FOUR decades after the Americans put a man on the moon the AFL put on a triptych of football matches in the remote outlands of western Sydney.
The event featured a team from the now establishment club the Sydney Swans, new outfit the Gold Coast Suns and local lads the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
It was held at Blacktown Olympic Park complex opposite legendary landmark The Rooty Hill -- a good 50km drive from the CBD.
While the AFL will be delighted 10,000 people showed up -- just 2000 fewer than the crowd attracted to an NRL pre-season game being played at Campbelltown in the southwest -- they realise that they need to be more than a curiosity.
The night, while only a pre-season cup, was compelling because it gave the first hints of how two great experiments would work: AFL football in league territory and a league player in AFL territory.
All eyes were on the Suns' code convert Karmichael Hunt, who is the personification of the entire expansion experiment.
The poor man did not even have the cover of Gary Ablett -- a different kind of convert -- making his first appearance for his adopted outfit to distract crowd and pundits. The former Geelong star was at the ground but kept a low profile. He didn't play and won't play next weekend either according to coach Guy McKenna.
Hunt didn't stand out and that was a high achievement in itself.
Twelve months ago he pulled up short of the mark and exhausted before the game was done, but his slimmer frame and better aerobic capacity was obvious on a night when the temperature was in the mid to high 30s.
His head must have been spinning after the Swans rotated the tall Daniel Currie and then the small but speedy Ben McGlynn off him in the opening minutes of the first match, but he was not flustered. "The tall lad was pretty good overhead so I obviously had to body up on him, but the shorter boy I played on ran me around a bit," Hunt said.
In passages during the second half the former league star found himself on Adam Goodes and while he was comprehensively outmarked in one contest, there was no shame in that as the dual Brownlow medallist has been doing that to born and bred AFL players for his whole career.
Mostly Hunt held his own. He seemed to know where he was and what he was doing.
Other latecomers to the code like the Swans' Mike Pyke or Lewis Roberts-Thomson have had moments in their development where they seem to have lost orientation, but the Suns' convert seemed to know where to be and what to do next at all times.
He ran to good places to receive the ball when the switch out of defence was on, when he had the ball he used it well with hands and feet, he understood to use his strength against the talls and speed against the others.
Perhaps the best sign of Hunt's "football smarts" was his use of the shepherd when not in possession -- a value-adding act but one that would have seen him penalised in his original code.
"He seemed to handle himself really well," Swans coach John Longmire said yesterday. "He seemed to be able to compete when he needed to.
"He's got a step on him, which is a bit like Kieren Jack and Craig Bird who has played a bit of league and union. They can step.
"He stepped in front of us at one stage so from that point of view he has a couple of tricks."
Hunt seemed relieved with his game, even happy, which prompted McKenna to jokingly question if he wasn't getting a bit complacent.
The Suns were impressive in their hit-out against the Swans, but as it was only a NAB Cup match -- added to the fact that the bonus for winning meant a gruelling trip to Perth next weekend -- it was hard to know how good they really were.
"I thought their workload in the first game (against the Swans) was excellent," McKenna said, but he was disappointed they dropped away in the second.
The coach said he thought the biggest challenge facing his side was keeping its concentration and intensity up for entire games during its first season in the AFL.
"Some will ebb and flow, some will be able do it for games, some will do it for quarters," he said.
"They will float in and float out. That's what you see in young kids. I don't think our side is going to be any different. It will probably get magnified because we don't have many senior players to cover up those flat spots."
One small step for the Suns was mirrored by one gigantic step for the AFL and the Giants who had their first hit-out.
The majority of its list was born in 1983 and the rest of the year will be spent competing in lower competitions. But the kids were given a chance to play against the Swans and the Suns and the experience was invaluable.
They were kept goal-less and comprehensively thrashed in the first game by Sydney. Given an hour to lick their wounds they returned to face the Suns in the third game a much improved outfit.
Hesitant and unsure in the first game, they resolved to be braver and bolder and did just that, kicking four goals against the Suns.
Comparing the Suns and the Giants you could see the leaps in physical strength young men can make in 12 months and also the assurance the inclusion of wise heads like Gold Coast's Campbell Brown, Josh Fraser and the likes can make.
McKenna said the differences are pretty clear and time is on the side of the western Sydney outfit.
"They looked impressive," McKenna said. "They moved the ball very quickly. They are obviously a very quick side and we were a bit like that last year ourselves.
"They looked good. They had great support, great jumpers and they are certainly where they should be that is for sure.
"We (used the 12 months) to get our boys to look like men, but our greatest challenge now is to get them to think like men. You can't fast forward that.
"Tonight we did a bit because we played against Sydney but our greatest learning curve last year was playing in the VFL and I am sure they (Giants) will go through that."
While Mark Williams is directing the Giants on the field, Kevin Sheedy is running the show off it and he was happy with the experience.
"I thought we played better in the last six or seven minutes of that first game," Sheedy said. "They were just getting the hang of how hard this game is.
"They were much better in the second match where it was three goals each at half-time and a real contest between two teams and I thought that was important from our club's point of view."
And the AFL suits who had made their way up from Melbourne for the night seemed pleased with everything, but that might have been because they were so far from that other town and its latest St Kilda schoolgirl debacle.
In western Sydney, no one can hear you scream. Sometimes that's a good thing.
* Story courtesy of Peter Lalor at The Australian