Greater Western Sydney’s AFL finals hopes rest largely with an inexperienced trio of ruckmen following the disastrous loss of Shane Mumford.
The former Sydney ruckman has been a key figure in the Giants’ transformation from cellar dwellers to finals aspirants but coach Leon Cameron now needs Andrew Phillips, Rory Lobb or Tom Downie – who have played just 14 AFL games between them – to step up following Mumford’s season-ending ankle surgery.
Mumford’s loss capped a horror day at the MCG last week, with Phil Davis (ankle), Joel Patfull (ribs) and Stephen Coniglio (shoulder) all knocked out of the 42-point loss to Collingwood.
The loss of the bullocking ruckman appears to be a crushing blow to the fledgling club’s chances of playing finals for the first time but Cameron isn’t about to throw in the towel.
“Footy’s just such a funny game: who’s to say that Andrew Phillips, Tom Downie and Rory Lobb don’t come out and play outstanding footy?” Cameron said on Tuesday.
“We see that week in, week out and year in, year out.
“Three or four players leave one particular club and it’s doomsday, then all of a sudden they come out the next year and prove everyone wrong because other kids get an opportunity.”
Cameron wouldn’t be drawn on which of the young trio would get first crack when the fifth-placed Giants take on North Melbourne at Spotless Stadium on Saturday.
Phillips has the most experience with 11 games, having made his debut in round seven of the 2012 season, with Lobb next with two games under his belt and Downie just his AFL debut to his name back in round 20, 2013.
Phillips is the only player to have seen AFL action this season, with four disposals and eight hitouts against the Swans in round three.
Lobb, who currently sits third on the NEAFL goalkickers list, was best-on-ground with seven goals in the Giants’ 192-point drubbing of Brisbane in their NEAFL clash two weeks ago.
Mumford will undergo surgery later this week on his left ankle after suffering a torn deltoid ligament against the Pies.
Davis was forced off the field late in the second term with an ankle sprain and the Giants say the injury will sideline him for six to eight weeks.
The double injury blow comes only a day after Patfull was ruled out for at least six weeks with two broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Mumford has been in top form, ranked in the top five in the competition for hit-outs and tackles.
“He’s seen a surgeon today and unfortunately they’re going to have to reconstruct his ankle,” Cameron said in a statement.
“He’s an important part of our footy club and … it’s probably a four-to-six month recovery, so come pre-season he’ll be ready to roll.”
Midfielder Coniglio will miss at least two weeks with a grade-two shoulder injury to his AC joint.
In better news for the Giants, defender Lachie Plowman will play in the NEAFL, his first match for the season since he dislocated his elbow in January.