Phoenix Gothard (left) and James Leake pose for a photograph during the 2023 AFL Draft at Marvel Stadium on November 21, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

GREATER Western Sydney's first-round picks from last year's AFL Draft – Phoenix Gothard and James Leake – are both facing delayed starts to their debut seasons after suffering pre-season setbacks.

Gothard has been diagnosed with glandular fever and is expected to be sidelined for at least a month, with a timeline to become clearer in the coming weeks.  

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The Giants selected the small forward with pick No.12 last November after trading pick No. 8 to Adelaide, along with pick 17 in exchange for pick 11, 15 and a future second-round pick.

Gothard wasn't invited by the AFL to the draft but attended with close mate Connor O'Sullivan, who was selected by Geelong the pick before, before the Giants pulled one of the big surprises by swooping on the Albury product.  


With Brent Daniels and Toby Bedford thriving alongside Toby Greene last year, Gothard is viewed as a long-term prospect with the club not rushing the 179cm small forward to play senior football in his debut season.

Greater Western Sydney traded up one spot to select Leake at pick No.17 on night one of the draft, landing a second target after getting in early to beat other clubs to select Gothard.

Leake has suffered a quad strain and won't return to full training until after the Giants' season opener against Collingwood on March 9.  

The Tasmanian arrived at GWS with a history of soft tissue injuries so the club will take a cautious approach with the 188cm utility. 

James Leake celebrates kicking a goal during the Coates Talent League match between Tasmania Devils and Gippsland Power at Highgate Reserve on September 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Free agents Harry Perryman and Isaac Cumming are both set to miss the Opening Round clash against the reigning premiers at Giants Stadium, while Finn Callaghan is facing a race against the clock to be fit in time

Perryman strained his hamstring during match sim and is set to be sidelined for at least a month, while Cumming is recovering from a quad strain that could rule him out until the round one clash against North Melbourne. 

Callaghan missed last Friday's intra-club and has been ruled out of both practice matches against Sydney (Tramway Oval on Thursday) and Gold Coast (Manuka Oval on February 29) and might not be ready in time for Opening Round. 

Ruckman Braydon Preuss will miss at least the first six weeks of the season due to the back injury that ruined most of his 2023 campaign.