Darcy Jones during Greater Western Sydney's training session on February 9, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

FORMER first-round pick Darcy Jones was on track to make his long-awaited debut in Opening Round but the West Australian will now need to wait a little longer after a frustrating end to his second pre-season at Greater Western Sydney.

The 19-year-old played less than a quarter in 2023 due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his maiden appearance for the Giants' VFL side last April, after shoulder and quad injuries curtailed his first summer in New South Wales. 

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Jones had been a standout on the track over December, January and February but was then ruled out of the match simulation against Sydney last month due to swelling in the knee he had reconstructed last year, before tonsilitis prevented him from training last week ahead of the practice match against Gold Coast in Canberra. 

Greater Western Sydney will face reigning premier Collingwood at Giants Stadium without Finn Callaghan (shoulder), Harry Perryman (hamstring) and Isaac Cumming (quad) on Saturday, while Jones is aiming to return in the first game of the VFL season against Footscray on March 24.

Giants coach Adam Kingsley expects the talented small forward to earn a shot in his side in the not-too-distant future, following an eye-catching pre-season where he showed why he was selected at pick No.21 in the 2022 AFL Draft. 

"Unfortunately, his debut will be a little while now," Kingsley told AFL.com.au

"I was hoping he would have played on Thursday and put his hand up for selection, but the swelling in his knee was precautionary and then to come down with tonsilitis the day before main training when he was going to push his case to be selected against the Suns. 

"I can't pick him [against Collingwood] when he hasn't played, particularly when he hasn't played an AFL game before. 

"I've got a lot of faith in him; he is going to be a very good player. He is very exciting, a cross between Brent Daniels and Toby Bedford. He has Bedford's speed, athleticism and a want to try and tackle and he has Daniels' finishing skills."

Greater Western Sydney's two first-round picks from 2023 will both start the season on the sidelines. Phoenix Gothard is recovering from glandular fever and doesn't have a return date yet, while James Leake will miss at least the next month with a quad injury. 

Star midfielder Tom Green was named in the 44-man All-Australian squad last year and finished equal second in the Kevin Sheedy Medal after averaging 32 disposals and six clearances a game, 12 months after finishing third in the best and fairest following a breakout campaign in 2022. 

Tom Green during Greater Western Sydney's official team photo day at Giants HQ on February 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

The 23-year-old will enter the 2024 season as one of leading contenders for the Brownlow Medal – he polled 16 votes last year – but Kingsley said the Canberran has gone to work over the summer and is poised to build on two strong seasons in the AFL.  

"You know what you get with Tom Green," he said before Green collected 31 disposals, 14 contested possessions, nine clearances and a goal last Thursday night against the Suns. 

"He has done a lot of work over the pre-season, comes in every day and just trains. He has been really impressive and has that hunger to go to another level again this year. He wants to be great."