Emerging GWS Giants defender Zac Williams has nominated stability of backline personnel as a key factor in his club’s significant improvement in defence.
While the Giants have earned plaudits for their free-flowing, high-scoring football, their defence has arguably been an even bigger key in their rise to premiership contention.
GWS conceded 125 points a game in their first season, 136 in their second and 105 in their third.
They slashed that figure to 86 last year and 75 this season, when they conceded the fourth-lowest amount of points in the competition.
Decimated by numerous long-term injuries to key defenders in their first few years, the Giants are benefiting from having healthy players and consistent selections.
They have fielded the same side for three straight games, the first time they have done that in their five-year history.
Key backs Tim Mohr, Phil Davis, Nick Haynes, Aidan Corr and Caleb Marchbank have all missed plenty of games in recent seasons.
Off those five only Marchbank, who has asked to be traded, is injured while Corr and Mohr have been playing in the NEAFL in recent weeks.
“I think over the past few years there were a lot of people coming in and out of the side,” half-back Wilson told AAP.
“I think we’ve got about nine players that can pretty much play in this backline right now.
“We’re just gelling really well at the moment as a backline and as a team bringing the ball out of the back 50.
“It’s a lot more settled at the moment, which is really good.”
The recruitment in recent seasons of Heath Shaw and Joel Patfull have added experience and composure to a backline that turned the ball over far too easily in the club’s first couple of years.
Better decision making and the nous of Shaw and dash of Nathan Wilson and 21-year-old Williams have also provided great attacking impetus out of the back half.
“Heath Shaw and Phil Davis have given myself and Nathan Wilson the confidence to take the game on,” Williams said.
“They really encourage us when we get the ball to make the most of our opportunities.”