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Emerging superstar in doubt to take on Bombers

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DOUBTS remain over the availability of Greater Western Sydney star Josh Kelly, who could be a chance to miss Sunday's season opener against Essendon after an interrupted pre-season.

Kelly had hip and knee surgery at the end of last season and while he did manage to build his training loads over summer, especially into January, some recent soreness has seen the 2017 club champion handled carefully by the Giants. 

The Virgin Australia AFL All Australian midfielder missed both JLT Community Series games and failed to take part in the Giants' intraclub match last week but trained solidly on Tuesday. 

Kelly hit the track at Sydney Showgrounds Stadium on Thursday and took part in the warm-up before the session was closed to the media. 

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GWS coach Leon Cameron said Kelly wasn't injured, and his place in the side to face the Bombers could come down to a decision about his preparation, and his long-term fitness.

"We never planned to play him in any of the JLT Community Series, we thought about playing him for a half in the intraclub, but he didn't," he said. 

"In saying that he did about 11 or 12km of good, hard, intense training.

"So that’s what we're trying to judge, whether or not we throw him in. 

"The decision will be if we think we need to give him another week or so of training. 

"There's certain players that can step into a real game, and round one is a frenetic pace, but (Kelly not playing any games) doesn't worry me.

"We know Essendon are going to be really hard to beat, so we want to take in as many fit players, who have had good pre-seasons as possible.

"You can carry one or two, and we're talking about Josh Kelly who is obviously an outstanding player, so we need to make that call." 

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The Giants also have star forward Toby Greene coming off a rough summer, but he has responded well after recovering from ankle surgery and played against Adelaide in the second week of the JLT Community Series.

Greene warmed up away from the main group on Thursday but looks certain to face the Bombers, along with Jacob Hopper, who pulled up sore after the Giants' scratch match against Sydney in February and missed the pre-season competition.

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Hopper played limited minutes in last week's intraclub and got through unscathed.

If Kelly does miss the first game of the year, and with co-captain Callan Ward (knee) already missing, Lachie Whitfield's role could change to give the Giants' midfield stocks a boost against a talented Essendon unit that contains former GWS stars Dylan Shiel and Devon Smith, Dyson Heppell and the prolific Zach Merrett. 

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Last year's club champion and All Australian half-back has spoken about playing as a forward this season, but Cameron said that was news to him.

"I heard him say that but I don't know where he gets that information from, so he might be running around in the early game in the NEAFL," he said with a laugh.

"He done a lot of pre-season at half-back, he's done some in the midfield, and a little bit forward. 

"The thing we love about Lachie is that even when he played most of last year at half-back, he's got the flexibility, and played both finals on the wing.

"He adapts to anything but I'm also mindful of getting him into a rhythm, so I've got to be careful I don't move him around too much. 

"He's always been around the action and when he's around the action a lot of things happen." 

In good news for GWS, Ward is out of the heavy brace and ran laps on Thursday with a less restrictive brace on his knee, while defender Nick Haynes (back) also trained with the main group, although he's unlikely to be available until round two or three.