SETANTA O'hAilpin had a dress rehearsal to fill a key defensive post for Greater Western Sydney yesterday.
The Irishman, who was recruited from Carlton, played the last quarter down back in the Giants reserves' 18-point loss to Eastlake in the North East AFL at Manuka Oval yesterday.
Eastlake beat the Giants 15.13 (103) to 13.7 (85).
GWS's experience down back has been depleted this week with veteran Chad Cornes and mature-age recruit Tim Mohr missing from the clash with the Western Bulldogs yesterday.
Key position player, O'hAilpin (three goals) is comfortable at either end of the ground, as well as in the ruck.
Giants reserves coach Brett Hand said O'hAilpin (calf) was progressing nicely in his return from injury and his recovery would determine whether he makes his Giants senior debut next week.
''He was great for us in the forward line in the first half and we wanted to see him in the second half down back, and he showed some signs and that was good for him,'' Hand said.
''He got through that game very well and it's just a matter of how he recovers. He's had some pretty serious injuries so it's about his body. He's not far away for sure.''
The Giants started well, getting out to an 11-point lead at quarter-time but a five-goal-to-one second term gave the Demons the lead that they held to the end.
GWS kept coming at Eastlake but they were unable to contain Aaron Bruce (seven goals) and his three last-quarter goals iced the game.
Eastlake coach Anthony Bourke praised the former Sydney Swans rookie for stepping up in an injury-depleted forward line.
Aaron Wiles was dominant through the middle and Bourke thought his onballer's ability to nullify the Giants running game was the key to the win.
''Brucey was great. Our midfielders [were also great with] their work in there. GWS have some good, big, young ruckmen who hit to advantage a lot and our ruckmen battled well to try and negate that advantage,'' Bourke said.
''But it was our midfield work and some of the structures that they put in place to try and at least 50-50 most of those contests were really important for us.''
Hand was pleased with the way his young team applied itself, especially Liam Sumner, ruckman Andrew Phillips and Nick Haynes (three goals), but felt a lack of composure under pressure was costly in the end.
''The way we came out in the third quarter and we actually played some very good footy, we just couldn't sustain it for the last bit … a few tired legs and decision making under a bit of fatigue hurt us - kicking short to options and not choosing the right one,'' Hand said.