Giants defeat Gold Coast as Ben King returns for Suns

Martin Pegan |

Greater Western Sydney have given new coach Adam Kingsley an early taste of success with a 45-point triumph over Gold Coast as Ben King made a successful return from a season on the sidelines.

King was playing his first competitive match for the Suns since a knee reconstruction last year and kicked the opening goal, but it was the Giants that looked more polished in the AFL practice match with a 19.8 (122) to 12.5 (77) victory on Saturday.

Emerging midfielders Tom Green and Finn Callaghan were among the standouts as the Giants withstood an early challenge then raced away in the second half at Blacktown International Sportspark.

Onballer Green was dominant around the stoppages with 34 disposals and seven clearances, but also worked hard to find open spaces and looks primed for a breakout season.

“He’s a really big guy playing a midfielder spot. He’s great in the contest, creative with his hands, brings others into the game,” Kingsley said.

“He was terrific last week in the intraclub and again today I thought he played a terrific game.”

Callaghan (22 touches, two goals) seems set to make his mark after an injury-riddled first season with the Giants, comfortably stepping into a midfield role after the departures of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper.

The clash was Kingsley’s first competitive match in charge of the Giants after the club decided to hold an intraclub last week.

A host of Giants returned to more familiar roles after being shifted around the field last season, including Harry Himmelberg (three goals) back in the forward 50 alongside Jake Riccardi (four) and Jesse Hogan (two).

Lachie Whitfield (25 disposals) and Lachie Ash (30) again playing across half-back were particularly effective and hinted at how the Giants will look to move the ball this year.

The Suns matched the Giants for much of the first half but swung the changes at the main break with King among the players then rested.

King got through a first competitive hit-out since tearing an ACL last year unscathed, though he had limited impact after the early goal when up against the Giants All-Australian defender Sam Taylor.

“He looked sharp but we were pretty set on just playing him around 40 minutes, and he’s done a lot of work so we expect him to have a good season,” Suns coach Stuart Dew said.

“He’s had those two quarters but he’s also done a lot of match simulation and drills and fitness, so I can’t see why we wouldn’t pick him in round one.”

Off-season recruit Ben Long gave the Suns a glimpse of what to expect with a soaring grab over Riccardi and looked comfortable across half-back.

Charlie Constable was another useful addition to the Suns’ defence and staked a claim for a round-one berth with Wil Powell and Lachie Weller still working their way back from injury.

Sam Flanders impressed with a team-high 30 disposals and all but locked in a spot in the Suns’ starting line-up even with skipper Touk Miller and experienced winger Brandon Ellis set to return.

GWS will host Adelaide at Giants Stadium in round one, while Gold Coast will be back home to take on Sydney.