in coach Leon Cameron’s camp this week.
He also reckons their opposition will have their 64-point humiliation by the Giants at the MCG late last season fresh in their memories.
“They’re obviously going to be a lot better side than when we played them last year,” Smith told AAP on Friday.
“Last year their confidence was down … now they’ve had a win, and with some new players I think their confidence is up.”
And they’ll be hungry: the clash presents Melbourne with an opportunity to register their first 2-0 start to an AFL season in a decade.
They’ll field the same new-look squad as last week including key West Australian forward Jesse Hogan, who impressed in his long-awaited debut against the Suns with two goals, seven marks and 15 touches.
Smith said a more mature GWS could no longer view themselves as the competition’s babies and needed to focus on holding their nerve against the bigger clubs.
“The boys have now played 50-60 games and are third-year, fourth-year players, and obviously there’s experience added,” he said.
“I think there’s no more real excuses that we’re kids anymore.”
Melbourne coach Paul Roos said it would be important that his players back up the previous week’s performance.
“What you’re hoping as a coach is that the players get some belief out of that,” he said.
“We just want to try and follow up with form and hopefully become a consistent team that plays a certain brand of footy for longer than we did last year.”
Melbourne have made room for Chris Dawes (suspension) and Bernie Vince (hamstring), dropping Jimmy Toumpas and Jay Kennedy-Harris, while GWS have made only one change from round one, bringing in forward Nathan Wilson for Curtly Hampton.
Giants midfielder Tomas Bugg will also play after being cleared of wrongdoing by the match review panel over his bump on Nick Riewoldt.