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'Everyone's a pre-season hero': Whitfield set for inside job

Adam Curley  March 2, 2016 7:00 AM

AFL 2016 NAB Challenge - GWS Giants v Western Bulldogs

Lachie Whitfield hopes coaching from Lenny Hayes will see him get more time in the centre square

Hopefully I'll get more involved around the stoppages and get in for a few centre bounces

YOUNG Giant Lachie Whitfield has turned to assistant coach Lenny Hayes to help improve his inside game in 2016.

Hayes, who started at the Giants in November and will control the club's on-ball division this season, made his name as a clearance and contested possession specialist in a 297-game career with St Kilda.

One of the most highly-credentialed midfielders in the game, the former captain won the 2010 Norm Smith Medal in St Kilda's Grand Final draw against Collingwood, and was a three-time club champion and All Australian.

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Whitfield has played predominantly as a wingman for most of his 51 games at GWS after being first picked in the 2012 NAB AFL Draft.

The 21-year-old told that Hayes had been a massive influence on the Giants' midfield group.

"His knowledge about how to manoeuvre yourself around stoppages, and little tricks he's got about how to create space, and how to use your body as best you can have been really good," Whitfield said.

"He's helped me a lot and we've been doing a lot more specific training around centre bounces and stoppage work in our line groups.

"It’s been my goal since I got to the club to get into the centre square, but over the past few years I've been hampered by shoulder injuries.

"This year I've been doing a lot more inside stuff and I've put on some weight. I've still got a long way to go with my contested ball work, but I've taken a big step forward.

"I guess I'll have to wait and see how the season progresses, but hopefully I'll get more involved around the stoppages and get in for a few centre bounces."

Whitfield is part of a group of young stars charged with helping the Giants make their first finals campaign, and he has no problem accepting that responsibility. 

The skillful Victorian, along with emerging leaders like Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio, Devon Smith, Jeremy Cameron, Nick Haynes, Toby Greene and Aidan Corr, is seen as a vital component in the club's bid to make the top eight. 

Lenny Hayes looks on during the Giants' recent NAB Challenge game in Canberra. Picture: AFL Media


Veterans Heath Shaw, Ryan Griffen, Shane Mumford, Steve Johnson and Joel Patfull, along with co-captains Callan Ward and Phil Davis, are seen as the backbone of the GWS side, but Whitfield said it was the 21-23 year old players on the list that would be more important to the club's success. 

"You know you're going to get consistency the older blokes because they've been doing it for years," he said.

"It's the improvement from the younger-aged bracket that could actually see us take a bigger step forward.

"We saw blokes like Dylan (Shiel) and 'Cogsy' (Coniglio) doing it last year but if we can get that whole group to play a consistent brand of footy, who knows what we could do this year?" 

"We don't look at external expectations putting too much pressure on us, but internally we know that we drive high standards and if we don't bring that to the games, then you'll get found out by your teammates. 

"It's been pretty heated at times during the intraclub games but it's good competition.

"There's always been a fire to play, but I guess as we've developed, we've become more mature and figured out how cut-throat the game is, so pre-season has gone to the next level. 

"I'm sure every club says that and everyone's a pre-season hero, but we feel like we're in a good launching zone for the start of the year."