The impressive returns of GIANTS AFL-listed duo Darcy Jones and Cooper Hamilton were highlights as the GIANTS went down by a goal to Southport in their VFL practice match on Saturday.

While a back-and-forth contest saw the GIANTS fall short by six points at the final siren, it was the strong return games of Jones and Hamilton that headlined the VFL side’s final hit-out ahead of their season-opener against Footscray this weekend.

Yet to debut for the club after suffering an ACL injury in April last season, Jones was quick to impress against the Sharks in what was the 20-year-old’s first game in 350 days due to the knee injury.

Playing in his natural role as a small forward, Jones’ elite speed, agility, and footy smarts were on full display in an impressive outing against the Sharks.

“Darcy showed what sort of player he’s going to be for us,” VFL head coach Wayne Cripps said.

“He’s obviously extremely dynamic, he’s really clean in tight, and his ability to get out of the contest and get forward is at a high level.

“He’s going to be extremely hard to play on and he’s only going to get better with more continuity with his footy.”

Cripps was also full of praise for Hamilton, with the running machine making his successful return after 335 days on the sidelines due to a stress fracture in his foot suffered last season.

“Cooper slotted straight back into that wing role that he did a really good job in last year and what got him playing AFL football. He hasn’t played a lot of footy obviously but hopefully we can get him back to that level,” Cripps said.

“He’s another one who is only going to get better and better with continuity.”

With a host of young new faces in the GIANTS’ VFL side this season, Cripps was upbeat about the performance against the Sharks as his side prepares to open their 2024 VFL campaign against the Bulldogs at Whitten Oval on Sunday.

“It was really pleasing,” he said.

“Following on from the Sydney practice game [three weeks ago], where we had something like 14-15 guys playing their first game for us, the uptick in all three phases of the game, offence, defence, and stoppage, was probably the most pleasing aspect.

“My message after the game was pretty positive. We know that each week we are going to keep learning, and win or lose, we are going to get better every week.

“The more experience the boys get in our system, the better we are going to be.

“A big focus for us this week is getting better at the little details in all three phases of the game that we want to grow in.”

The GIANTS will open their VFL season in a round one clash with the Bulldogs on Sunday at 12:05pm EDT at Whitten Oval.