Once Upon a Time in Wagga Wagga
By the time Sunday’s game at Robertson Oval rolls around, it’ll have been 2,199 days since the GIANTS’ AFL team last played in Wagga Wagga.
And when they say a week is a long time in football, it means six years is an absolute eternity.
The GIANTS team to take the field this weekend will be almost unrecognisable to the side that last ran out against St Kilda in Wagga Wagga on the eve of the club’s third season.
Shane Mumford, Heath Shaw, Josh Hunt, Dylan Addison and Jed Lamb were probably still learning the names of their new team mates following their first summer in Western Sydney after careers elsewhere in the competition.
Future stars of the club such as Jeremy Cameron, Stephen Coniglio and Nick Haynes hardly cut the same muscular figures as they do today.
The NAB Challenge (as it was known back then) match was seen as one of the club’s brightest days. Yes, it was a pre-season match but it’s worth remembering that the club was coming off a one-win season in 2013.
With Leon Cameron still finding his groove in the coach’s seat having taken over from Kevin Sheedy in the off-season, the GIANTS showed glimpses of the attacking flare they would become renowned for in the years to come.
With plenty of support from the locals behind them, the men in orange and charcoal kicked a remarkable five super goals (goals kicked from outside 50 worth nine points) for the afternoon, including three off the boot of Dylan Shiel who now wears the red sash of Essendon.
There were familiar faces everywhere including on the opposition side with Lenny Hayes, who now oversees the midfield in his role as a GIANTS Assistant Coach, playing for the Saints until the third term when the star midfielder left the field with a hamstring injury.
The healthy crowd on the beautiful autumn afternoon no doubt including plenty of budding Riverina stars, perhaps even a young Harry Himmelberg, Matthew Flynn, Harry Perryman or Alyce Parker who would go on to represent the club in the years to come were in attendance.
For the record, the GIANTS downed the Saints by 68 points and went on to win six games in the 2014 season.
The GIANTS take on Richmond at Robertson Oval on Sunday, March 8 at 12:40pm. Tickets are available through Ticketek.com.au.