Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley has no doubt: Greater Western Sydney are the real deal.
Hinkley says Port’s AFL side which travels to play the Giants on Sunday will be younger and less experienced than their host.
“They will take the field older than us and slightly more experienced than us in games played,” Hinkley told reporters on Friday.
“When the Giants and Gold Coast came in, it looked like forever that they were never going to catch up.
“But those expansion clubs, they’re still expansion clubs but they’re not young players in the competition any more.
“They’re on a level playing field and ready to go … they’re the real deal.”
Hinkley was an assistant coach at Gold Coast when the Suns entered the competition and had noted a change in mindset this season at the fledgling clubs.
“I’m sure (Giants coach) Leon (Cameron) is aware he’s got a group of players who are getting better with every game they play,” he said.
“They are now not worried about playing an AFL game, they just turn up and it’s like it’s a normal game for them.
“I know having been at the Gold Coast, in the early years you tend to turn up going ‘well, I hope I go okay today, not quite sure’.
“But now they go in very confident about what they can do.”
Hinkley confirmed star forward Chad Wingard and midfielder Hamish Hartlett would return from respective hamstring injuries on Sunday – but cautioned against any complacency surrounding their comebacks.
“Clearly it’s good from a team point of view, it gives you some more confidence that you are bringing in some more quality players who you know, at their best, can make a significant difference,” he said.
“But it doesn’t guarantee anything … those two won’t be the be-all and end-all of it.”