Greater Western Sydney’s AFL debut is set to be even more horrific than Gold Coast’s last year, with coach Kevin Sheedy forced to debut 16 players.
Injuries to co-captain Luke Power, Dean Brogan, Tom Scully and Setanta O’hAilpin leaves the Giants just six players with AFL experience for this Saturday’s inaugural match against Sydney at ANZ Stadium.
The Suns last year took twelve new players into its first match, a 119 point loss to Carlton, but they were accompanied by established players in each part of the field.
Led by captain Gary Ablett, defender Campbell Brown and forward Jared Brennan, the older Suns drew opposition attention away from the rookie players. GWS’ debutants will get no such respite with Callan Ward and Rhys Palmer, 60 and 53 games respectively, the only significant experienced players.
Undoubtedly, Sydney will carve up and probably embarrass their opposition; just how bad the damage is the question.
‘We just can’t run out there and expect we’re going to play against the talent of this club, the Swans,’ Sheedy told the Herald Sun.
‘We’ve got to work it so we can actually manipulate this game… to make it a real arm wrestle and minute by minute, quarter by quarter, see what we are capable of as a club,’ said Sheedy.
Key to curtailing the onslaught will be some of GWS’ older debutants. 24-year-old Jonathan Giles spent four seasons at Port Adelaide without playing a game before the Giants gave him a lifeline. With the injury to Brogan, Giles will lead the ruck this week.
Sheedy said it is credit to former Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams and others who pushed for a second chance for Giles.
‘He came from Sturt footy club and he’s played 100 games of SANFL footy and played in the NEAFL last year,’ said Sheedy. ‘It’s a great story.’
‘I’m much better for those four years – for experience and for building up a better body and maturity and all that,’ Giles said.
Israel Folau’s 100kg frame will also make a physical impact in the Giants’ forward line. While Folau’s ball skills are still under development, his tackling and running ability will have the Swans wary.
Luke Power said yesterday the media’s focus on Folau had thankfully taken attention away from the other younger Giants’ debutants.
‘Izzy is a big guy and he can take that pressure and his improvement is really good,’ said Power. ‘But we won’t be judging him as anything but a first-year player’.
‘It would be unfair for us to internally have too big expectations on him. But we’re hoping he’ll come out and contribute.’
The same can be said for GWS’ season, with its youthful list in for a serious initiation to AFL. Contribution, not wins, will dictate its success.