Jeremy Finlayson moved from a small country town to Sydney at the age of 16 to chase his footballing dream. Now he’s living that dream in the home he’s made for himself in the GIANTS forward line.
The tall, athletic forward is a permanent fixture too, playing every match so far this season after 23 last year including all of the GIANTS’ finals campaign.
Finlayson has always been a mobile marking option with silky foot skills, but after 47 games some fine consistency is now also coming through. He is one of only four players in the league to have kicked a goal in every round this year, the others being Tom Papley, Charlie Cameron and Matt Taberner.
In fact, the 24-year-old has only gone goalless once in his past 20 games across two seasons for the GIANTS – in last year’s Grand Final loss, when he and too many of his teammates had a rare off-day and he only picked up one mark and one kick.
Finlayson says he is starting to feel more confident of his place in the GIANTS forward line, but that kicking goals isn’t something he focuses on.
“It’s a defensive game at the moment. People don’t like the defensive game, but hard work overrides your talent,” the 196cm left-footer told AFL.com.au.
“I’m not fussed about kicking goals, I’m just doing what I have to do.
After injuring his knee in his debut game in 2017 – a draw with Geelong – Finlayson had to wait until the 2018 season to play his second match.
After a round one return he played another 13 times that year, mostly in defence where he was able to use his elite kicking to help the GIANTS rebound out of the back half while also learning more about playing at the top level.
“I was naturally a forward through my junior career,” Finlayson said.
“I guess playing back helped me a bit with that defensive side of my game that I’m still working on.”
Finlayson moved to his more familiar forward role in 2019 and kicked 44 goals, the eighth most in the competition. His teammate, Jeremy Cameron, won the Coleman Medal and went on to kick 76 for the season, making the ‘Two Jeremys’ the highest-scoring club duo in the league with 120 goals.
Despite following his breakout season with another 13 goals so far this year, including four in a 34-point victory over Hawthorn in round five, Finlayson is quick to pass any praise on to his fellow forwards.
“What’s helped me is the guys I have around me, like ‘Jezza’ [Cameron], Toby [Greene], Harry [Himmelberg], and our line coach Brad Miller,” he said.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now.”
Finlayson added he “would be doing something different” if it wasn’t for the GIANTS Academy he joined as a 14-year-old while living in Culcairn, a country town of about 1500 people in the Riverina region of southern NSW.
He moved to Sydney a couple of years later to continue in the Academy and complete his schooling, while playing footy for the Sydney Hills Eagles and the GIANTS' NEAFL side. Finlayson was eventually selected as a bargain pick at No.85 in the 2014 AFL Draft.
“They do tremendous work for us boys that might not get opportunity elsewhere,” he said proudly about the Academy that nurtured his talents.
“It’s huge for the kids that are in the small country towns. They’re very, very helpful.”
Finlayson has been on the move again, this time with his teammates and coaching staff to spend a week in a hub in Brisbane followed by several weeks in Perth.
He had good reason to look forward to the time in Queensland in particular, as much of his family has moved their home up there in recent times.
“I’m over the moon to be able to see them. I haven’t been able to see them for about six months with the times we’re going through. I know people are doing it tough, not getting to see family members, so I’m lucky,” Finlayson said.
“My sister just had a kid up there as well, she’s about three days old. And I have a little nephew.
“Even if it’s only for 10 minutes, to go for a walk or a coffee, I’m excited.”