The Roar
The Roar


The Giants have two big questions to answer before they can be premiership contenders

Nathan Wilson of the Giants remonstrates with the goal umpire after the shot on goal from Shai Bolton of the Tigers was touched during the round nine AFL match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Richmond Tigers at Spotless Stadium on May 20, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Roar Pro
7th March, 2018

With Nathan Wilson being traded to the Fremantle Dockers and Zac Williams rupturing his Achilles, the Greater Western Sydney Giants are left with two gaping holes in their defence.

Underrated by the majority of the footy world, Wilson and Williams were two of the Giants’ more important players in reaching back-to-back preliminary finals. The Giants have a long list of replacements to fill the holes left by the two, but the question is, can they have the same effect these on the side’s attacking style of play?

Greater Western Sydney have always been seen as a team stacked with talent; Jeremy Cameron, Dylan Shiel, Josh Kelly and Toby Greene… the list goes on. Experts all over the country already have them as a top-four lock, maybe to even make their first grand final appearance. They’re top-four certainties for sure, but losing Wilson and Williams raises questions which most are overlooking.

Wilson has lightning speed and agility and in 2017 he played a career-high 24 games averaging 17.4 disposals off the half back line. He was second in the league to Dustin Martin in metres gained, averaging over 500m a game, breaking away from packs with speed and hitting up teammates.

Williams is similar to Wilson; fast, agile and averaged 22.2 disposals in 23 games last year. He was such a versatile player for coach Leon Cameron – he could push up to a wing, even to the forward line to kick a few goals, and was used in the middle from time to time.

The Giants’ long list of possible replacements includes veterans Ryan Griffen and Brett Deledio. Injured defenders Adam Kennedy and Matt Buntine will both be returning from ACL injuries. Youngsters such as Isaac Cumming, Harry Perryman and Jeremy Finlayson might also get their chance. All of these players have different question marks on them which makes it difficult to decide which replacements are best for the team moving forward.

Deledio and Griffen are the most experienced of the possible replacements with nearly 500 AFL games between them. Both have played off the half back line before and excelled. They have great leg speed and are poised, in control under pressure, and their experience is invaluable.

Brett Deledio GWS Giants

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)


The question mark with these two is their durability. The two they were held to a combined ten AFL games in 2017, Giffen with three and Deledio seven. No doubt both are part of the Giants best 22 but after missing so much footy will they be able to fill the holes in defence, and can they get back to their best and push the team forward?

Kennedy and Buntine will both be returning at some point this season after missing the majority of last season with knee injuries. Both have been on the Giants list since entering the league in 2012 with Kennedy playing 83 games and Buntine 41 games. The question is when both are fit and available, are they going to be able to work their way back into the AFL side?

It will be a struggle for both of them; both play a more lockdown role on small forwards and don’t really generate a lot of attack from defence. Both need to add a more aggressive side to their game to push again for senior selection.

The last of the Giants’ replacement options is playing the youngsters such as Perryman, Cumming and Finlayson.

Perryman’s debut season in 2017 saw him play eight games, and in that small sample space we’ve seen he’s a no-nonsense, composed player that has the ability to find the footy.

Finlayson made his debut in 2017 but only managed half a game before being ruled out with a knee injury and he eventually missed the remainder of the season. He plays as a taller running defender who can provide attack from the half back line.

Cumming, who had a standout debut season in the NEAFL and has impressed during the preseason, is yet to play a senior game of AFL but has already shown he possesses elite skills.


The question with all these players is do the Giants want to play a younger, less experienced defender when they have others available, especially given they are in win-now mode, pushing for a premiership.

Phil Davis GWS Giants AFL 2017

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The Giants defence, besides the losses of Williams and Wilson, is very settled with Phil Davis, Heath Shaw, Adam Tomlinson, Nick Haynes and Aidan Corr all locks. It’s just trying to find the mix of players to replace the losses and complement the others.

In their first JLT match against the Magpies, Finlayson and Perryman had the first crack off the half back, finishing with 14 and ten disposals respectively, both at a high efficiency.

However, we also so a surprise option emerge, with GWS pushing Lachie Whitfield into defence where he starred, finishing with 25 disposals at 88 per cent efficiency.

It will be a great test for the Giants figuring out who they use while trying to keep the level of play that has made them preliminary finalists in the past two seasons.

Will they find the right combination and will it be enough to keep them in top-four contention with teams like Sydney, Geelong, Adelaide, Richmond, Port Adelaide and Essendon all pushing for top four?