Tom Scully is the best defensive player Callan Ward has played with
ALONG with his footy boots and his mobile phone, Greater Western Sydney vice-captain Tom Scully always carries another item with him wherever he goes – constant scrutiny.
The top selection in the 2009 NAB AFL Draft, Scully's performances are examined far more closely than the vast majority of players in the AFL.
As well as holding the unmovable burden that comes with being a No.1 pick, leaving Melbourne to take up a lucrative contract with the Giants only intensified the forensic review the midfielder is subjected to every week.
The latest dissection of his career came in a recent newspaper article comparing him to some of the great busts in American sport, where the spotlight is even more intense on high draft picks.
But the Giants, the club that pays his wage and decides whether he is worthy of a place on the field, are more than happy with how he is tracking.
GWS co-captain Callan Ward is an unabashed admirer and on Tuesday paid Scully an enormous compliment, labelling him the best defensive player he has ever played with.
It is a surprising statement from a man who reached consecutive preliminary finals in 2009 and 2010 as a member of a highly competitive Western Bulldogs outfit.
But Ward is adamant that Scully, who turns 22 next week, ranks No.1 for defensive capabilities.
"He's been great for us," Ward said.
"Defensively I think Tom's probably the best I've ever played with. If you look at the tackle count, which I don't think the media looks at too much, he's on top at this footy club.
"I can't question Tom's effort and his form has actually been really good.
"All the players love playing with him."
Scully is indeed GWS' top tackler this season, averaging 4.2 per game, putting him ahead of Ward (3.8 per game), a player renowned for his toughness, and Stephen Coniglio (3.5).
He is adding 17.5 possessions and four marks per game for a Giants side that is still chasing its first win of the season.
Criticised at times for a lack of offensive impact, Scully is starting to add goalkicking to his repertoire, kicking 4.1 over his past three games.
Pushed further on Scully's defensive capabilities, Ward said: "Tom is a guy that, if he's next to me and my opponent is next to him, I can say 'Tom, take my man' and you always have full trust in him to do that.
"Defensively he'll do anything for you out on the field.
"He's the best I've ever come across in terms of being able to trust him."
Scully himself is used to all the pressure and insists he doesn't let it bother him.
"To be honest I don't read into it," Scully said.
"Obviously I'm used to the constant scrutiny at the moment.
"It's just business as usual for myself. If I stop and think about that, I'd be getting away from what I'm really here to do.
"There's 44 other guys on our list and I'm just another player.
"I'm just playing my role and that's what I get judged on."
James Dampney is a reporter for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_JD