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AFL Media's Season Preview

Adam Curley - AFL Media  March 20, 2017 11:22 AM

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AFL Media's Adam Curley believes defender Nathan Wilson may replace Heath Shaw as the GIANTS best offensive weapon from the defensive half.

Best 22 – Round One

B: Heath Shaw, Phil Davis, Nick Haynes
HB: Matt Buntine, Adam Tomlinson, Zac Williams
C: Josh Kelly, Callan Ward, Tom Scully
HF: Steve Johnson, Jeremy Cameron, Toby Greene
F: Devon Smith, Jon Patton, Rory Lobb
Foll: Shane Mumford, Dylan Shiel, Ryan Griffen
I/C: Nathan Wilson, Tim Taranto, Matthew Kennedy, Adam Kennedy

Injury list

The loss of Stephen Coniglio (ankle) for at least the first month of the season will hurt the GIANTS, with his hardness and run-with ability a big loss around stoppages in particular. The absence of Aidan Corr (hand) early will also be felt especially against Adelaide's tall forward line in round one, but Brett Deledio (calf) is the big worry, with no date set for his return. Matt de Boer (hamstring) should be ready by round two or three.

The big questions

Will Jeremy Cameron hold onto his leading goalkicker streak?

The star forward is five from five but faces serious competition from Jonathon Patton this year, who should be a menace for opposition defenders.

Will everyone stay?

Dylan Shiel and Josh Kelly look like certainties to re-sign, but there are other GIANTS off contract at the end of the year, with Devon Smith, Jacob Hopper and Matt Buntine at the head of the list.

Can Brett Deledio get on the park and be a September hero?

Things look grim right now but it's only March. If he takes his time and gets himself right, imagine a fit, fresh and healthy Deledio being introduced to the team in the second half of the year.

Look for …

Nathan Wilson to rival Heath Shaw as the team's best offensive weapon from the back half. The small defender is lightning quick, loves to take the game on with run and carry, and is one of the competition's best kicks, so if he can stay fit, Wilson can emerge from the shadows of his veteran teammate. Only needs 15-20 possessions to have a serious impact on a game.

Who they play

The GIANTS take on Adelaide, Sydney and the Bulldogs in the first six rounds, along with Gold Coast, North and Port Adelaide, so a bright start will set up the year. Two games against the Dogs, Swans, Cats and Eagles will be a test, but there's only one trip to the west to soften that blow. Bye in round 13.

Fantasy cash cow

Matthew Kennedy ($194,000) is set for a big year after playing just three games in his debut season. Averaged 65.7 points in three JLT Community Series games and with Coniglio out for the early part of the season, Kennedy should get more of a run onball, where he gets plenty of it.

Sudden impact

Tim Taranto will be the club's only debutant in round one and he's already shown throughout the JLT Community Series that he's more than ready to have an immediate impact. Taranto will start forward and spend some time through the midfield, where his clean hands and toughness will shine.

It's crunch time for …

Ryan Griffen. The former Western Bulldogs captain hasn't been the player the GIANTS thought they were getting thanks to some injury problems and the effect of his shock departure from the Dogs. With Coniglio out, the veteran needs to step up and get back to the playing like the hard-running, explosive midfielder the competition saw in his final three years at the Kennel. If he doesn't, with so much young talent hungry for a spot in Leon Cameron's side, he could be NEAFL-bound by season's end.

Pressure rating on the coach

No pressure, only expectations. They're already the premiership favourites – a status the coach has dismissed repeatedly over the pre-season and rightly so – and his cool head and laid back nature will ensure Leon Cameron remains unaffected by outside talk.

The GIANTS will have a good year if …

Patton continues to build on his 2016 season. The power forward has his confidence back and finished last year in brilliant form, so a 50-goal season beckons, which makes the team even more dangerous by taking the pressure off Jeremy Cameron.

They’re in trouble if …

Shane Mumford goes down. The big man is the standard-setter at stoppages and his physicality has an enormous effect on his teammates, something that can't be measured on the stats sheet. Rory Lobb is growing in stature but needs more time to develop, and while Tom Downie and Dawson Simpson are serviceable back up options, neither can replace Mumford's presence.

Pass mark

Grand Final. It might sound tough but they got within a kick last year, have added Deledio and some quality draftees, so if the list has definitely improved, so should the GIANTS' finishing spot.

AFL.com.au predicted ladder finish

First. The GIANTS have always had talent by the bucket load, but now the kids have grown up and they have the playing experience to match. Last year's finals series ended in disappointment but it only intensified the internal drive of the group.

Player Ratings star

Dylan Shiel, 19th. The explosive midfielder jumped from 75th in the rankings to be the only GIANT inside the top 20, and his star is sure to keep on rising this year.