GWS midfielder Josh Kelly says his desperate side are embracing the weight of finals pressure in Saturday’s Battle of the Bridge, the most significant Sydney AFL derby yet.
A ground record crowd is expected for the eighth Harbour City battle at Spotless Stadium, where the Giants last season scored their only victory over the Swans.
The equation is simple for GWS – they must win their last three games to have any chance of qualifying for their first finals campaign – while the Swans are chasing a crucial top-four berth.
“There’s a lot on the line for both of us,” Kelly told AAP on Friday.
“We’ll be putting pressure on ourselves to win, but we expect a really, really big game from the Swans.”
GWS have already recorded a franchise season-best tally of 10 wins and exceeded most pundits expectations, but that doesn’t mean they’re satisfied.
“I don’t think we’re surprised at what we’ve done, we didn’t really set any limits on our progress or where we wanted to finish,” Kelly said.
“But now that we’re in the position we are, we want to take that next step and play finals.
“To do that we need to win our last three games starting with the Swans this week, so I think we’d be disappointed if we didn’t play finals.”
Officials expect the crowd will surpass the 17,102 who attended last year’s derby at Spotless Stadium.
“We can’t wait to play there tomorrow and hopefully get some redemption after they knocked us off earlier this year (by 21 points at the SCG),” Kelly said.
Both sides have lost some key players, but the Giants fared a little better at the selection table, with classy midfielders Adam Treloar and Stephen Coniglio both recalled.
GWS have lost two valuable players in key defender and co-captain Phil Davis and dangerous small forward Devon Smith.
Davis’s absence has been offset by the continued unavailability of Swans forward spearhead Lance Franklin.
The Swans will be missing three other valued players in gun midfielder Luke Parker, speedster Gary Rohan and ball magnet Tom Mitchell.
“They have got a few outs, but at the same time we’re missing a few of our good players as well, so it’s going to be a hot game,” Kelly said.
Coniglio and Treloar will bolster the Giants against a Sydney midfield that has been both dominant and dominated in recent weeks, while GWS must rectify the recurring problem of their inaccurate goalkicking.
“We really need to convert our chances because against a side like the Swans if you don’t take your chances then that’s really going to come back to bite you, so goalkicking is going to be a big one for us,” Kelly said.
THE SYDNEY AFL DERBY BY THE NUMBERS
Win-loss record: Swans 6 Giants 1
Win-loss at Spotless Stadium: Giants 1 Swans 0
Biggest margin: 129 points, Swans 24.27 (171) Giants 5,12 (42) SCG, rd 16 2013
Smallest margin 21: Swans 16.15 (111) Giants 12.18 (90)
Most goals by an individual: Swans: Lance Franklin: five (twice), Giants: Jeremy Cameron:four
Largest Sydney derby attendance: 38,203 ANZ Stadium, rd 1 2012
Largest attendance at Spotless Stadium:17,102. Giants-Swans, rd 1 2014
Stats: AFL Tables