Greater Western Sydney will celebrate a 200-gamer and a debutant against St Kilda on Saturday, but the only thing that matters for the AFL surprise packets is proving they’re the real deal.
The Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent years when they shocked cross-town rivals the Sydney Swans in week one, but due to the split round, they’ve now had to wait two weeks for the Saints.
While the extra break has given the young squad a chance to get their feet back on the ground, it also threatens to derail their momentum as they head to Etihad Stadium.
Former Geelong veteran Josh Hunt returns to Melbourne for the first time in different colours for his milestone 200th game, and will be joined on the field by the No.2 pick in last year’s draft, Josh Kelly, who is making his AFL debut.
Dual-premiership winner Hunt has made an immediate effect as the most senior member at the club in the back pocket, and has already put this week’s match in perspective.
Hunt says he’ll enjoy his 200th when the time is right, but for now it’s all about ensuring their Swans masterclass wasn’t a one-hit wonder.
For a fledgling club determined to finally break out of its shell and mix it with the competition’s best sides, the St Kilda clash shapes as one of the most important in the Giants history.
“Obviously the wave of emotion, the excitement that was going through everyone after the game, it probably would have been nice to play the next week and keep going off that,” said Hunt.
“There was a lot surrounding the game afterwards and (the week off) has been a chance for everyone to regroup and concentrate for two weeks on St Kilda.”
Giants coach Leon Cameron said Saints star Nick Riewoldt would be a major danger for his side, but backed young players to step up in the absence of the injured Phil Davis and Rhys Palmer.
One of those rookies is 19-year-old Kelly, who will get his chance in the midfield after strong pre-season and lower-grade form.
Kelly’s father Phil played 61 games for North Melbourne in the 1980s.
“It’s going to be unreal,” he said.
“I’ve waited a long time for this day. But once we get out there it’s not about me.”