Rob Forsaith and David Polkinghorne August 19, 2012
Luke Power is chaired off the ground after joining the 300 club yesterday. ''I was just trying to treat it like any other game,'' he said afterwards. Photo: Getty Images
MELBOURNE 3.4 6.10 9.13 11.18 (84) GWS 2.2 4.4 4.5 9.5 (59)
GOALS Melbourne: Howe 3, Rivers 2, Sellar 2, Trengove 2, Green, Grimes. GWS: Greene 2, Phillips, Smith, McDonald, Davis, Edwards, Scully, Hoskin-Elliott.
BEST Melbourne: Howe, Spencer, Dunn, Trengove,Grimes. GWS: Greene, Power, Adams, Giles, Cornes, Davis.
UMPIRES B Ryan, J Armstrong, D Harris.
CROWD 7561 at Manuka Oval.
POTENTIAL has long been the buzzword accompanying Greater Western Sydney's maiden AFL campaign, but yesterday it was Melbourne coach Mark Neeld who left Canberra with high hopes.
The Demons recorded their first win away from Melbourne in more than a year, a 25-point triumph over GWS at Manuka Oval.
It was a match that failed to hit great heights - with the exception of high-flying Demon Jeremy Howe, who clutched a trademark screamer in the third term and kicked 3.3.
But the Demons did what they had to, securing a 11.18 (84) to 9.5 (59) win and souring Luke Power's 300th game.
Neeld lamented the way his side allowed GWS to make the margin more respectable in the last quarter. But overall, he rated the Demons' fourth win of the year as one for the believers and, pleasingly, a result driven by the club's youth stocks.
''The majority of our players were averaging 60 games per player, which is extremely inexperienced,'' he said. ''There's a lot of alarmist media reporting that goes on.
''We're aware that a lot of people that watch the game have seven-day goggles on, and writing about long-term plans is clearly not sexy.
''But we've certainly made some gains in the second half of the year, there's no doubt.
''Our ball movement, our work at the clearances is improving, as is the way that we're defending.''
The Giants trailed by only two points when young gun Toby Greene goalled in the fifth minute of the second quarter.
Unfortunately for most of the crowd of 7561, the hosts' next goal would come in the sixth minute of the last term through key defender Phil Davis.
This was a clash between two sides anchored to the bottom quarter of the ladder, and in many ways it showed. Turnovers resulted in goals - or behinds, more commonly - and too many passes failed to hit their target. But it was a match with no shortage of feeling. Melbourne's Sam Blease went for Sam Darley's jugular in arguably the most heated of a series of spot fires.
While the snow that GWS coach Kevin Sheedy was hoping for failed to eventuate, a strong wind made the goalposts sway for most of the game.
Power was given a guard of honour after the match by both teams after becoming the 66th man in VFL/AFL history to achieve the milestone.
''It was a special time,'' Sheedy said.
Power, a three-time premiership player with Brisbane, gave a moving speech to his teammates in the rooms after the game.
''Leigh Matthews, who was a great influence on me, always talked about putting yourself in the bubble,'' he said. ''I was just trying to treat it like any other game, but there were a few more text messages on my phone. I was proud of the group, the way we fought it out.''
The result essentially hands the wooden spoon to GWS, with the Giants unlikely to cause an upset in their remaining clashes with St Kilda and North Melbourne.
Sheedy continued to back the struggling code-jumper Israel Folau, who seemed uninterested and had just three possessions - one kick and two handballs - in another dirty day.
To make matters worse, he did not touch the ball until after half-time.
But Sheedy said it would take time for Folau to find his feet, using Sydney Swans ruckman Mike Pyke as an example.
Pyke once played rugby union for Canada before signing up with the Swans. This year he has started to emerge as a genuine AFL ruckman.
''It's taken a guy like Pyke four years,'' Sheedy said. ''Everybody here expects him to be an absolute superstar straight away. It doesn't happen.''
ON THEIR BIKE
Melbourne seemed to run out of legs in the last quarter, possibly it could be attributed to former national cycling coach Charlie Walsh who worked with the Demons last week. Melbourne sports performance director Neil Craig is an avid believer in Walsh's abilities after the pair worked together at Adelaide when Craig was coach.
US ambassador Jeffrey Bleich has fallen in love with Aussie rules since he was appointed to the embassy in Australia. That love's only increased after he spent the first quarter in the coach's box with GWS coach Kevin Sheedy.
WILL HE POWER ON?
The Giants flew Luke Power's parents down for his 300th AFL game and his dad, Kevin, spoke at the half-time function. He said his son would only play on next year if it was in the best interests of the club. After today's 25-possession effort the evidence would suggest he should.
Another day, another big mark. Jeremy Howe's third-quarter effort was a rare highlight in a fairly dismal game of football that never really got going. While yesterday's effort won't win him a car, it continued to win him fans.
MARK OF RESPECT
Melbourne wore black armbands and both coaches paid tributes to Ray ''Slug'' Jordan, who died last week. Both Demons mentor Mark Neeld and Sheedy had nothing but praise for the work Slug did, especially with young footballers. - DAVID POLKINGHORNE