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GWS Giants’ 52-point win over Eagles to kickstart new era

Greater Western Sydney have started their new era under Mark McVeigh in style with a 52-point thumping of West Coast at Giants Stadium.

The Giants outclassed the undermanned Eagles from the opening bounce to give McVeigh the best possible start as interim coach with a 21.12 (138) to 13.8 (86) AFL victory on Sunday.

The Eagles will be sweating on the fitness of Luke Shuey after the captain was substituted out of the match in the final term.

Both teams were missing several stars, especially after the Giants made nine changes to their team from last week, but the hosts settled quicker with four unanswered goals in the opening nine minutes that set the tone.

The Giants went on to post their highest first-half score since round 4, 2016 – and their second-highest ever – to lead 14.3 to 5.4 at the main break, as much a sign of the low-pressure, free-flowing nature of the contest as an obvious overhaul of the game plan.

The much more identifiable change made by McVeigh and the coaching group that now includes his former Essendon teammates James Hird and Dean Solomon was to switch Harry Himmelberg from the forward line to defence.

Himmelberg looked comfortable in the backline and enjoyed the freedom to launch some torpedoes when kicking in after behinds, with one long bomb in the second term flying beyond the centre circle.

He was also able to add to the 17 goals he had already booted this season, after a 50m penalty on the wing set up a shot from the 50m arc that Himmelberg slotted.

With Himmelberg pushed to the backline, Jarrod Brander spent more time forward in his third match for the Giants since being delisted by the Eagles at the end of last season. 

Brander finished with 16 disposals and a goal against the club that drafted him from the Giants Academy with a first-round pick in 2017.

Stephen Coniglio starred in an onball role with 36 disposals at 92 per cent efficiency, while fellow co-captain Josh Kelly (29 disposals) continued his strong form in the Giants midfield. Harry Perryman (30 touches, one goal) was also influential with his polished ball-use and run.

The Giants shared the goals around with youngster James Peatling kicking three majors and six players including Toby Greene and Jesse Hogan finishing with two.

“We were happy with certain parts, there were some parts that we still need to educate our players on,” McVeigh said.

“We were happy with the way (the players) approached the game, in the manner that we would like, and we wanted to move the ball quicker and we wanted to be a little bit more daring.”

Tim Kelly (23 disposals) and Jack Redden (20) battled hard in the Eagles midfield and Alex Witherden (18) looked to provide some run out of defence but they were ultimately short on support.

Andrew Gaff made a slow start on his return to the Eagles’ line-up with only five disposals in the first half before spending more time onball to finish with 19 touches.

Shuey was returning from a hamstring injury to play his first match since round seven and gathered 16 touches from limited game time until being subbed out with what Eagles officials believe is not a recurrence of the same issue.

“It’s not a hamstring. It’s back-related, the message was his back was getting really tight. Long flight, all that stuff, it’s nothing to do with a hamstring,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said.

Isiah Winder booted three goals while Jamie Cripps, Hugh Dixon and Jake Waterman each kicked two to keep the scoreboard respectable in the second-half but the final margin means the bottom-placed Eagles have now lost their past six matches by an average of 76 points.

The Giants face a tougher test when they take on Brisbane at the Gabba on Saturday while the Eagles will play Western Bulldogs at home that night.

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