Harvey Thomas in action during Greater Western Sydney's clash against Collingwood in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

OF ALL the AFL teams for a late 2023 draft pick to break into for Opening Round, Greater Western Sydney may just have been the most unlikely of the lot.

With a star-studded, flag-focused line-up at the Giants, none of their newest crop of draftees were given much hope of securing a spot in the side for their opener.

And that's made small forward Harvey Thomas' achievement in doing so even more impressive.

Taken at pick 59 in last year's draft, the Giants Academy product was the epitome of a pre-season bolter for the win over Collingwood, contributing three goal assists from his nine disposals on debut.

"It's been awesome, I've been around the club for the last few years and then to debut in front of a sold-out home crowd in Sydney, I couldn't ask for much more for the start of the season," Thomas told AFL.com.au.

"I think overall I was really happy with how I was able to execute my role. I think hopefully as I get more game time, I can learn to bring my own game to the team as well."

Harvey Thomas and Isaac Quaynor compete for the ball during Greater Western Sydney's clash against Collingwood in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

"The boys in the forward line were good because if you're unsure about anything out on the field, they're able to help me urgently. Toby (Greene) is always good, he just tells you where you need to be and where he wants you, and so it makes it pretty easy. All you have to do is just listen," he added.

It can't be denied that injuries at the Giants to key players such as Finn Callaghan, Isaac Cumming, Harry Perryman and even speedy youngster Darcy Jones – who was looming for an Opening Round debut himself – enhanced Thomas' chances of selection against Collingwood.

But to list merely that as a reason would be selling the diminutive Thomas short.

The 18-year-old's talents are underlined by taking out Caulfield Grammar's best and fairest award last year in a team that included Hawthorn's No.5 draft pick Nick Watson.


And the signs were strong from a standout match simulation performance against the Swans that there should be no doubting Thomas' chances of an early-season debut.

"Adam (Kingsley, coach) said, 'You're playing for a reason. We wouldn't have picked you if we didn't think you were ready'," Thomas said.

"So obviously those words are good to hear and for him to be able to back me in, I felt really comfortable, and he just said, 'You don't need to change a thing, just keep doing what you're doing.'

"I think it was just about trying to settle in as quickly as I could (in pre-season) not only on the track, but just around the club and off field as well.

"I definitely didn't set a specific goal like playing Opening Round. It was more about trying to put in the hard work early and train well and try and get the structures down pat as quick as I could and then in turn put myself in the best position to put my hand up to play."

Harry Himmelberg presents Harvey Thomas with his jumper before Greater Western Sydney's clash against Collingwood in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Thomas admits his Academy background at the Giants helped him adjust to his professional surrounds, but there was still no diluting the thrill of his surprise debut announcement as a fully fledged AFL footballer.

"We were out on the track when I found out. We'd just finished our session on Thursday and Toby announced it to the group. It was definitely a special moment, a little bit unexpected too," he said.

"I did ring the parents within the next 10 minutes because the Giants media guys told me to tell them before it gets out. So, I was able to have that moment with them and that was certainly special as well.

"They were just both very proud, the camera was on me at that moment so I wasn't able to get too emotional. But it was a cool, just to see them proud like that was awesome."

Harvey Thomas is congratulated by Josh Kelly and Giants teammates after learning of his debut on March 7, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

As was the case across the pre-season, Thomas didn't look out of place against the reigning premier in a huge Opening Round.

But he concedes there were plenty of moments where he had to take stock of the surrounds that he suddenly found himself in. 

"They're a star-studded team, fresh off a premiership, so whenever you run them past those guys like the Daicos boys or even matching up on (Isaac) Quaynor, it sort of makes you go, 'Yeah, it's pretty real'. It's an eye-opening moment.

"Running out onto the ground in the stadium of a sold-out crowd was definitely special. Hearing the roar and then when we started to kick those goals late to give us a comfortable lead, I was able to really celebrate with the boys and the team. That was pretty special and the crowd was loving it too."