The GIANTS’ VFL side is likely to be bolstered by a talented trio this weekend with AFL-listed GIANTS Braydon Preuss, Phoenix Gothard and Joe Fonti in line to take on Sandringham on Saturday after all three made successful returns to the field last weekend.

With a league-wide bye across the VFL last weekend, Preuss, Gothard and Fonti all took part in a VFL practice match on Saturday as the GIANTS took on the Swans at the VAILO Community Centre.

The clash was a meaningful one for Pruess (back) and Gothard (glandular fever) who took part in their first games of the season, while Fonti made his return following weeks on the sidelines with an adductor injury.

The hit-out the was a significant one for Preuss, with the 28-year-old ruckman overcoming consistent disc issues in his back which have seen him not play a game at AFL level since round 21, 2022.

GIANTS’ VFL coach Wayne Cripps said it was fantastic to see the 207cm ruckman back on the field following a long stint on the sidelines.

“It was great to see the big fella back out there,” Cripps said.

“It definitely would have been an emotional rollercoaster for him but to his credit he’s always been upbeat. He’s had a lot of bumps along the way, but he’s always brought great energy and always brings a laugh and a smile on his face.

 “We are really happy for him, and fingers crossed we can keep him going.

“He spent his time between being a key forward and playing in the ruck. He took a nice mark early on and not only was his aerial presence strong, but it was good to see the sharpness with his follow-up and his defensive pressure which was at a high level. Then obviously we saw some of that ruck craft that he has.

“Fingers crossed we can get some really good continuity into him, and he could become a really important player in our AFL side.”

Gothard, the club’s first pick in November’s Draft at pick 12, also made a strong return to the field in his first hit-out against opposition following his rehab from glandular fever.

“You could already see from some of his highlights that he brought great energy on defence with his ability to want to step in and tackle which was at a high level,” Cripps said of the exciting small forward.

“He did some really good things where he showed that speed and outside run that he’s got as well.

“It was obviously his first game trying to play our system and he’ll only get better with the more game he plays.”

Cripps was also upbeat about fellow recent draftee Fonti, with pick 44 from last year’s draft overcoming an adductor injury which sidelined the rebounding defender for multiple weeks following an impressive debut summer on the track.

“He’s another that really showed his traits and showed why we drafted him with his ability firstly to defend at a high level, but then with his want to join in on offence and really play with the speed that we want to play with,” Cripps said.

“He really loves to take the game on and it gives us confidence that such a young player has such confidence, so fingers crossed he can continue to build on that.”

With several other AFL-listed GIANTS taking on the Swans, Cripps was also quick to heap praise on young untried forward Darcy Jones - who has recently returned from an ACL injury suffered in his debut season last year - as well as veteran Nick Haynes - with both impressing against the Swans in their bid for senior selection.

“Darcy went well,” Cripps said.

“Once again, he’s playing the role we really need him to play and that’s playing with real intent on defence and lots of energy on offence, he’s really building in the right direction.

“Nick Haynes is definitely worth a mention. His attitude and leadership with such a young group was great. But not only that, the role he played, in firstly defending, but then getting our offence going, was great.

 “I thought he was our best offensive player on the ground in terms of generating our offense and playing with speed. He made some really good decisions, and he was a massive help for a young side.”

After a solid hit-out against the Swans, in which the club rotated through 28 players, the GIANTS now turn their attention to their upcoming round three clash with Sandringham which will serve as a curtain raiser to the AFL side on Saturday at Manuka Oval.

After a tough 17-point round one loss to the Bulldogs at Whiten Oval a fortnight ago, the GIANTS will be out to claim their first victory of the 2024 Smithy's VFL season on Saturday.

“We showed some really good signs against the Bulldogs in round one and probably felt like we let a game slip there, but we’ve learnt our lessons from that and looking forward to taking on the Zebras,” Cripps said ahead of the clash.

The GIANTS’ VFL side will face the Zebras at 10:05am on Saturday at Manuka Oval ahead of the GIANTS’ AFL clash with the Saints at 1:45pm.