The signing of James McDonald to Greater Western Sydney is a great story for football. It’s a story that should have been more prevalent with the Gold Coast when they entered the competition this year. Only Daniel Harris of the Sun’s mature recruits had been out of the system for a year, had played more than 100 games of AFL yet still managed to return to their list.
McDonald, the former Melbourne captain will join the Giants next year as a player coach. With the potential of a further announcement soon regarding Luke Power joining in a similar role, it’s a positive move by the Giants. A couple of senior experienced bodies and respected leaders with their former AFL clubs, mixed with the younger uncontracted recruits (Scully, Ward, Davis, Palmer) and drafted teenagers is a great formula. The elder players can be on the field teaching what will still be a very young side.
Despite turning 35 in October this year McDonald will be an invaluable addition to GWS. Commentating many of his appearances for Old Xavierians in the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) on Melbourne Radio Station 96.5 Inner FM I have watched first hand the leadership, ball winning ability and decision making in traffic as McDonald and Xavierians cut up opposition on their march to the finals.
Unfortunately McDonald won’t be playing in Sunday’s Grand Final. Old Xav’s lost their Preliminary Final last Sunday and McDonald misses the chance to add to the VAFA premiership he won with the club back in 1996.
McDonald’s signing is also a tribute to the standard of football being played in the Victorian Amateur Football Association. Recently a friend who has strong connections with one of the prominent suburban semi-professional leagues in Melbourne came to a game of amateur football and commented that football on display was of superior quality than their league.
Whilst many predict the Giants will struggle to replicate what the Suns did this year in winning three games, it might be worth considering that the Giants could in fact do better. The Giants have had the chance to sit back and watch the way the Suns have gone about this year.
The Giants won’t make the finals next year, but it is exciting to see what they will be able to do when they officially become the 18th team in the national competition of the AFL. With names like McDonald in the team they will learn very quickly.
Finally if you have time at 2pm on Sunday 18th September, come down to Sportscover Arena in Elsternwick, Melbourne to watch this year's VAFA Premier Grand Final between Collegians and St Bedes Mentone Tigers, to watch some high quality local football. If you can't get there, tune in to 96.5 Inner FM or stream it on the net here.