Stephen Coniglio and Tom Green celebrate a goal in GWS' clash with Collingwood in the 2023 preliminary final. Picture: AFL Photos

A MOUTHWATERING head-to-head battle between two of the competition's clearance kings is set to light up the clash between Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney on Sunday.

Matt Rowell (11.7 clearances) and Tom Green (7.7) sit first and third respectively in the all-important clearances per game statistic and occupy the same spots for contested possessions.

The 2019 draft alumni will put those attributes to the test against each other in the Adelaide Hills in a huge Gather Round clash.

"We probably will (see them go head-to-head), he's their clearance king, Tom's probably ours so I'm sure they'll be matched up a lot around stoppages," Greater Western Sydney coach Adam Kingsley said.

"We'll then see how it's going, if Matt Rowell's bobbing up then we'll certainly try and minimise that damage that he can inflict on the opposition.

"Opening Round, he had 20 clearances which is just extraordinary so we know he's capable.

"They're a really strong clearance team and if they get the clearances going their way, they're really hard to beat, irrespective of six years ago or now.

"We need to really control those stoppages, one of our strengths is being able to do that."


Five years on, the 2019 draft is now shaping up as one of the best there's been with Rowell (pick No.1) and Green (No.10) joined by the likes of Luke Jackson (No.3), Caleb Serong (No.8), Hayden Young (No.7), Kysaiah Pickett (No.12), Will Day (No.13) and Chad Warner, who was a steal at pick No.39.

With Rowell and Green joined by Giants Lachie Ash (pick No.4) and Jake Riccardi (No.51) as well as Suns Noah Anderson (No.2) and Sam Flanders (No.11), Sunday's encounter is shaping up as a 2019 draft extravaganza.


Callan Ward, who is four games shy of the 300-game mark, was a noticeable figure at Giants training in the Sydney deluge on Friday.

Turning 34 next week, Ward moved well throughout the session and is close to a return after suffering a shoulder injury in the Opening Round win over Collingwood.

"I would expect him for next week. He needs to get through a full week of training next week and see how he feels after that," Kingsley said.

"He's probably three weeks ahead of schedule which is remarkable."

Callan Ward runs during Greater Western Sydney's training session at Vailo Community Centre on March 22, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Kingsley suggested the Giants will be unchanged for the Suns clash, meaning a likely selection headache looms for Ward's return. Defender Isaac Cumming is still three to four weeks away from recovering from a calf injury.

GWS was boosted this week by a fresh two-year deal for star forward Jesse Hogan, who is leading the League for goals per game with four.

"His ability to manage his body and get himself up ready to go, the influence he's had on our other key forwards has been significant," Kingsley said.

"It's easier for them to play when Jesse is standing next to them because he shoulders a lot of the work, especially the long down the line stuff. Not only does he support them, he actually shows them how to do it properly."

A sold-out crowd is expected for the game between the League's newest sides in Mt Barker, which the two combatants have been happy to make light of this week with their respective 'Expansion Cup' posts on social media.

"I wasted three minutes watching it," Kingsley joked.

"I think it's good fun, our media department do a good job engaging our fans and all fans of the AFL. That's a strength of ours as a footy club, we can laugh at ourselves as well as others and be light hearted when the time's right."

The Giants will have the chance to regain top spot on the ladder with a win over the Suns but they are expecting a tough challenge.

Kingsley spent four years at Richmond under new Suns coach Damien Hardwick and says he can already see some strong signs from Gold Coast.

"They're going to be a very good team if they're not already. The way 'Dimma' wants his teams to play, that's evident in the way Gold Coast go about it. Internally we know this is going to be a really hard game."