Greater Western Sydney coach Leon Cameron recognises a much-sought after maiden AFL finals appearance for his emerging club remains a big ask despite them taking giant strides over the past two seasons.
Under Cameron’s astute stewardship, GWS improved from one to six wins in his first season in 2014 and to 11 victories last year.
They finished 11th and just two wins from a finals spot, which they might well have attained had it not been for a back half of the season slump following injuries to key personnel, most notably ruck titan Shane Mumford.
It could be argued GWS were even more successful off the field in 2015, when they re-signed the vast majority of their emerging stars coming off contract with the notable exception of ball magnet Adam Treloar.
Some pundits are predicting a top-eight finish for the Giants and while that can’t happen soon enough for Cameron, he has cautioned against expecting his exciting young side to automatically make the leap to finals this year,
“There’s belief, but we also understand that there’s a hell of a lot of work to do,” Cameron told AAP.
“We understand that to get to at least 11 wins is going to be a really big ask, it is a competitive, brutal game.
“We’ve got to make sure that if we were six out of 10 last year in terms of our competitiveness, we’ve got to get to an eight out of 10 and you can’t drop off in games or drop off from week to week.”
The acquisition of former Geelong star Steve Johnson will add further zest to an already potent forward line.
“Is he going to be quick and as lightning on his feet as he was five or six years ago? Probably not,” Cameron said.
“But what he is going to do is obviously bring us some experience.”
He is looking at playing three key forwards and will have plenty of potential firepower at his disposal, providing Jeremy Cameron, Jonathon Patton and James Stewart all stay fit.
Cam McCarthy was granted indefinite leave to return to his home city of Perth and is at long odds to return to the Giants, even if Cameron hasn’t given up hope.
“He’s too good of a person and a player to be out of AFL footy and hopefully one day shortly, who knows, he can come back and play,” Cameron said.
The Giants possess an exciting mixture of inside grafters and speedy outside runners in their strong midfield brigade.
“They are starting to develop into a consistent midfield, but they’ve still got a way to go,” Cameron said.
The coach will be hoping for some overdue fitness fortune for his key backs,
Phil Davis, Nick Haynes and Tim Mohr have all missed plenty of matches in the past couple of seasons, with the latter two again expected to make a late start to the new campaign.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
Coach: Leon Cameron
Captains: Callan Ward, Phil Davis
Last three years: 18-18-16-11
Key five: Callan Ward, Shane Mumford, Jeremy Cameron, Heath Shaw, Ryan Griffen.
One to watch: Steve Johnson. Was the ultimate big-occasion player at star-studded Geelong, as evidenced by his key roles in their three most recent premiership wins. More of the highlights reel stuff would also be welcome at the Giants, but what they really need is for him to play a teaching role for a young list.
Ins: Matthew Flynn (NSW-ACT U18), Harrison Himmelberg (Eastlake, NEAFL), Jacob Hopper (North Ballarat U18), Matthew Kennedy (NSW-ACT U18), Daniel Lloyd (Killarney Vale, NSW), Steve Johnson (Geelong), Sam Reid (promoted rookie), Dawson Simpson (Geelong).
Outs: Dylan Addison (delisted), Tomas Bugg (Melbourne), Tim Golds (delisted), Curtly Hampton (Adelaide), Jed Lamb (Carlton), Andrew Phillips (Carlton), Lachie Plowman (Carlton), Sam Schulz (delisted), Liam Sumner (Carlton), Jacob Townsend (Richmond), Adam Treloar (Collingwood).
B: Nathan Wilson, Phil Davis, Joel Patfull
HB: Ryan Griffen, Nick Haynes, Heath Shaw
C: Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio, Tom Scully
HF: Lachie Whitfield, Jeremy Cameron, Jack Steele
F: Devon Smith, Jonathon Patton, Steve Johnson
R: Shane Mumford, Callan Ward, Toby Greene
I: Zac Williams, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Josh Kelly, James Stewart
Predicted finish: 12th
Betting: (William Hill)
To win the flag: $51
To make the top eight: $2.40