The injury-ravaged GWS Giants are facing one of their biggest-ever AFL challenges with the scales of experience tilting massively in North Melbourne’s favour on Saturday.
The rash of injuries which started with a large toll in last week’s loss to Collingwood continued on Friday with recalled ruckman Andrew Phillips withdrawing with a sore back.
Phillips, who had been earmarked to replace Shane Mumford, pulled out of the Spotless Stadium fixture after training.
With 11 matches under his belt, Phillips was almost a veteran compared to third-choice ruckman Rory Lobb, who in just his third senior game will oppose the competition’s form big man in Todd Goldstein.
Forward James Stewart, who had been pinch-hitting in the ruck behind Mumford, will act as back-up to Lobb, after originally being omitted.
GWS have lost 449 games of AFL experience this week in Mumford (128), co-captain Phil Davis (73), fellow key defender Joel Patfull (193) and midfielder Stephen Coniglio (55).
It’s not as if the Giants have replaced their casualties with players of comparable experience either, with the exception of 100-game small forward Rhys Palmer, who returns from a shoulder injury.
The Giants’ other four inclusions have played a combined tally of just 24 games, with defender Caleb Marchbank and midfielder Jack Steele each making their senior debuts.
Conversely, the 5-6 Kangaroos have the luxury of voluntarily shedding 238 games of senior experience, dropping Ryan Bastinac and Scott McMahon.
But they still emerge vastly on the plus side of the experience ledger with the recalls of Nick Dal Santo (287), back after missing nine games due to a hamstring injury, and Shaun Atley (95).
Recalled Giants’ key defender Aidan Corr understood the enormity of the task facing the 7-4 Giants.
“They have got a gun midfield and obviously Goldstein is in great nick, but we’ve got to take it up to them,” Corr told AAP on Friday.
“They are definitely a great side. If we go in lackadaisical they will take it to us and they will end up smashing us.”
GWS have lost all four of their previous games to the Kangaroos, with the average margin just under 80 points.
Kangaroos interim coach Darren Crocker remained wary of the Giants despite their injury issues.
“The Giants have a few injuries but when you look at their replacements, they’ve got first-round draft picks everywhere,” Crocker said.