He’s revelling in his new role down back, and outside of a final or a derby with the Swans, GIANTS’ Harry Himmelberg admits a clash with rivals the Western Bulldogs is the biggest game the GIANTS play all season.
The new-found foes will face off in a season-defining clash on Saturday night at GIANTS Stadium, with both wary that any finals hope they may have is largely dependent on walking off that ground with the four points.
The GIANTS’ expectations of doing so has improved considerably since Mark McVeigh took charge, with thumping wins over West Coast and North Melbourne bookending an impressive display away to Brisbane as it pushed the premiership fancy all the way.
The once-famous pacy ball movement has returned, the game plan has been slightly tinkered, and magnets have been thrown around.
Most notably that of Himmelberg's into defence in a switch he has flourished in, and the 26-year-old concedes there aren't many bigger games for the GIANTS than a match-up with the Dogs.
"Probably not to be honest. Especially the last couple years it's turned into quite the rivalry," he told AFL.com.au.
It's been a conflict sparked by epic finals in 2016 and 2019, along with the high-profile player moves of Callan Ward to the GIANTS and former No.1 pick Tom Boyd, who went the other way to the kennel.
"My first year was the 2016 final and I remember watching that and thinking, gee this has some feeling in it. We've met them in big finals and big games and it's turned into that, it's happened quite naturally," Himmelberg said.
"We've been around the mark with each other as well in terms of ladder position and this week is quite important for both teams, so we're excited to hit the Dogs head on."
While McVeigh has refused to confirm just which end of the ground the GIANTS third highest goalkicker in history will line-up at in the mammoth clash, it'd be a surprise if he displaced Himmelberg from his new-found position in the backline after last week's 37-possession, 16-mark game against North Melbourne.
"I don't think I'd had that many for the whole year," he joked.
"I did play a fair bit of back coming through the ranks so it's not completely foreign to me, but I'm really enjoying it. One of my best mates Isaac Cumming is back there as well and we've enjoyed being able to collaborate with each other."
It's a move that McVeigh has admitted he had stored up his sleeve for some time, having coached Himmelberg in the NSW/ACT Rams under-18 side, and it didn't take long for him to pitch it to his long-time protégé.
"It was pretty quick. He said 'I've got something for you' and 'let me sleep on it'. I was a little worried he might want me for a midfield role," Himmelberg said.
"I think he always had those memories of when I came through. He just knew that I had the potential to go back there seamlessly."
The only downside of Himmelberg's defensive shift has been the termination of his consecutive goals in games streak. It had stretched out to 20 matches by the time he went goalless against Brisbane at the Gabba, the fifth best in the AFL at the time.
"That's what happens I guess when you move to the backline. I don't pay too much attention to that but I was made aware of it. It's disappointing to lose the streak but that's alright," he said.
It's scant consolation for a call by the new coach that has added a new dimension to the way Himmelberg, now a versatile swingman, is perceived in the AFL world and he's full of praise for McVeigh's impact at the GIANTS.
"He's one of the most respected figures at the footy club, everyone loves him. He's all about family and making the place feel like home. He's shaken a few things up and the players have really enjoyed the fresh start and the chance to play different roles. Where it goes, I'm not sure but so far, it's been awesome," Himmelberg said.
And he's not ruling out the man known as ‘Spike' leading them to an improbable top-eight finish.
"We never say never, the odds were against us last year and we ended up making it to a semi-final. We just have to win games of footy and that starts on the weekend. It's probably a must win for both teams to be honest."
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