LEON Cameron has had six months to plan for life without Toby Greene across the first five rounds of 2022, but the best laid plans can sometimes be torn to shreds.

And that is what has happened on the eve of the season. 

From the moment the dual All-Australian had his suspension for making contact with umpire Matt Stevic doubled from three games to six by the AFL Appeals Board at the start of October, Greater Western Sydney has been devising plan B. 

It is one reason why the Giants considered recruiting delisted St Kilda small forward Jack Lonie with their one and only pick in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft. 

They chose to go down a different path, backing the cattle already at their disposal. But since then, events beyond the Giants' control haven't helped. 

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First, small forward Brent Daniels suffered a fracture to the Lisfranc joint in his foot in early February, ruling him out for the first half of the season. Then former first-round pick Conor Stone strained his hamstring in the AAMI Community Series on Sunday, putting a line through him for at least the next six weeks, potentially even longer.

Greater Western Sydney will turn to star midfielder Tim Taranto for the clashes against Sydney, Richmond, Gold Coast, Fremantle and Melbourne before Greene returns in round six to face St Kilda in Canberra.

Taranto showed he can play as a permanent forward when he kicked four goals against Richmond when Greene wasn't there in round 22 last season. 


The out-of-contract star split his time between midfield and attack on Sunday and finished with 31 disposals and two goals against Collingwood and is expecting to play at least 80 per cent of the first five weeks in attack, while Bobby Hill kicked three goals to show he can step up after his trade request to Essendon was knocked back by the Giants last October.

Giants Bobby Hill, Tim Taranto and Tom Green celebrate a goal in the 2022 AAMI Community Series match against Sydney. Picture: AFL Photos

Stephen Coniglio, Jacob Hopper, Tom Green and Tanner Bruhn are all expected to spend at least five minutes of every quarter resting forward as the Giants look to find greater contribution inside 50. 

"Like anything, sometimes your best laid plans can fall flat. Throughout the summer, clearly, we knew (Greene was going to miss five games). We had young Conor Stone down there a lot throughout the back end of the pre-season playing games but unfortunately he's done his hamstring, so he is going to miss," Cameron told AFL.com.au on Tuesday.

"Then we had Brent Daniels before that and he's going to miss the first half of the year. Those sort of players that bob up and play that forward role had been there a fair bit of the pre-season and all of a sudden they are not there. 

"Clearly Taranto has been there a fair bit and he's done that last year. He will be pivotal for us. [Daniel] Lloyd and [Matt] De Boer and [Bobby] Hill are hungry to stamp their position but equally raise the bar a couple of per cent each. No one person is going to replace Toby."

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Aside from Dustin Martin, Christian Petracca, Jordan De Goey and Jake Stringer, there isn't another player in the game like Greene. You simply can't replace him.

The challenge for the high performance department at the WestConnex Centre between now and April 22 is providing Greene with the preparation he needs to launch into the season when he returns. 

The 28-year-old has completed a flawless pre-season and is raring to go right now. He didn't play against the Magpies or in the practice match in Albury and has spent large chunks of match simulation and intraclubs playing for the weaker side to help the Giants build synergy with a forward line that doesn't contain the man in the No.4 guernsey. 

Bobby Hill and Toby Greene share a laugh at training in February 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Greene was appointed co-captain alongside Josh Kelly and Coniglio during the pre-season after assuming the captaincy responsibility at times last year, and has worked closely with Essendon champion James Hird, who has joined the Giants as a leadership advisor

While Greene is a superstar in his own right, he wore Hird's iconic No. 5 guernsey when he was a kid and idolised the Brownlow Medal winner. Many inside the club grin when they talk about Greene in the presence of Hird.

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"There is no ideal way (to prepare Greene without games); that's the short answer. He'll play in the (VFL) practice match when we play the Swans in round one because that's really the only game he can play," Cameron explained. 

"After that our VFL kicks off and he's still got another four weeks. We just have to find throughout the week and the weekends as many able bodies as we can to get him as much dynamic training as we can.

"His load will be fine, it's the dynamic training and the decision-making that's going to be tough for the last four weeks. There will be no issue in terms of his motor and his hardness and everything like that, it's just the dynamic training he's not going to get for a month. We need to keep challenging ourselves as a club to come up with ways to involve him in that sort of training every weekend when we're playing games."

And now we wait for the return of one of the best players in the league. It is hardly a coincidence that round six is in the prime-time Friday night slot. Greater Western Sydney is stacked with stars, but Toby Greene is box office.