A GREATER Western Sydney midfield that misfired and missed the finals in 2020 was expecting to bounce back this year with a return to full fitness for 2019 club champion Tim Taranto and a regular injection of youth from the next generation.
But after a disappointing eight-point loss to St Kilda in wet conditions in round one, the Giants took a turn away from the youthful path when second-year player Tom Green was dropped for the trip to Fremantle.
The contested ball-winning bull played six games in his debut season, averaging 15 disposals but not having the sort of immediate impact that many junior football observers were predicting.
But it was Green’s omission for the round two clash that was perhaps more of a shock, coming after he picked up 16 possessions and kicked a goal against the Saints.
Green was less surprised that he was dropped, and explained that it was due more to the way he and the team had played, rather than what he produced in the game.
"It was just some of my around the contest balance, not getting sucked into the ball too much,” he said.
“As a natural ball-winning, ball-hunting midfielder, sometimes that can happen and I probably did that in round one.
“It was just a little heads-up to make sure I'm getting this right, I ticked that off and came back into the team, and I feel like it has been a lot better since then.”
Green has averaged close to 20 touches in the three games since he returned to the team, and stood out with 24 possessions (11 contested) in perhaps his best game at AFL level in the two-point victory over Sydney.
"As I get more opportunity in there, in my preferred position playing as inside mid, I feel more comfortable at the level and I'm able to contribute more and more,” he said.
“It was nice on the weekend to contribute in a good win and play my role really well.
“It's only going to get better and better the more games I play and the more opportunity that I get in there.”
Green and his fellow onballers face arguably their toughest test so far this year, when they come up against the unbeaten Western Bulldogs in Canberra on Friday.
This will be Green’s first match against the Bulldogs but as a Giants Academy graduate and second-year player, he has already seen what to expect in a clash between the bitter rivals.
"They start in the midfield. They say that about a lot of teams, but Western Bulldogs in particular have got a really strong midfield, and you see the way they're going. They've got a lot of guys who are in really good form,” Green said.
"We've built a really strong rivalry over the last five years, it's a game that everyone looks forward to.
"Last year a little bit of ill-discipline probably hurt us early in the game and throughout ... so I think that'll be a real focus.
"You want to fly the flag, look after your teammates, but you can't be doing stuff that's going to detract from us trying to win the game which is the most important thing.”