Aaron Cadman celebrates a goal during the R14 match between GWS and Port Adelaide at Engie Stadium on June 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

IT'S A poisoned chalice that comes with the privilege of being the first name read out on draft night, but Aaron Cadman knows he's assessed differently to other young key forwards in the AFL.

Form fluctuations in the early years as a developing tall target in attack are commonplace but when you're the No.1 draft pick, there's simply less leeway afforded.

Although he's hidden away from the microscope in Melbourne, Cadman is feeling that attention right now. 

After an encouraging start to his second season at Greater Western Sydney that has yielded eight goals and 13 marks in the first four games, his output has dried up somewhat.

The 20-year-old has been subbed out of the past two Giants games and has managed just four goals and five marks in his past five outings.

Ahead of a blockbuster home Sydney derby on Saturday, there is pressure on his place in the team, but Cadman is adamant it will all come together again for him soon.


"It's been a tough last couple of weeks for me. I started off the season pretty solid and then I've just steered away from what I know," Cadman told AFL.com.au.

"I've just got to up my aggressiveness and play my role for the team. He (coach Adam Kingsley) keeps giving me the opportunities, so I've got to take them.

"My strength is my athleticism, so I've just got to keep flying at contests, keep showing up and rocking up. As a key forward if I can keep making a contest and putting myself in a position to win that footy it'll click eventually.

"I've got the confidence that I belong in this team, and I've got to show that."

Aaron Cadman flies for a mark against Brandon Zerk-Thatcher and Miles Bergman during the R14 match between GWS and Port Adelaide at Engie Stadium on June 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Cadman's spot in the side for the derby with the Swans will likely be discussed in detail at match committee, with another young key forward in Max Gruszewski continuing to impress in the VFL and closing quickly on an AFL debut.

Internally, the Giants hold no concerns about Cadman's class long-term.

And at this juncture in his career, there's no reason to either.

Peaks and troughs for raw key forwards are normal.

Cadman's form is merely discussed more frequently because of his draft position.

"Sometimes it is a little bit tough but me being in Sydney does help a lot," he said.

"There's not as many eyes on you which is a good thing, I think. Being the No.1 pick there is a bit more scrutiny and they watch you a bit closer.

"But as soon as you walk through the doors in this club no one cares. I could be pick 99 and I'd be treated the same, so I've just got to keep showing up and doing my best every week."


Cadman does find some encouragement in the No.1 pick from two years prior to him, in Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

The Bulldogs key forward also experienced some ups and down in his first two years before breaking out in season three.

"I like watching the way he deals with things. He's been through a lot in his career so far, the way he deals with the pressure and the hate and judgment that he's gone through. He just lets his footy do the talking, it's really crucial," Cadman said.

"He had a slow start as well but just kept doing what the coach asked him, so I've just got to keep doing that and it'll click."

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan celebrates a goal with Lachie Bramble and Ryley Sanders during the R12 match between Western Bulldogs and Collingwood at the MCG on May 31. 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

And inside Cadman's own club at the Giants there's the leader of the forward line in Jesse Hogan who knows better than most about the rollercoaster you can go on as a burgeoning young forward in the AFL.  

"I can relate to him a lot. He teaches me a lot about patience. It's hard, you want to come in and be the best you can be straight away but in my position that's the hardest thing to do. He tells me just to be patient, do the little things right and it'll click," he said.

The much-vaunted family environment at the Giants is helping Cadman get through any tricky times on the field and the Melburnian is more than happy with life in Sydney.

"Absolutely. It's unreal, sun's shining, I can't complain here at all," he said.

Aaron Cadman poses during Greater Western Sydney's official team photo day on February 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

And if the Giants can cause an upset against the high-flying Swans, the inaugural premiership talk around GWS will ramp up once more, even though it's a belief that has never wavered internally.

Lachie Ash seems almost certain to return from a calf injury in a boost to the Giants' running game out of defence while gun midfielder Stephen Coniglio will have his shoulder tested later in the week but is up against it to return for Saturday.

"If we win this we go into second. It's a crucial game for us, it's going to be a tough one obviously, but it'll be good if we can be the ones to knock them off," Cadman said.

"We've been struggling to play our way a little bit at times, so it was good to finally put it together (against Port Adelaide). If we can keep showing a Giants game, it'll be crucial for us to build and solidified by the end of the year."