Greater Western Sydney’s dramatic improvement in winning contested ball has been a major factor in their stunning AFL rise, co-captain Phil Davis says.
The Giants weren’t renowned as tough scrappers through their first four seasons, but have clearly stepped up a level in 2016.
They go into their first finals campaign third highest in contested possessions, trailing only Adelaide and category leader Sydney, who they will play in a qualifying final a week from Saturday.
“For us this year, our ability to win contested ball and the real hard stuff has improved enormously,” key defender Davis said.
“I think we were 15th or 16th in contested ball last year and we’d be in the top four now.”
The Giants’ increased competitiveness at the coalface has been reflected in their results.
After copping numerous heavy losses through their first four campaigns, their biggest losing margin this season was 32 points.
“Our ability to be more even this year and more consistent has been the main reason why we’ve ended up where we are on the ladder,” Davis said.
Like all but five of his colleagues, Davis is poised to play his first finals match.
Giants coach Leon Cameron is confident those players will be able to handle the intensity of finals combat.
“Obviously some players are going into the unknown, but they’ve got to roll out sometimes,” he said.
“Kids have got to learn to play at this level, whether it be big games throughout the home-and-away season or a final of this capacity.
“Am I confident they will be OK? Yes I am, but we’ll find out.”