Greater Western Sydney’s backline are relishing the challenge of trying to subdue St Kilda’s potent attack, as the Giants face a critical game in their bid to revive their AFL finals hopes.
Three straight losses have sent the Giants tumbling to ninth spot heading into Sunday’s encounter.
Their cause hasn’t been helped by injuries to a clutch of quality players including ruckman Shane Mumford and key defenders Phil Davis and Joel Patfull.
Key back Nick Haynes and midfielder Stephen Coniglio return from injury for the Giants, who host the Saints at Sydney’s Spotless Stadium for the first time.
Improving Saints have won three of their last five games and are unchanged after coming off a stunning 110-point rout of troubled Essendon.
“It’s a massive game and I think it’s going to be a very close game,” Haynes told AAP.
“A win will be real handy and hopefully get us back in that top eight.”
Although the Saints amassed a huge score last week, that wasn’t the aspect of their game which most impressed Haynes.
“Their pressure was outstanding, I think that’s what won the game,” Haynes said.
“They are one of the best pressure teams in the league, so we’re going to have to try to match them in that area.”
Haynes is likely to find himself on either Nick Riewoldt or former Giant Josh Bruce.
He lined up on Bruce in the Giants’ opening round nine-point away win.
Bruce, who kicked 2.2 that day, has booted 37 for the season to become one of the emerging forwards of the competition.
“He’s had a fantastic year and turned into a very good player,” Haynes said of Bruce.
In two seasons with GWS, Bruce kicked only three goals in 14 games and was used primarily as a defender.
“I think we knew he could play both ends, but never really saw how good he was playing forward, but we’re seeing that now,” Haynes said.
The Giants have a league-low goalkicking accuracy rate of 46.3 per cent.
“We’ve battled with it this year and I think the pressure has got to us a little bit with our set shots,” Giants vice-captain Heath Shaw said.
“We’ve got to learn to accept that pressure and take it and welcome it.
“Because if we want to play the finals, and we do want to play finals and if we get the chance this year, the pressure is going to be there and we are going to have to stand up.”
Shaw revealed GWS were treating the second half of the season as a new competition.
“After the bye we’re 0-1, that’s how we’re looking at it,” Shaw said.