Giants no match for Bombers' midfield
Giants v Bombers
A section of the crowd. Photo: Graham Tidy
A knock to Callan Ward's head in the first quarter highlighted the Greater Western Sydney co-captain's importance to his young team's engine room.
The Giants struggled against a classy Essendon midfield containing Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson, going down by 91 points - 1.16.14 (119) to 4.4 (28) - at Manuka Oval on Friday night.
It was Canberra's first taste of AFL under the new $5million lights but they were about the only things to sparkle for the crowd of 8044 in hot and humid conditions.
The win was set up by a first-half Bombers blitz, leading by 50 at the main break, before adding four goals in the final term to finish it off.
GWS coach Kevin Sheedy said it was always going to be tough against a quality Bombers unit.
He wasn't sure whether Ward would play next week against St Kilda, but said he'd be right for round one against Sydney.
''They've picked up a [Brendon] Goddard, we lose a Ward, it throws out our team … when you've got a [Patty] Ryder or a [Tom] Bellchambers sitting in there with three pretty experienced players, it's pretty good for the Bombers, I think they've got it right there,'' Sheedy said.
A positive for Sheedy was full-back Tim Mohr's job on Michael Hurley, keeping the Bombers forward goalless.
But the Bombers dominated the battle of the midfield, with Bellchambers and Ryder (two goals) dominating the ruck and the Bombers midfield running rampant in the first half. Watson, Brent Stanton and Dyson Heppell did as they pleased.
Of the trio, Heppell's game would have pleased coach James Hird the most.
His attack on the ball led indirectly to Heath Hocking's goal in the second term, before he found Bellchambers free inside 50.
He looks ready to take the step to the next level and will be a valuable ally to captain Watson in the middle, who also put in a dominant shift.
''Heppell, Goddard, Watson, [Ben] Howlett, [Heath] Hocking, it's shaping up to be a good midfield,'' Hird said. ''Throw Nathan Lovett-Murray in there and David Myers as well [and] we have got some depth there and some quality users of the ball.''
Sam Frost played almost a lone hand up forward for the Giants, who really struggled to find a way to goal.
But it wasn't unexpected as they rested their main attacking avenues - Jeremy Cameron, Jonathon Patton and Jonathan Giles.
Until half-time Curtley Hampton and Phil Davis were the Giants' best ball winners, not surprisingly playing in defence, before they were both sent forward for a spell in the second half.
Without Ward the Giants' midfield struggled to get their hands on the ball, although Taylor Adams and Toby Greene battled manfully.
By the first break, the visitors were out to a commanding 37-point lead.
From there it was all about fitness and Essendon working on its running game.
The lead was out to 50 points by the main break - not surprisingly with the Bombers having almost 100 more touches than their younger opponents.