GWS Giants defender Heath Shaw says the stakes are huge this weekend for a young AFL side he reckons has matured massively.
Half back Shaw, who has been in scintillating form this season, said Sunday’s Spotless Stadium matchup against Sydney would probably be the most important of the ten derbies between the teams.
The second-placed Swans are four spots and eight points above the Giants, who have lost their last two games.
Sydney are on a three-match winning streak and Shaw recognised the importance of not allowing the leading teams to jump clear of the Giants.
“We don’t want to lose three in a row any day of the week, so the stakes are huge for us,” Shaw said.
“We want to keep in touch with that top four.
“We need to win against quality opposition and our last three weeks have been against quality opposition and we’ve done okay.
“But we haven’t got three wins, so we need to lift our game this week and perform on the big stage.”
Although the Giants are on the same 7-4 mark that they were at the corresponding stage last year, Shaw was adamant the 2016 version was a more consistent and mature outfit.
“We’ve been a lot more consistent,” Shaw said.
“We’ve beaten better opposition, we’ve played the Bulldogs, who are up and running, we’ve played Hawthorn and beaten them on our home deck, and beaten them pretty convincingly and we take a lot of confidence out of that.
“We’ve lost the last two games against quality opposition, but in previous years we would have lost by 40 or 50 points, but we ground it out and last week we went down to Geelong in Geelong.
“This group has matured in probably six months massively and the way we go about our footy, we go into every game thinking we’re going to win.”
The veteran of the Giants’ defence, Shaw was excited by the way the club’s younger players were developing leadership skills.
“Some of them are still 21, 22 years old but their maturity is beyond their years,” Shaw said.
“They have confidence in what we’re doing and where we’re going and that’s exciting for an old man sitting in the back pocket to see these guys taking on leadership roles within the team and stepping up when they need to.
“It’s great, it gives a lot of confidence that we’re on the right track.”