It’s the start of a new season which evidently means there will be a few new faces scattered amongst your favourite GIANTS.
Before the GIANTS kick off their NAB Challenge campaign tonight against the Western Bulldogs, have a read about some new-ish GIANTS making their senior debut for the club.
A big bodied midfielder from Leeton, Jacob Hopper has an excellent work ethic plus the ability to win the football on both the inside and outside of stoppages. Hopper is composed with the ball, strong overhead and can push forward to kick goals. He was a member of the GIANTS Academy and won the NSW/ACT MVP Award last season. Hopper was drafted with pick seven in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft and has impressed teammates with his commitment to pre-season. Wearing Number 2, expect Hopper to rotate through the midfield and potentially push forward to apply scoreboard pressure.
Similar to Hopper, Matthew Kennedy has been touted as a future star of the game. Selected with Pick 13 in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft, Kennedy is battle-hardened and ready for the AFL after winning a senior premiership for Collingullie alongside his three older brothers last year. Deceptively athletic, Kennedy turned heads with his 14.12 beep test at the 2015 Draft Combine and scored impressively in all other physical tests. Kennedy will don Number 15 for the GIANTS and is expected to find a lot of the football. He can also take a strong grab overhead and is an aggressive tackler.
Big Dawson Simpson might not be new to the AFL, but he is still relatively new to the GIANTS. The 210cm, 110kg ruckman was recruited to the club after playing 28 games across eight seasons at Geelong. Formerly plagued by injuries, Simpson is looking for a fresh start and has enjoyed his best pre-season to date. With Shane Mumford not playing against the Western Bulldogs, expect Simpson to shoulder most of the ruck work alongside Rory Lobb. If you don’t know what Dawson Simpson looks like, just keep an eye out for the tallest man on the field.
An excitement machine in waiting, small forward Jarrod Pickett will finally get a chance to show his potential around goal. Pickett joined the GIANTS with Pick 4 in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft but was able to break into the senior side last season. Skilful, extremely quick and very smart with ball in hand, Pickett has worked closely with fellow forwards Steve Johnson and Devon Smith over the off-season to improve his game. He played 17 games in the NEAFL last season and kicked 26 goals. If you don’t know who Jarrod Pickett is now, you best learn his name soon. He’s not far away.
The surprise pick at the 2014 NAB AFL Draft, Pat McKenna played 18 senior matches for Gisborne Bulldogs in the Bendigo Football League before being selected by the GIANTS with Pick 23. After one full season at the club, McKenna struggled with injury and only managed to play 10 games at NEAFL level. His second pre-season was a different story altogether with the former cricketer impressing both in the gym and on the field. Noticeably bigger and more vocal at training, McKenna will get a chance to impress the coaches. The 19-year-old spent most of his time playing on the wing/ across half-forward in 2015. Keep an eye out for his long, blonde locks. He’ll be wearing Number 42.
Jeremy Finlayson grew up in Culcairn in southern NSW and was drafted from the GIANTS Academy in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft. A tall defender (or forward) he can be difficult to stop with his strong marking ability and athleticism. Finlayson is deceptively quick and often backs himself to run off opponents and drive forward with long kicks. He overcame a hip injury in his first season to produce some consistent performances in the GIANTS’ NEAFL side. Time will tell which end of the ground you see him most.
Although not new to AFL football, or wearing a GIANTS jumper, it would be remiss not to mention Sam Reid who has been rookie listed after spending two years as a Development Coach. Retiring at the end of the 2013 season, Reid struggled to cope with the rigours of AFL having to deal with a string of shoulder injuries. Now, two years later, at the age of 26, Reid has got his body into great condition and looks a good chance of playing senior football this season. A strong midfielder with a knack for finding goals, Reid’s experience and voice will be invaluable for the GIANTS young playing list.