Andrew Demetriou’s farewell AFL season has begun with a bang the chief executive could hardly have dared dream of.
Having expansion clubs Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast score victories on the same weekend for the first time sent a clear warning to rivals of added depth to the competition in 2014.
GWS youngster Lachie Whitfield admitted on Sunday it wasn’t till three-quarter-time that he and his teammates really believed they could beat crosstown rivals Sydney for the first time in five derby clashes on Saturday.
In game where Sydney’s multi-million signing Lance Franklin managed just one goal, one behind, seven touches and four marks, third-year club GWS then made believers of many others as they kicked six unanswered goals in the final term to win 15.9 (99) to Sydney’s 9.13 (67).
A few hours later, Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett led the way with a staggering 41-possession, two-goal performance in his fourth-year side’s 12.15 (87) to 10.9 (69) triumph over Richmond, their third in four attempts against the Tigers.
Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna celebrated the landmark day for the league.
It was Gold Coast’s 15th win from 67 games, while for the Giants it was their fourth victory from 45 attempts.
“We understand where we’re coming from, both clubs,” McKenna said.
“To stand up and swing with the big boys, that’s what it’s all about.
“We’re going to have ups and downs just like any other club and it’s fantastic for the Giants.
“It’s a great start for AFL football and a great start for the expansion clubs.”
GWS coach Leon Cameron hailed the milestone moment for his club after seeing off competition heavyweights Sydney.
But he was also quick to urge caution for his troops ahead of their round-two clash on March 29 at Etihad Stadium.
“It was a significant day in our footy club yesterday,” said Cameron on Sunday.
“To play against our cross-town rivals and finally put up our first win against them, fantastic. That was just a war of attrition. It was great for our families and fans to see that.
“The challenge for our young group, we come up against St Kilda in a couple of weeks and we need to bring that energy and hard effort that we brought (against Sydney),” Cameron said on Sunday.
GWS ruckman Shane Mumford won the hitouts 45-34 and the disposals’ tally 13-10 in his personal battle with former Sydney teammate Mike Pyke.
A premiership player with the Swans in 2012, Mumford was enthusiastic about the Giants’ chances of improving on their tally of one win in 2013.
“Just how hard they’ve worked, over the next few years who knows where we could end up,” Mumford said on Sunday.
“We pushed one of the top sides yesterday, so over the next few years I definitely see us pushing the top sides all the way.”
The season opened on Friday night as last year’s runners-up Fremantle made Collingwood look second-rate, running away with a 70-point win at Etihad Stadium 17.14 (116) to 5.16 (46).
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick took a swipe at his young midfielders after his team’s loss to the Gold Coast.
“I thought I’d get more out of Reece Conca and Brandon Ellis,” Hardwick said.
Make your contribution to independent news
A donation of any size to InDaily goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. South Australia needs more than one voice to guide it forward, and we’d truly appreciate your contribution. Please click below to donate to InDaily.