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The Academy Six

Matthew Hagias  February 25, 2016 1:34 PM

There will be six GIANTS Academy graduates playing tonight against the Western Bulldogs.

There will be six GIANTS Academy graduates playing tonight against the Western Bulldogs.

Canberra and the Riverina in Southern NSW will be well represented when the GIANTS take on the Western Bulldogs at Manuka Oval later tonight.

Six talented GIANTS Academy players, who were drafted across several seasons, have been selected to take the field.

Never before have so many home-grown products lined up in the same GIANTS side, demonstrating the strength of the club’s elite talent pathway.

At the ripe old age of 21, Zac Williams is the most senior of the group, having played 31 games over the past three seasons.

The athletic half-back from Narranderra in southern NSW was the first academy graduate to play senior football for the GIANTS when he made his debut in Round 5, 2013.

Hard-working Temora midfielder Jake Barrett will also be on display, hoping to force his way into the GIANTS midfield ahead of the AFL season.

Barrett, 20, was drafted by the GIANTS as a NSW Zone Selection in 2013 after growing up playing Rugby League until the age of 17.

The 2014 NAB AFL Draft produced two academy players for the GIANTS, both of whom will strut their stuff at Manuka Oval tonight.

Hometown hero Jack Steele returns to Canberra to play in front of his family and friends, while defender Jeremy Finlayson (Culcairn) gets his first official opportunity to impress in GIANTS colours.

The final two academy graduates playing tonight come from the GIANTS’ most recent draft crop in 2015, in which both players had their name called in the first round.

Jacob Hopper (pick 7) and Matthew Kennedy (pick 13) have both need selected, giving fans a glimpse of what to expect down the track.

The GIANTS have a further two academy players on their list - Harrison Himmelberg and Matthew Flynn - who have both been showing great signs on the track since joining the club this season.

All four of the GIANTS’ 2015 NAB AFL Draftees (Hopper, Kennedy, Himmelberg and Flynn) came through the ranks of the club’s academy together and have formed a close bond after years in the system.

The GIANTS play the Western Bulldogs at 7.10pm tonight at Manuka Oval in Canberra.