The GIANTS have started their 2024 VFL campaign in tough fashion after losing a late lead to go down by 17 points in an entertaining encounter with Footscray at Whitten Oval on Sunday afternoon.

With both sides fielding 11 AFL-listed players, the GIANTS fell to an early three-goal deficit but blitzed the Dogs across the next two terms to take firm control before the home side bit back with a clutch final term to register a 14.14 (98) to 12.9 (81) win.

Down by 21 points late in the first term, the GIANTS piled on five of the next six majors to see out the first half as Matt Harms (three goals) and Max Gruzewski (two goals) capitalised to give the visitors an unlikely six-point half-time lead.

The Orange Tsunami continued to surge in the third term as a three goal to one quarter saw them kick 10 of the last 13 goals to hold a comfortable 17-point advantage entering the final term despite the performance of Bulldog Jack Macrae, who was running riot.

But despite the GIANTS’ dominance across the middle two terms, the Dogs got off the leash in the final stanza with a ferocious 6.4 to one goal straight performance as Footscray finished in a flurry to flush out any chance of a GIANTS win.

Dashing defender Josh Fahey (30 touches, five tackles) did his chances of a senior recall no harm in the tough loss as did Harry Rowston (24 touches, five tackles, eight clearances), while Wade Derksen (21 touches, 12 marks) impressed in his new role down back.

Fellow AFL-listed GIANTS Conor Stone (12 touches, two goals) and Gruzewski (nine touches, two goals) also had their moments while Darcy Jones (16 touches, a goal) was lively as he kicked his first major in his first official game back from his ACL injury.

Marc Sheather (21 touches, seven tackles, four clearances and a goal) also performed strongly in his GIANTS debut.

Despite the slow start, it was the GIANTS who landed the first blow on Sunday with Derksen and Fahey starting a nice piece of transition play from the back half which resulted in the first of Harms’ three majors.

The momentum was short-lived however as Lobb responded for the home side and the Bulldogs made it four on the trot to push the lead to a game-high 21 points.

Harms responded for the GIANTS soon after with a beautiful snap from the boundary as the Dogs held a 14-point lead at the first break on the back of a dominance in possession - with Footscray holding a 128-69 advantage in the disposal tally as Macrae ran riot with 14 touches in a sign of things to come.

Fahey (eight touches) and Derksen (seven touches, five marks) were strong down back in the first term for the GIANTS.

The Dogs extended their lead back to 21 points early in the second through Lobb’s second before Nick Madden, Harms, Gruzewski and Sheather combined to slot five of the next six majors to give the GIANTS a one-goal buffer at the half.

The GIANTS picked up from they left off in the third term as Toby McMullin kicked truly before Lachlan Keeffe and Stone continued the Orange Tsunami’s surge to hold what appeared to be a comfortable 17-point lead at the last break.

However, it was all the Bulldogs in the final term as they kicked three goals inside the first nine minutes to snatch back the lead and were never troubled from there.

The GIANTS have a bye in round two and with no games scheduled across Gather Round, their next match is against Sandringham at Manuka Oval on April 13.

VFL Round 1

Footscray: 4.4  7.6  8.10  14.14  (98)
GIANTS:     2.2  8.6  11.9   12.9   (81)


GIANTS: Harms 3, Stone 2, Gruzewski 2, Sheather, McMullin, Madden, Keeffe, Jones
Footscray: Lobb 4, Spicer 3, Garcia 2, Stretton, Jones, Craig-Peters, Clarke, Bedendo