Andrew Gaff has given the AFL’s latest State of Origin concept his tick of approval, declaring the pace and intensity of Friday night’s bushfire relief match at the perfect levels to prepare players for the regular season.
The prolific Victoria wingman was one of three West Coast stars who missed the preseason series hit-out against Essendon to play at Marvel Stadium, pulling on the Big V for the first time at senior level.
“A lot of guys only have one more game before round one and this is my first official practice game as such, so we don’t really have the opportunity to muck around and go easy,” Gaff said.
“We’ve got to be pretty intense and when you’ve got all those good players around the ball you get exposed if you go half-hearted.
“No doubt it probably was a lot more uncontested (than a regular game) for most of the game and it opened up in the second half.”
Gaff, who missed out on West Coast’s 2018 premiership through suspension, has enjoyed a full pre-season program as he prepares to chase flag glory.
The Eagles are widely expected to be amongst the leading contenders again this season, beginning their flag tilt against Melbourne at Optus Stadium on March 22.
“You always need a bit of luck throughout summer and I haven’t missed too much,” Gaff said.
“The body is feeling good and I think quite a few boys are in the same boat back in WA.
“Apart from (Jeremy) McGovern and (Jack) Darling we’re pretty much full steam ahead, and those guys will be back pretty soon.”
Gaff relished the opportunity to play for his home state and enjoyed the support from the majority of fans in Melbourne, unlike when he plays for West Coast.
He kicked two goals from 17 disposals – only one of which didn’t find its target – but said his highlight of the night was teammate Patrick Dangerfield’s effort to keep the ball in play on half-forward during the final term.
Dangerfield’s lunge evoked memories’ of Carlton legend Wayne Harmes’ famous dive in the 1979 VFL grand final.
Unfortunately, Marcus Bontempelli couldn’t complete the passage of play with a goal.
“Paddy Dangerfield’s ‘Wayne Harmes’ on the boundary was pretty good and I think Bont stuffed it up with that snap,” Gaff said.
“It would’ve brought the house down.”