GREATER Western Sydney is searching for a fast fix for its slow starts as it prepares to take on a fired-up Carlton at Giants Stadium on Saturday night.
The Giants have shown this season that they can start with a spark, winning seven opening terms in the first 10 rounds. Since then the opposition has brought the early energy while the Giants have looked lethargic.
In the round 11 match against Brisbane the Giants went into the first change trailing 6.4 to 1.0, after a shocking start that was easy to dismiss as a young group having an eye on the bye.
But the bye didn't awaken the Giants as they expected and they conceded four of the first five goals in the game against cellar-dwellers North Melbourne last weekend.
"We haven't started the way we wanted to in the last two games and it's cost us. We've been playing catch-up and it's pretty tough after that," GWS midfielder Tim Taranto told AFL.com.au.
"We trained a bit differently this week, started with a bit more grunt work and contested work, trying to flick that switch a bit earlier in the training session.
"Now it's about having the right mindset to make sure we get involved early, have the energy up to start well."
The 23-year-old has had a superb first-half to the season that is perhaps on track to surpass his efforts in 2019 when Taranto won the Giants’ club champion award.
But Taranto doesn’t use that season as a benchmark and is more motivated by improving on his 2020 that was interrupted by dislocating his shoulder in a pre-season match then missing the opening six games.
The No.2 pick from the 2016 NAB AFL Draft is now averaging 29 disposals per match (12th in the League), with 11 of those contested and five clearances. He also ranks as elite for pressure acts with 25 a game (seventh in the League).
"I feel like 2019 was a good year but I was 21 and I want to be better than that. I want to be better than I am now," Taranto said.
"I feel like I've just got my workrate back, and a bit of confidence as well since the shoulder. I wasn't 'restricted', but I probably wasn't mentally and physically in the prime place.
"I’ve had really good teammates around me and a main midfield group that has been pretty settled and is complementing each other well, which is big part of being a successful team."
This midfield core that also includes Josh Kelly, Jacob Hopper, Callan Ward, Tom Green, and rucks Shane Mumford and Matt Flynn, has helped the Giants win the contested ball count in eight of 12 games this season.
Only the top-three teams in Geelong (10-2), Melbourne (9-1-3), Western Bulldogs (9-3) have had the better of their opponents in this crucial part of the game more often than the Giants.
"Contested possession, clearances, loose ball gets and pressure through the mid zone are the main areas we look at, what we hang our hat on. If we can bring those four areas for four quarters, we're pretty hard to beat," Taranto said.
"We've been doing alright in those areas. It's just the bad patches, especially early, that have cost us big time, when teams have put on some scores quickly against us.
"The Blues have got some stars in their midfield and have been under a bit of pressure, so we're expecting both teams to bring the heat in the contests from the first bounce."