Giants seek final steps to first AFL flag

Injuries, retirements and the salary cap squeeze are challenging Greater Western Sydney, but the AFL's youngest club still have the artillery to win their first flag in 2018.

Successive preliminary final appearances have underlined their premiership window is wide open.

With a roster boasting 23 players with finals experience, ten with over 100 games and eight more who could potentially attain that mark this year, GWS have the experience to take the next and biggest step,

The ability to successfully cover losses across half-back and in the ruck could determine if 2018 is the year the AFL's newest club delivers on their potential.

Several hundred games of experience have been lost with the retirements of forward Steve Johnson and hugely influential ruckman Shane Mumford.

While they held onto All-Australian wingman Josh Kelly, GWS traded admired defender Nathan Wilson and clever forward Devon Smith.

Crippled by a huge early season injury toll last year, GWS have already incurred some long terms casualties in the pre-season.

Highly-rated midfielder Will Setterfield will miss the entire campaign with an ACL and dashing defender Zac Williams will struggle to get back before the season ends.

The Giants aren't as widely tipped to win the premiership as they were last year, but coach Leon Cameron is comfortable with the scrutiny that comes with being one of the flag fancies.

'"It's a good thing," Cameron told AAP.

"There's no doubt when people start talking about you more, then you're doing something right, so look at it as a positive.

"We played off in two prelims in a row.

"You could say that's really good because you're going back to back finals and I'd say that's heading in the right direction for our young footy club.

"But equally we want to go a couple of steps better.'"

Cameron believes he has the personnel to cover the losses of rebounding aces Wilson and Williams.

Veteran midfielder Ryan Griffen showed good pre-season form across half-back, as did wingman Lachie Whitfield and young defender Jeremy Finlayson, while Heath Shaw could shuttle between there and the wing.

Phil Davis, Nick Haynes Aidan Corr and Adam Tomlinson have the key defensive posts covered, with Adam Kennedy and Matt Buntine coming back from ACL injuries and youngsters Harry Perryman and Isaac Cumming also pushing for backline spots.

Rory Lobb, Dawson Simpson and Matthew Flynn will vie for the the No.1 ruck role, with Jon Patton earmarked as the backup.

Patton, Cameron and Toby Greene, all of who kicked 45 goals last season, will spearhead the forward line, with swingman Harry Himmelberg set for more time there after booting four goals in the preliminary final loss.

The Giants were widely criticised last year for lack of forward pressure.

"It was an area that we addressed over the break," Cameron said.

"That comes down to two things, one is personnel; and two is making sure that the style of play complements the way we defend as well.

"I'm confident that we've addressed it with personnel."

Midfield hard heads Stephen Coniglio, Callan Ward and Jacob Hopper provide the ground-level grunt, while Kelly and Dylan Shiel can win their own ball and burn opponents on the outside.


Coach: Leon Cameron

Captains: Callan Ward and Phil Davis

Last five years: 18-16-11-4-4

Premierships: Nil.

Key five: Dylan Shiel, Josh Kelly, Jeremy Cameron, Callan Ward, Toby Greene.

One to watch: Lachie Whitfield. After starting last season late due to suspension, Whitfield has shown sizzling pre-season form, staking a strong claim for a vacant half-back role.

Ins: Aiden Bonar (Dandenong U18), Dylan Buckley (Carlton), Jack Buckley (University of NSW-Eastern Suburbs), Brent Daniels (Bendigo U18), Lachlan Keeffe (Collingwood), Zac Langdon (Claremont, WAFL), Nick Shipley (NSW-ACT U18), Sam Taylor (Swan Districts, WAFL).

Outs: Tom Downie (retired), Steve Johnson (retired), Matthew Kennedy (Carlton), Shane Mumford (retired), Tendai Mzungu (retired), Joel Patfull (delisted), Devon Smith (Essendon), Nathan Wilson (Fremantle).

Best line-up:

B: Adam Tomlinson, Phil Davis, Aidan Corr

HB: Ryan Griffen Nick Haynes, Jeremy Finlayson

C: Tom Scully, Stephen Coniglio, Josh Kelly

HF: Lachie Whitfield, Jeremy Cameron, Toby Greene

F: Brett Deledio, Jon Patton, Harry Himmelberg

R: Rory Lobb, Callan Ward, Dylan Shiel

I: Matt de Boer, Heath Shaw, Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper

Predicted finish: 5th

Betting (William Hill)

To win the flag: $7.50

To make the top eight: $1.25