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Opinion

A Sure Finn: Young Giant worthy Round 7 Rising Star nominee

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Roar Rookie
2nd May, 2023
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Finn Callaghan is the Round 7 Rising Star nominee after a cracking game in the GWS Giants’ thrilling win over Sydney in the Battle of the Bridge.

Callaghan was drafted by the Giants at number three in the 2021 National Draft – after they had originally bid on Sam Darcy (matched immediately, as expected, by the Dogs) – and, like seemingly every other young player, is a product of the Sandringham Dragons. 

Callaghan has always been amongst the best players for his age group, and he started the 2021 U18s season in a blaze of glory that saw him promoted into the AFL Academy whilst also playing for Vic Metro. He however suffered a foot injury that kept him out for the remainder of the season, but obviously wasn’t of serious concern because he was never expected to fall out of the top five. There was certainly speculation pre-draft that clubs were trying to package up picks to send to GWS in the hope of snaring the youngster.

Callaghan is one of the first – but he won’t be the last – tall, left-footed midfielders to be compared to Marcus Bontempelli. Besides those attributes though, the similarities are not overly apparent. Callaghan is a great mover, and with a father who has represented Australia in the 400m that is hardly a surprise, but he not only has straight-line speed he is also more than willing to test his opponents’ agility in tight spaces. He is a lovely kicker over both short and long distances, meaning that when combined with his pace and agility, he is a constant threat to the opposition.

Unlike Bontempelli though, Callaghan’s contested game is not a key to his ball-winning, but that doesn’t mean he won’t improve on that in years to come. Too often though, I think there is a focus on what players don’t do when we should celebrate what they can do, and if Callaghan can get the ball 30 times without having to bust 15 tackles then that should be celebrated!

Like the second half of his U18 year, much of Callaghan’s debut season in 2022 was ruined by his foot injury. Whilst he built up his fitness and played reserves footy in early that year, his foot eventually became too sore and GWS put him out to pasture.

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Quite interestingly, unlike the rest of us mere mortals, Callaghan now makes do with 205 bones, rather than the regulation 206, after having a sesamoid bone removed from his foot. I didn’t even know this could be done but seeing as he’s averaging 21 touches and six marks a game this season, the operation appears to have been a success!

He’s also averaging about 85% game time, which is above average for a 20-year-old and undoubtedly suggests that coach Adam Kingsley is confident in his ability to run out a game.

Callaghan has joined a well-rounded midfield at the Giants, with players like Tom Green, Callan Ward, Stephen Coniglio and Josh Kelly ensuring that he can develop his game without receiving the focus that some other draftees are exposed to. As mentioned above, his contested game is not necessarily a strength, but the Giants are certainly keen to get the ball in his hands to take advantage of his sound disposal and excellent decision-making.

Chances of winning the Rising Star

Second-year players need to put together outstanding seasons to get a look in, and whilst Callaghan has been better than serviceable he’d probably need to do what he did last weekend (26 touches and 10 marks), every weekend to stand a chance.

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I can’t say Bontempelli because that’s too easy – I think Jackson Macrae is the most apt comparison.

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Ceiling

He’s tall, he runs well, he is a penetrating kick, and he is a ball magnet. Logically, those attributes suggest he could be one of the best players in the competition. His size means it is a bit more straightforward for him to build a bit more of a contested game, but if he could also manage to hit the scoreboard (two goals in 12 games so far) more often then his value would further increase. I’m a fan.

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