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Stevie J looms as semi-final X-factor

By Adam Curley - AFL Media  September 13, 2017 12:42 PM

Presser: Leon Cameron on Semi-Final Leon Cameron speaks to the media ahead of our home final against West Coast.
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Steve Johnson is likely to get the selection nod for the GIANTS.

There's no doubt it's enticing to look at him because of what he can do.

GIANTS veteran Steve Johnson has firmed for selection for Saturday night's semi-final against West Coast after training strongly on Wednesday.

Johnson was dropped from the GIANTS team that was soundly beaten by Adelaide in the qualifying final last Thursday, but impressed in a reserves scratch match on the following day.

The 34-year-old has struggled with a lingering knee injury for most of the season and has rarely been able to back up for two games in a row, but coach Leon Cameron said Johnson was a chance to be recalled to take on the Eagles, with Jeremy Cameron (hamstring) ruled out for the season on Monday.

With Johnson sitting in the coaches' box, the GIANTS’ forward line didn't function at all against the Crows, and his ability to direct and set up the likes of Jon Patton, Rory Lobb and Harry Himmelberg, as well as his freakish goal sense, would be more than handy against West Coast.

"There's no doubt it's enticing to look at him because of what he can do," Cameron said.

"His deft touch and the moments he can create, those things are obviously handy in finals footy and we've seen that throughout his career.

"Experienced players only need eight or 10 possessions that they can turn to gold.

"The main thing with Steve was that he needed a really good run last week, and he played about 90 per cent of the game.

"He was the first to admit that his last two games of the regular season weren't great, but he's trained really well for a week or two, and his knee is in pretty good shape.

"He's presented himself really well and we'll have great confidence in picking him when we get to match committee, so it's going to be a really good debate."

Johnson's fellow forward Devon Smith is also likely to come in against the Eagles to give the GIANTS’ forward half even more impact, after he also got through the club's main session at Spotless Stadium without any issues from the knee injury that kept him out of the loss to Adelaide. 

It leaves Cameron with some thinking to do at the selection table with ruckman Shane Mumford (foot) joining leading goalkicker Jeremy Cameron in the rehab room for the remainder of 2017. 

Along with the potential addition of Johnson and Smith, Dawson Simpson could be brought in to cover Mumford, while Tim Taranto is also a chance to add to the team's midfield/forward stocks. 

Cameron didn't rule out more than the two forced changes but said that Brett Deledio was safe, despite the former Tiger being one of many GIANTS to have little impact in the first final after going into the match with some soreness in his Achilles.

The news wasn't as positive for Ryan Griffen, with the former Bulldog almost certainly done for the season despite managing to play his first game since round three in the GIANTS’ reserves hit-out last week.

"We were pleased that he played, but he was going at about 85 per cent with that ankle," Cameron said.

"We wanted to roll the dice and it's still a week-to-week prospect with him, but it's highly unlikely that he'll get back out there. 

"As the weeks go on and he can't get to 95-100 per cent, it's probably becoming a bit too risky."

The GIANTS take on West Coast in a Semi-Final at Spotless Stadium on Saturday night with the winner to progress to a Preliminary Final.

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