Squad breakdown: Backs
With our 2021 playing list finalised, GIANTS Media will spend January breaking down each area of the ground and assessing how the squad is placed heading into the 2021 season.
Cameron Fleeton - Joined the club as pick 58 in December’s Draft. He’s a defender with the ability to play on medium and tall forwards and he reads the play exceptionally well. Fleeton uses his precise left foot to set up play well from the back half.
Jacob Wehr - Joined the club as pick 59 as one of the surprises of the 2020 Draft. The 22-year-old is a running defender, who sets up the play with his beautiful left foot. He capped off his breakout year in the SANFL with a premiership medal for Woodville-West Torrens.
Will Shaw (r) - Joined the club as a category B rookie as an undrafted NSW recruit, having grown up in Deniliquin. Shaw has played predominantly across the wing and half-back in underage footy as a creative ball user and is regarded as having a great combination of speed and endurance.
Heath Shaw - After a long and illustrious career, Shaw played the last of his 325 career games in round 18 last year. He will be remembered as one of the key drivers of the GIANTS’ culture during his seven years at the club.
Aidan Corr - The reliable defender left via Free Agency to join North Melbourne, coming agonisingly close to father/son/daughter eligibility after playing 98 games for the club over his eight seasons.
Zac Williams -The dashing defender opted to take a hefty offer from Carlton during last year’s Free Agency period which ended his run of 113 games in eight seaons at the GIANTS.
Lachie Ash - Impressed everyone in his 12 games in his debut season. Expect to see him play with more dash in 2021 as he becomes more comfortable with the speed of the elite level.
Isaac Cumming - Played the bookends of the season but missed a large chunk of 2020 with a serious hamstring injury. Right in line to step into the shoes of Zac Williams as a rebounding defender as he enters his fifth year in the AFL.
Phil Davis - The reliable former skipper only played 10 games in 2020, with the back half of his season wiped out due to a knee injury. His on-field leadership is an integral part of the GIANTS and the team is better placed with the 30-year-old anchoring the backline.
Nick Haynes - Had a career-best year in 2020, playing every game and receiving the external plaudits he so richly deserved. Has become one of the most reliable GIANTS and opposition teams are looking to drag him away from the ball at every opportunity due to his uncanny ability to impact aerial contests.
Connor Idun - The 20-year-old finished the season by playing the final two games in Brisbane after strong form in the reserves all season. With a third pre-season behind him, expect to see Big C in line to step up in the absence of Aidan Corr.
Lachlan Keeffe - Surprised many by playing 13 games in 2020, his most in a season since 2014 at Collingwood. Keeffe stepped in when Sam Taylor went down and played every game as a key defender from round five onwards. His maturity and experience will continue to be highly valued across the club in 2021.
Jake Stein (r) - The 26-year-old was unable to add to his career tally of five games in 2020 but could be another key defender that finds opportunities present themselves in a new-look backline. The Penrith product remains on the rookie list in 2021.
Sam Taylor - The young defender was sorely missed in 2020, which was ruined by a mysterious infection that limited him to just four games. The ultra-competitive 21-year-old will be hungry to return to the heights of 2019 which saw him play 22 games and star for the club on the big September stage.
Matt Buntine (r) - The 27-year-old was unlucky not to add to his 59 career games in 2020 and has been retained on the list as a rookie. A versatile defender who can play big and small, he is seen as good back up to Nick Haynes and also has the ability to play as a lock down forward as he did in 2019.
Callum Brown (r) - Having spent two seasons honing his skills, the Irishman is looking forward to taking his game to the next level in 2021. Was close to debuting at stages in 2020 and will add plenty of dash when he does get his chance.
Sam Reid (r) - The storied career of Sam Reid sees the 31-year-old return for another season on the rookie list in 2021. After an injury-ravaged start to the season, Reid finished 2020 by playing the final three games and is another one that will be looking to get back to the level of his 2019 season in the new year.
State of Play: While a lot has been made externally of the loss of a number of well-known defenders over the off-season, the GIANTS enter 2021 with a strong backline still intact if all the key players can be on the park. With Heath Shaw, Zac Williams and Aidan Corr no longer on the list, opportunities will present for the likes of Isaac Cumming, Connor Idun and Jake Stein to lock down a position.
More of the same please: Nick Haynes spent years as one of the most under-rated players in the AFL, however 2020 saw the intercept marker named in the All-Australian team for the first time as well as securing the Kevin Sheedy Medal (alongside Lachie Whitfield). Haynes has solidified himself as one of the best intercept defenders in the competition and GIANTS fans will be hoping to see plenty more of his aerial work throughout 2021.
Don’t forget about me: It is easy to overlook what a big hole Sam Taylor left in the backline when he succumbed to an unusual infection in June, restricting him to just four games for the season. At 21-years of age and with only 34 games behind him, Taylor has quickly become a key part of the GIANTS’ backline. His competitive nature and the ability to play and opponents of all size will make him a welcome addition following a 2020 he’d prefer to forget.
Time to unleash: Callum Brown has been patiently learning the game in the lower levels having spent two years at the club since moving from Ireland. Having spent some time forward in 2019, Brown was a regular across half-back in the trial games that took place through 2020. With pace and creativity to burn, 2021 may be the year that the 20-year-old gets his opportunity on the big stage.
Crystal ball time: Callan Ward has made his name as one of the toughest midfielders in the competition over the past decade and was a crucial member of the GIANTS’ engine room in the early years of the club. With Ward now closer to the end of his career than the start, the 30-year-old could be the perfect replacement for Heath Shaw as a lock down defender who has beautiful foot skills to create the GIANTS’ creative thrusts.