Giants AFL young guns get their chance

Greater Western Sydney’s young guns will get an opportunity to shine against battling Essendon on Sunday, with two of the Giants’ key veterans sitting out the game.

Leading goalkicker and forward Steve Johnson (foot) and influential ruckman Shane Mumford (ankle) will both miss the Etihad Stadium clash.

Cynics might suggest their absence and the loss of their combined 405 games experience will make little difference against a Bombers side who have lost ten straight.

Coming off a seven-goal pummelling of local rival Sydney, GWS will be out to shore up their top-eight spot and stay on course for a maiden finals campaign.

For 19-year-old debutant Matthew Kennedy, who replaces Johnson, and 23-year-old ruckman Tom Downie, who is playing just his ninth senior game, the match shapes as a chance to show their wares.

With midfielder Jacob Hopper, the Giants’ only other debutant this season, making his sixth senior appearance it’s a young team even for GWS.

“Obviously you’ve got some of the more experienced heads out this week, but it gives an opportunity to a few more fellows,” Hopper told AAP.

“I think they are just really excited to be given the chance and I think we have confidence that anyone can come in and play a role.

“We’ve got some real depth in our side.”

Like Hopper, Kennedy is a Giants academy product who can flit between midfield and the forward line.

“It’s great that he (Kennedy) has been given an opportunity, he’s worked hard for it,” Hopper said.

Lowly Essendon have made two changes to their side with defenders Michael Hartley and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti replacing youngsters Kyle Langford and Shaun Edwards.

They will be part of a backline charged with the responsibility of trying to contain a Giants attack possessing plenty of firepower even without Johnson.

Zach Merrett will make his 50th appearance for Essendon.

A nine-day break has helped Essendon recover from the 108-point mauling they got from Hawthorn and the 79-point caning from Fremantle six days earlier.

“The players are up and about,” Bombers coach John Worsfold said.

“They are really keen to bounce back from the last couple of weeks.”

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