Max Gruzewski at Giants training on June 20, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

GREATER Western Sydney will hand an AFL debut to young key forward Max Gruzewski on the massive stage of Sydney Derby 28 at Engie Stadium on Saturday.

The 19-year-old Melburnian has earned his first call-up to the senior side following a string of excellent games in the VFL.

After kicking 2.3 from seven marks in the win over Port Melbourne on the weekend, Gruzewski's case for inclusion was too strong for coach Adam Kingsley to ignore and he's now been brought in for the clash with the ladder-leading Swans.

"I mean it's been a dream since I was a little kid to run around and play in the AFL so for it to come true this weekend, it means the world," Gruzewski told

"I can't put it all into words at the moment because it's just so fresh and I probably won't be able to until I've gone and done it, but I just can't wait to get out there.

"I called mum and dad before and they were super excited, they've been on the journey the whole way and rode the ups and downs, so it's as exciting for them as it is for me."


Gruzewski's claims for an AFL spot had been building strongly over the last month and with fellow young forward Aaron Cadman experiencing a form dip, his chances of a debut were growing ahead of the Derby.

There have clearly been no reservations when it comes to throwing a young key forward into a game of that magnitude, though, and Gruzewski wouldn't have it any other way.

"You can't really script it any better. it's probably the perfect game to debut in. It's super exciting, they're obviously going really well at the moment, and it'd be a good scalp for us to take on the weekend and really get our season going," he said.

Max Gruzewski celebrates with his Giants teammates after his debut against Sydney was announced on June 20, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

The first player taken in the second round of the 2022 AFL Draft, Gruzewski is not quite a key forward at 192 centimetres but has shown that he plays taller than that with his marking ability and competitiveness.

"That's always been my biggest strength, playing at Oakleigh Chargers, playing at school (Caulfield Grammar), it's something that I pride myself on.

"Being able to mark the ball at its highest point, take contested marks, that's what sets me apart," he said.

Gruzewski looked close to his AFL debut in round seven after Jesse Hogan was handed a one-game ban but when Hogan successfully appealed the decision, Max's big moment was put on on ice.

"Yeah, definitely there's been some frustrating moments, everyone wants to come in and play AFL straight away, but it'll hold me in good stead for a long time, having the longer stint in the VFL."

"The coaches have been really good as well, telling me I'm doing lots of the right things, providing positive reinforcement and that I've got to stay patient and my time will come. I've just got to wait for the right opportunity and it just happens to be this week."