Greater Western Sydney coach Leon Cameron will look for adaptability when choosing Steve Johnson’s replacement to play the Western Bulldogs, in an AFL preliminary final he expects to go down to the wire.
Star forward Johnson will sit out Saturday’s clash at Spotless Stadium as he serves a suspension for a shoulder bump to the head of Sydney’s Josh Kennedy.
In the absence of their most experienced player, the Giants will attempt to secure a historic grand-final appearance in their fifth season.
Fellow forwards Sam Reid, Rhys Palmer and Will Hoskin-Elliott are all well in the mix to take Johnson’s place.
But when Cameron picks his 22, likely on Tuesday, he’ll choose the man he believes can also help tame a rampant Bulldogs midfield featuring young revelation Marcus Bontempelli, Tom Liberatore and Lachie Hunter among others.
That could also throw defender Adam Kennedy and midfielder Matthew Kennedy into the frame.
“You need flexibility,” Cameron said.
“These days you very rarely pick someone who can just play one of the six forwards.
“He’s got to be able to play in the midfield and on the wing as well.
“The Dogs’ flexibility is enormous – they probably have about 12 players who roll through the middle of the ground.
“Our team will be hitting this game absolutely head on, like the Dogs.
“That’s the enthralling part of this contest, it can go any way.
“I think you’ll find it will probably come down to the last five minutes.”
Cameron said Johnson was still in full training and ready to return should the Giants book a spot in the grand final on October 1 against either the Swans or Geelong.
Co-captain Callan Ward acknowledged the 33-year-old former Cat was a loss but backed his side’s depth against the Bulldogs, the club at which he spent three years before joining the Giants in 2012.
“We’ve got really good goalkickers who can come in and play an important role for us,” Ward said.
“They’re very impressive the Dogs, I love the way they play footy.
“Their pressure is extremely high, they tackle hard and hit the ball hard.
“I think that suits us as well because we play a pretty good, physical brand of football.”