A host of potential future GIANT stars have had a first-hand look at what it takes to cut it at the elite level with a GIANTS Academy cohort training with the GIANTS’ AFL side.
Spending the last two weeks immersing themselves at the club, members of the 2024 GIANTS Academy squad were taken through their paces as they lived the life of a GIANT
Head of Academies Jason Saddington said having members of his squad train with the GIANTS’ AFL side was invaluable for their development.
“Each year it’s a fantastic opportunity for our Academy players to come into the club and train within an AFL environment and join in the AFL group for a couple of weeks,” Saddington said.
“It gets them experience of what it’s like to train and prepare as an AFL player, and it’s an invaluable tool for our Academy kids to learn and grow and develop going into their draft year to really try and bring them forward and help them understand what it’s like to play at the highest level.
“Then they go back and take the things they learn from Toby Greene and Josh Kelly and Stephen Coniglio back into their own training at Academy level and we really do see them step forward in terms of what they learn but also their motivation as they head into that draft year.
“The tool for them to be able to do that [train with the AFL side] is unbelievable.”
Promising young midfielder Josaia ‘Joey’ Delana, a member of the GIANTS Academy for two years in Western Sydney, said his time at the club was huge for his growth as a footballer.
“We’ve had plenty of training sessions on the track with the boys and here in the gym learning a lot. Especially me in the midfield, talking to ‘Chook’ [Josh Kelly] about midfield stoppages and ruck work and finding weak points, so there’s been a lot of new learnings,” he said.
Hailing from Blacktown in Western Sydney, the talented 17-year-old will be vying to hear his name read out in the AFL Draft later this year and said he’d entered 2024 with a couple of key focuses.
“My goals for the season are to stay fit and healthy fit, as you can’t play if you’re not fit,” he said.
“Looking to get a few games in the Allies is [also] one of my main ones [goals] as well as trying to get a few VFL games for the GIANTS in.
“I’m looking to push myself this year, being my draft year, if I can stay fit and healthy then it’s all on me [if I get drafted or not].”
Asked which current GIANT he would compare himself to, Delana pointed to one of the club’s most energetic and emerging stars.
“Connor Idun,” he said.
“I copied his haircut and love how he brings energy to the boys, that’s my role when I play and bringing energy and I just love the way he goes about it.”
Saddington was full of praise for the teenage star.
“’Joey’ Delana is a terrific kid and he’s a wonderful young fella from Western Sydney and it’s great to have a local boy performing at a really high level and we want to see them here at the GIANTS,” Saddington said.
“He’s an inside mid/clever forward and he can play both inside and out.
“We are excited about what he can do. He’s got great skills, really good hands in tight, and has a real appetite to push himself and learn and grow and develop in himself.
“He’s got an infectious character, he’s always smiling, he’s always yapping ... he’s a real leader and someone we are looking forward to playing a really high level of footy with us within the Academy and then hopefully within the Allies program in the National Championships.
“I’m sure he’ll get some VFL opportunities within the footy club throughout the year as well and then hopefully come the end of the year we see his name called out on draft night to be part of the GIANTS moving forward.”
The GIANTS Academy was launched in 2011 to help identify, nurture, and develop elite athletes in NSW and the ACT.
The program, which in 2020 also saw the establishment of the GIANTS Female Academy, has gone on to unearth a high number of AFL stars, with current GIANTS Tom Green, Harry Himmelberg, and Isaac Cumming just a few of the high number of current GIANTS to make it to AFL level from the program.