Forwards boost Giants for vital AFL clash

The return of Jon Patton among a host of forwards is set to add extra firepower to a Greater Western Sydney side, which needs a first win ever over Essendon to stay in AFL finals contention.

The latest round started with the Giants in tenth position, two points off eighth spot, but ninth-placed Adelaide won on Friday to move six points clear of the Giants.

“Obviously it’s a really important (game) for us, we’re just outside the eight,” said Giants ruckman Andrew Phillips, who has been promoted to the senior side this week.

“We’ve got a solid few weeks coming up with the run home and hopefully we can slip back into that eight.”

Joining Phillips among the Giants’ six inclusions for Sunday’s home game are key defender Nick Haynes and a quartet of forwards Devon Smith, Rhys Palmer, Cam McCarthy and Patton, who will be playing his first game in almost 12 months following a second knee reconstruction.

“It’s a huge lift to have the `General” (Patton) down there in the forward line,” Phillips said.

“I’ve been playing with him in the twos the last couple of weeks since he’s been back.

“He’s kicked plenty of goals and his fitness is not too much of a issue, he’s got most of that back.”

The Giants, who have lost all four of their previous clashes with the Bombers, have kicked just 15 goals across their past two games, both of which they lost.

Phillips, who will be getting just his second senior game of the year, will be going up against former Giants teammate Jonathan Giles in the ruck battle.

“I guess I’ve got a fair idea about him, probably more so than I would have about any other ruckman,” Phillips said.

“He’s got a fair idea of how I can play as well, so it’s pretty even ground.”

Essendon coach James Hird insisted the season wasn’t a write off for the Bombers who are languishing in 15th spot with just five wins and are coming off three successive defeats.

They kicked just five goals last week in an 87-point hiding by the Western Bulldogs and the club announced it was in the process of completing an analysis of its football program.

“We can’t make the finals, but its not a write-off,” Hird said.

“We’ve got a lot of young players we want to play, we want to make sure we know enough about players in terms of their futures with Essendon or not and we’d like to win a few games for our supporters.”

Midfielder Heath Hocking will play his first senior game of the season following groin surgery, but injuries have robbed the Bombers of both Zach Merrett and Michael Hurley.

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