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Cameron Ready for Audition

By Adam Curley - AFL Media  February 25, 2016 8:48 AM

Young forward Jarrod Pickett is among those pushing for senior spots as the NAB Challenge gets underway.

Young forward Jarrod Pickett is among those pushing for senior spots as the NAB Challenge gets underway.

They know that if they play well, then they progress next week and then the week after and then the week after that.

The GIANTS’ fringe players get their first chance to audition for a permanent spot in the side for round one when their NAB Challenge campaign starts on Thursday night. 

The GIANTS face the Western Bulldogs in Canberra with co-captains Callan Ward and Phil Davis sitting out, along with senior stars Heath Shaw, Dylan Shiel, Steve Johnson, Ryan Griffen and Jeremy Cameron.

With that sort of quality watching from Sydney, the likes of Zac Williams, Nathan Wilson, Jack Steele and Caleb Marchbank, along with academy draftees Jacob Hopper and Matthew Kennedy, will be desperate to impress coach Leon Cameron.

When asked how much pre-season form counted when the selection panel gathered to pick a team to take on Melbourne at the MCG to start the season proper, the GIANTS’ boss didn't hesitate.

"Everything, absolutely everything," Cameron said.

"These guys are fighting to try and nail one of those 22 spots in round one.

"Whether there's 15-17 spots locked away going on (from) the previous year or where our players sit at the moment, these guys are not silly.

"They know that if they play well, then they progress next week and then the week after and then the week after that.

"There'll be players here on that borderline thinking 'well can I knock him over to get that position'.

"I think that’s really competitive and healthy for our list, so hopefully that lifts performances.

"We've always attacked it (the NAB Challenge) pretty aggressively."

Cameron said the pre-season competition was challenging for the coaching staff as they tried to get the perfect amount of game time into such a large amount of players, who all have different requirements.

Thursday night's clash comes almost six months after the GIANTS’ final match of 2015 and the coach knows his players can't wait to see the back of what has been a long summer in Western Sydney.

"The last 10 days has been pretty tough to try and coach our boys because they're getting bored now, they just want to play," Cameron said. 

"You just get to a certain level (when they say) 'where's the games?' 

"You've got to prioritise, so some guys will only play 30-40 per cent game time but it's 30-40 per cent that they've never had before in their life.

"It gives them an indication of how hard AFL footy is and what they need to work on to get to that level.

"To try and juggle 26 (players) is really interesting."