Say what you will about the AFL’s methods for creating the yearly fixture, but they do know how to create interest and intrigue around contests, even if it is focussed on the off field drama rather than the game itself.
Tonight, the storylines write themselves. The opening of Greater Western Sydney’s Skoda stadium – the first chance the newest club gets to play in front of the new AFL market.
How will the public respond? Will their be a passionate crowd filling the stadium, or will the NRL heartland reject the idea of an AFL franchise?
The real interest, however, will centre on the master and apprentice situation occurring in the coaches box between Kevin Sheedy and James Hird. For so many years, Sheedy and Hird were synonymous with Essendon, and it many ways they still are, despite Sheedy’s new role as the inaugural coach of the Giants.
Whilst there is a lot of deserved attention on the match up between the past relationship of the two, you can be assured that indoors they will be focussing on the game at hand. Essendon have started 2012 in brilliant fashion, losing once – by a point – and looking like genuine premiership contenders.
GWS on the other hand have surprised many not only by winning a game, but by looking like a side that thrives in tough conditions. Although there has been blowouts, the Giants have never dropped their heads and have always always had a crack at the contested ball – a label a lot of senior AFL sides can only dream about having.
Giles has been a revelation for the Giants, being more than useful at the stoppages and dangerous up forward. His influence has enabled the young Giant midfield better use of the ball, which in turn has allowed them to play more freely and worry less about their opponent defensively.
Against Patrick Ryder and Tom Bellchambers, he will need to play at his best.
Stanton has been in his best form yet for the Bombers, with his hard, gut running style regularly producing high possession counts. He has also looked dangerous forward of centre, kicking 11 goals.
His fast run and carry style has formed the perfect partnership with captain Jobe Watson, who feeds the inside ball out to Stanton, who, among others, quickly sets up a fast break from the stoppages.
Stopping him could be the first step GWS need to take in order to cause a massive upset.
Although GWS bring back some youthful brilliance in Tom Bugg, Dylan Shiel, Devon Smith and Adam Kennedy, they’re coming in to face a side which has been exceptional all year.
They may rise a level in order to mark the occasion of Skoda Stadium’s grand opening, but it still shouldn’t be anything near enough to trouble a coasting Essendon side.
Essendon by 71
B: Luke Power, Phil Davis, Tomas Bugg
HB: Adam Kennedy, Tim Mohr, Chad Cornes
C: James McDonald, Tom Scully, Dylan Shiel
HF: Adam Treloar, Jeremy Cameron, Curtly Hampton
F: Devon Smith, Israel Folau, Taylor Adams
Foll: Jonathan Giles, Callan Ward, Stephen Coniglio
IC: Sam Darley, Andrew Phillips, Sam Reid, Dom Tyson
EMG: Jacob Townsend, Nathan Wilson, Rhys Palmer
In: Tomas Bugg, Curtly Hampton, Dylan Shiel, Devon Smith, Adam Kennedy, James McDonald
Out: Nathan Wilson, Rhys Palmer, WIlliam Hoskin-Elliot, Matthew Buntine, Adam Tomlinson, Toby Greene (Suspension)
B: Ricky Dyson, Cale Hooker, Jake Carlisle
HB: Kyle Hardingham, Tayte Pears, Courtenay Dempsey
C: Mark McVeigh, Jobe Watson, Brent Stanton
HF: Jake Melksham, Patrick Ryder, Angus Monfries
F: Michael Hurley, Stewart Crameri, David Zaharakis
Foll: Tom Bellchambers, Sam Lonergan, Heath Hocking
IC: Nathan Lovett-Murray, Alwyn Davey, Travis Colyer, Ben Howlett
EMG: David Hille, Henry Slattery, Kyle Reimers
In: Mark McVeigh, Tayte Pears, Travis Colyer
Out: Dustin Fletcher (Groin), Leroy Jetta (Suspension), Dyson Heppell (Knee)
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