New Greater Western Sydney coach Leon Cameron is challenging his exciting crop of third-year players to accelerate their development in a team which needs to stop leaking goals.
Encouraging pre-season performances against Sydney and St Kilda have raised expectations the Giants will be a far more competitive outfit than the youthful punching bag which won just three games in total in their first two AFL seasons.
Snaring forward Tom Boyd and midfielder Josh Kelly with the first two picks from last year’s draft has ensured GWS continue to add top young talent, while consciously going after more experienced players from winning cultures.
They missed out on Lance Franklin, but a post-season shopping spree netted five players with a combined tally of almost 570 AFL appearances.
Three of them were premiership winners in defenders Heath Shaw (Collingwood) and Josh Hunt (Geelong) and former Sydney ruckman Shane Mumford.
Promising former Sydney midfielder Jed Lamb and ex-Bulldog Dylan Addison, who is being used as a small forward, add further depth.
“They give really good direction on the field, but they also give great direction off the field, so we’ve been rapt with those guys,” Cameron told AAP.
With 10 of their youngsters having played at least 30 senior games and gone through three pre-seasons, Cameron believes the Giants are now better equipped to run out matches.
“We’re challenging our third-year players to be the players that step up to the plate and say ‘I’m ready to play 120 minutes of football’,” Cameron said.
“We’re here to make ground on the competition, we’re here to compete longer.”
Shaw and Hunt will shore up a backline previously held together by Phil Davis, with more expected from former Hawk Stephen Gilham and the emerging Nick Haynes, Curtly Hampton and Tim Mohr.
GWS conceded an average of 136 points a game last season and Cameron is determined to bring a harder defensive edge to the table.
“We want to be a side this year that the opposition walk away and say ‘defensively they’ve made significant ground, and it’s hard to score against them,'” Cameron said.
“If we can reduce our scores against by four goals a game, it’s a great advantage for us, so that’s one we really are honing in on.”
Lamb and Kelly supplement an exciting midfield group which includes Lachie Whitfield, Stephen Coniglio, Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel Tomas Bugg, Toby Greene and a few slightly older heads in Tom Scully, Callan Ward and Rhys Palmer.
The list of tall forwards is mouth-watering with All-Australian Jeremy Cameron and No.1 draft picks Jonathon Patton and Boyd providing plenty of potential artillery, while tall utility Adam Tomlinson is another possible avenue in attack.
Fellow fledgling franchise Gold Coast won eight games in their third season and while the Giants coach understands outsiders will inevitably compare the two clubs, he stressed they had taken very different routes.
“We learnt a little bit from them, but we understand we’re on a different path with our list strategy,” said Cameron.
“We hold our destination in our own hands.”
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
Coach: Leon Cameron
Captains: Callan Ward, Phil Davis
Last two years: 18-18
Key five: Callan Ward, Jeremy Cameron, Heath Shaw, Phil Davis, Shane Mumford
One to watch: Heath Shaw. Forced out of Collingwood under Nathan Buckley’s plan of widespread renewal, the rebounding defender should still have to plenty to offer at an expansion club.
Ins: Dylan Addison (Western Bulldogs), Jake Barrett (NSW-ACT U18), Tom Boyd (Eastern U18), Josh Hunt (Geelong), Josh Kelly (Sandringham U18), Jed Lamb (Sydney), Rory Lobb (Swan Districts WAFL), Cam McCarthy (South Fremantle WAFL), Shane Mumford (Sydney), Heath Shaw (Collingwood).
Outs: Taylor Adams (Collingwood), Kurt Aylett (Essendon), Dean Brogan (retired), Josh Bruce (St Kilda), Chad Cornes (retired), Sam Darley (Western Bulldogs), Shaun Edwards (Essendon), Josh Growden (delisted), Anthony Miles (Richmond rookie list), Setanta O’hAilpin (delisted), Sam Reid (retired), Bret Thornton (delisted), Dom Tyson (Melbourne), Gerald Ugle (delisted).
Best 22: B: Curtly Hampton, Tim Mohr, Josh Hunt
HB: Nick Haynes, Phil Davis, Heath Shaw
C: Tom Scully, Callan Ward, Lachie Whitfield
HF: Devon Smith, Jonathon Patton, Jed Lamb
F: Dylan Addison, Jeremy Cameron, Tom Boyd
R: Shane Mumford, Stephen Coniglio, Adam Treloar
I: Dylan Shiel, Jonathan Giles, Rhys Palmer, Tomas Bugg
Predicted finish: 17th
To win the flag: $501
To make the top eight: $34