Giants welcome back old heads

The pending return of Heath Shaw and Callan Ward for Greater Western Sydney this week would be a welcome injection of experience after the AFL’s youngest roster featured 19 players with fewer than 50 games in their defeat to the Crows last round.

With Phil Davis on the long-term injury list, Shane Mumford sidelined with a knee problem, Dylan Addison omitted, Shaw out with a hamstring strain and Ward concussed in the second quarter at Adelaide Oval, the Giants, having gained so much from the addition of seasoned signings this season, had only Josh Hunt and Tom Scully offering genuine know-how against the likes of the fired-up Patrick Dangerfield and 250-gamer Scott Thompson.

Coach Leon Cameron will name his side on Thursday for the clash with Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Saturday and said at training on Wednesday that, though Mumford was another week away, Shaw and Ward were all but certain to be included.

“We don’t want to always use it as an excuse, but the facts are we do play a better brand of football and we’re well prepared when we have more experience in our side,” Cameron said.

“Heath provides that, Shane provides that, Stephen Gilham provides that when he gets his opportunity, Dylan Addison provides that. It’s form also, but having the experience in helps the young guys to not panic as much when things aren’t going right.

“When Cal went off we lost our captain but also a hundred-game player. You look around and Josh Hunt and Tom Scully are the remaining guys [with genuine experience]. To not have that leadership in the middle of the ground, where they dominated with Dangerfield and Thompson, it did hurt us. I don’t think it was the turning point. I think they were probably well on top at that stage. But it does have an effect on the group.”

Pleasingly, Cameron added, the team’s core of third-year players offered better one-on-one defence to make the hosts work hard until the end, whereas similar circumstances would previously have lead to a blow-out – the Giants lost games to Adelaide in 2012 and 2013 by more than 100 points.

Shaw said the missing experience might have contributed to the loss. But, like Cameron, he didn’t want to make excuses.

“I think over this pre-season and the first few games the guys have improved out of sight,” Shaw said. “The game plans are going to change no matter who’s playing or who’s not. So we expect guys to stand up every week. It was a good learning curve last week.”

While it’s not the Anzac Day clash he might have been preparing for had he still been at Collingwood, nor does it have the rivalry feel of a Giants-Swans game, Shaw said there was an air of expectation about GWS taking on the Suns.

“You look at where they’ve come from and we want to follow their program,” he said.

“They’ve progressed and improved every year. We definitely want to do that. They’ve knocked off some finals contenders last year and coming into this year, they’re in some good form and it’s a great test for us and this young group.”

Cameron said fans could expect an attacking-style contest, an antidote to the recent discussion over games becoming too congested.

“We like to hit the scoreboard, we like to move the ball pretty quickly,” the coach said. “And the Suns do the same thing. They’re a year ahead of us in terms of coming into the competition, so it’s good to play against the Gold Coast. We look forward to it.”

The story Giants welcome back old heads first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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