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GWS Giants expecting big things

The slogan splashed across the front page of the GWS Giants’ 2015 yearbook sums up the air of optimism surrounding the AFL’s youngest club – expect big things.

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A strong end to last season combined with some excellent trading and a raft of crucial off-season contract extensions have the Giants in a bullish mood heading into their fourth campaign.

Chairman Tony Shepherd said he’d be disappointed if the club didn’t make the finals in the next two years and he expected them to be premiership contenders by 2018.

“There’s pressure from the outside of the club, in the media, for us to perform, but we actually put more pressure on ourselves to perform,” said star forward Jeremy Cameron, one of several key players to have signed recent contract extensions.

No Giant is spruiking talk of a finals tilt this year, but everyone is adamant their days as easybeats are over.

“My expectations have lifted for our playing group, our playing group’s expectations have lifted of each other, because if they don’t we’re not improving,” Giants’ coach Leon Cameron told AAP.

“Yes, we improved last last year with six wins, but we expect to win more games.

“We expect to be competitive for longer. We expect to be taking it up to some of the really good sides this year.

“We’re not here to make up the numbers. These players are building to hopefully put themselves in a position to win a premiership.”

A squad containing a heap of emerging stars with three seasons under their belt, has been supplemented by a couple of major recruits in former Western Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen and dual Brisbane best and fairest winner Joel Patfull.

The Giants improved significantly in most defensive categories last year, despite key backs Phil Davis, Nick Haynes and Tim Mohr each missing a stack of games, along with smaller defender Curtly Hampton.

Add the experience of Patfull and Heath Shaw and the reliability of the younger Adam Kennedy and some better luck with injuries and the Giants should continue trending down in the points conceded category.

Last year they conceded 30 points a game less than in 2013 and went from having 19 and 20 100-point scores kicked against them in their first two years, to 11 in 2014.

“We know there’s a lot more improvement in there,” Leon Cameron said.

With Jonathon Patton out until mid-season following a second knee reconstruction and Tom Boyd sacrificed in the trade that brought Griffen to the club, young sharpshooters James Stewart and Cameron McCarthy will vie for the other key forward position alongside Jeremy Cameron.

With Devon Smith, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Jed Lamb and Rhys Palmer also capable of sniffing out goals, the Giants won’t be short of options up forward.

Griffen joins another former Bulldog in Callan Ward and Tom Scully in leading a dazzling array of younger midfielders including Lachie Whitfield, Josh Kelly, Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio, Toby Greene, Tomas Bugg and Adam Treloar.

“It bodes really well to know that there’s probably 10 midfielders trying to jump in and take five or six spots,” Leon Cameron said.

Reigning best and fairest winner Shane Mumford will again lead the ruck division, with Andrew Phillips, Tom Downie and Rory Lobb as back-up options.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

Coach: Leon Cameron

Captains: Callan Ward, Phil Davis

Last three years: 18-18-16

Premierships: Nil

Key five: Callan Ward, Jeremy Cameron, Ryan Griffen, Phil Davis, Shane Mumford

One to watch: Ryan Griffen. The former Bulldogs skipper cited a need to rekindle his love of the game as the reason behind his shock move at the end of last season – hopefully he can recapture that passion because there are few more exciting players in full flight.

Ins: Paul Ahern (Calder U18), Jeremy Finlayson (GWS academy), Ryan Griffen (Western Bulldogs), Caleb Marchbank (Murray U18), Pat McKenna (Gisborne Vic), Joel Patfull (Brisbane Lions), Jarrod Pickett (South Fremantle WAFL), Jack Steele (GWS academy).

Outs: Tom Boyd (Western Bulldogs), Sam Frost (Melbourne), Jonathan Giles (Essendon), Stephen Gilham (retired), Josh Hunt (retired), Kristian Jaksch (Carlton), Jonathan O’Rourke (Hawthorn), Mark Whiley (Carlton).

Best line-up:

B: Curtly Hampton, Phil Davis, Joel Patfull

HB: Adam Kennedy, Nick Haynes, Heath Shaw

C: Toby Greene, Callan Ward, Lachie Whitfield

HF: Devon Smith, Jonathon Patton, Tom Scully

F: Will Hoskin-Elliott, Jeremy Cameron, Adam Tomlinson

R: Shane Mumford, Ryan Griffen, Stephen Coniglio

I: Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel, Josh Kelly, Tomas Bugg

Predicted finish: 13th

Betting: (William Hill)

To win the flag: $101

To make the top eight: $7

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