The sigh of relief from AFL House will be audible when the ball is bounced at 7:20 pm, Saturday the 24th of March at ANZ stadium for two reasons.
One, it’s finally starting. After an off-season of tumultuous speculation and deceitful player switches, a pre-season of reports, injuries and off-field antics and the devastating death of Jim Stynes on Tuesday: The season proper can finally start.
Secondly, the dream is a reality. Andrew Demetriou and company were desperate to get a team into Greater Western Sydney and despite the public pressure to accept Tasmania’s bid, the AFL stuck to their guns and can finally watch the orange brigade play for four points, making them an official and recognised part of the competition.
The furore over this clash, while being overshadowed by a number of events, especially the sad news that emerged from Sam Stynes on Monday, is huge. A number of firsts will occur: The first game of the AFL Season, GWS’s first game, the first ever ‘Sydney Derby’, and, amongst other things, the debut of Rugby League convert Israel Folau.
It’s certainly a monumental occasion: years of planning, speculation and doubt will be vindicated once the final siren blows.
While the Western Sydney project could take as long as a decade to be effectively evaluated, football does not and will not stop and wait.
2012 will be an important year for the Giants, GWS must prove that they are competitive and they are united before looking at a win/loss ratio, whilst the Swans will be looking to build on a good transition season last year after Paul Roos and Brett Kirk departed, top four is a hopeful possibility though the competition is, and will be strong.
Kevin Sheedy, as usual, has been running his mouth off, promising an ‘arm-wrestle’ of a game come Saturday night and threatening Adam Goodes with ‘the raging bull’ in Folau.
While one would imagine that the double Brownlow Medallist won’t be losing too much sleep over the prospect, the ambitious words from the experienced GWS puppet master will certainly bring interest; and that’s what the AFL wants.
As far as injuries go, the Giants have lost boom recruit Tom Scully to a broken cheekbone, meaning that the youngster will miss the historic clash.
A real kick in the teeth for Scully who’d have more expected to miss this game through his troublesome knee rather than a facial injury.
Luke Power will also miss the first week, Jon Patton remains sidelined and will be for the first half of the year while Sydney has lost Ryan O’Keefe to a knee injury, and can expect him back in Round 4.
Sydney by 90.
B: A.Kennedy, P.Davis, T.Bugg
HB: J.Hombsch, T.Mohr, W.Hoskin-Elliott
C: R.Palmer, C.Ward, C.Cornes
HF: S.Coniglio, I.Folau, N.Wilson
F: C.Hampton, J.Cameron, D.Smith
Foll: J.Giles, D.Shiel, James McDonald
I/C: J.Townsend, T.Greene, A.Tomlinson, D.Tyson
Emg: S.Clifton, S.Reid, T.Downie
B: M.Mattner, H.Grundy, N.Smith
HB: A.Johnson, T.Richards, A.Everitt
C: N.Malceski, K.Jack, C.Bird
HF: J.McVeigh, A.Goodes, L.Parker
F: L.Roberts-Thomson, SB.Reid, B.McGlynn
Foll: S.Mumford, Ju.Bolton, JP.Kennedy
I/C: H.Cunningham, D.Hannebery, Lew.Jetta, G.Rohan
Emg: N.Gordon, M.Morton, M.Seaby
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