The West

Mark Duffield: Blinded by all of the positive light
Israel Folau in action against the Swans. Pic: Getty Images

Denis Pagan used to call playing pre-season matches like dancing with your sister.

Playing games you are given no chance of winning is a bit the same. The four points are not so much on the line as out of reach and, with the pressure of winning off you can pretty much take what you want from the result and discard the rest.

That's what we have seen from clubs in the season build-up for years - the winners telling us it is important to win and develop the habit, the losers telling us it is all about getting ready for round one: "We were good at X today, we have got room for improvement in Y."

Get ready for a season of that with new team Greater Western Sydney, who were far from disgraced in their AFL debut against Sydney at ANZ Stadium, but even further from victory.

I am still scratching my head at how the AFL hierarchy arrived at the conclusion that a foregone conclusion was the best way to start a bumper season, but at least the Giants youngsters held their end of the bargain up. They came to play and their 63-point loss to Sydney was a far cry from Carlton's 119-point romp against Gold Coast in 2011. That said, let's be a little more measured with the positive noises about the Giants than Channel 7's commentary team doing the game, who were declaring James McDonald's hit on Luke Parker in the opening quarter a great piece of leadership.

McDonald, who ran by the ball and collected Parker high, will get two weeks for that piece of leadership unless the AFL's match review panel has taken leave of its senses.

The good news for McDonald is that we often talk about precedents in relation to tribunal cases and there are clear precedents of the AFL's judicial process taking leave of its senses.

Before the tribunal overhaul a few years ago it was almost a weekly event. And at least McDonald, who retired from the game last season, will be able to claim a 12-month clean record.

How you ended up rating the Giants' first-up effort really depends on whether you wanted to be positive or negative. On the positive side, they slugged it out with one of the competition's best contested-ball teams. Their 155 to 139 loss in that pivotal area of the game was a terrific effort from a team that included 17 debutants.

Every Giants player earned at least three of his touches in a contest. It was clearly an emphasis from Kevin Sheedy or Mark Williams, depending on who you think is really coaching the team, and they had to have been pleased with that statistic.

Israel Folau disposed of the ball only three times but he won four contested possessions.

Folau reminds me of Nic Naitanui four years ago. The only problem with that is that four years ago Naitanui was 18 and cutting his teeth in the WAFL. Folau is 22 and trying to cut his teeth in the AFL.

Still, Naitanui averaged under 10 touches in 10 games in 2009, his first year in the AFL. The three goals he kicked against Hawthorn to win a match were memorable but were the only three goals he kicked that year.

Folau has further to develop than any Giants player but still has hope.

Like Naitanui in his embryonic phase, he understands a contest, even if he is yet to grasp the game.

But this was still a smashing, albeit one carried out by a team not known for kicking big scores. The Swans finished sixth last year but were 10th in points for.

They took the ball inside their attacking 50m arc 71 times to 28, held the Giants to a single point in the third term and two goals after half-time, stats you won't hear quoted by those intent on giving them a completely positive review.

Folau reminds me of Nic Naitanui four years ago. The only problem with that is that four years ago Naitanui was 18 and cutting his teeth in the WAFL. "

The West Australian

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