Greater Western Sydney will unleash a pair of AFL debutants against St Kilda on Sunday as the Giants prepare to kick off their season of redemption with a new-look squad.
Hard-luck ruckman Matt Flynn and first-round draftee Tanner Bruhn – fresh from kicking four goals against Sydney in the Community Series two Sundays ago – will be in GWS’s final 22.
Coach Leon Cameron rubber-stamped their selections on Monday, but ruled out Jake Riccardi after the key forward suffered an ankle injury in an intraclub game on Saturday morning.
Cameron was particularly thrilled for Flynn, an Academy product who was the No. 41 pick in 2015 but had to bide his time through injury and playing behind more seasoned big men.
“He walked into our footy club 1940-odd days ago. It’s a wonderful story,” Cameron said.
“We let the guys know … and there was a lot of emotion in the room, because they know how hard Matty’s worked to get this opportunity. It puts a smile on my face.
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Tanner Bruhn will make his AFL debut against St Kilda.Source:Getty Images
Ruckman Matthew Flynn has waited six seasons to play his first game.Source:Getty Images
“With AFL footy; it’s so hard, it’s brutal. Flynny hasn’t had a lot of luck over the last few years, but he gets a great opportunity on Sunday.”
Flynn, who had to fight back from an ACL rupture in mid-2019, was dealing with an ankle complaint, but proved his fitness at the weekend.
A number of lightly played teammates are set to join them in facing flag fancy St Kilda at Giants Stadium, with Isaac Cumming, Connor Idun and Jack Buckley also strongly in the mix.
There is still a decision to make on former captain Phil Davis (knee), but Jesse Hogan (quadriceps) won’t play until at least round two and Lachie Whitfield (bruised liver) is another fortnight beyond that.
The forward set-up without Riccardi and Hogan remains a source of intrigue, with Cameron adding more complexity to the situation.
An ankle injury will delay Jake Riccardi’s start to the season. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Harry Himmelberg and Jeremy Finlayson are likely to be there, but Buckley, Idun and Davis could all play a role in the forward half if required.
Cameron said he may even contemplate selecting untried ruckman Kieren Briggs.
The coach wants to re-establish a more attacking style of football as they take aim at returning to the finals.
“We want to play a brand of footy where we’re hard to play against. We dropped away in that aspect in 2020,” he said.
“Clearly, we need to move the ball better and we’ve worked on that heavily over the pre-season. We’re not shy about going through the corridor again.
“Idun, Buckley, Cumming, Riccardi, Flynn – all these guys who’ve been waiting for the last few years will get opportunities. We’re excited about what’s coming through.”
Originally published asBig, big debut: Giants to unleash draft prodigy
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