Sport

Old heads giving Giants new energy

Heath Shaw of the Giants has become the game's No.1 rebounding defender.
Heath Shaw of the Giants has become the game's No.1 rebounding defender. DAN HIMBRECHTS

AFL: GWS's rapid rise to premiership contention has often been attributed to its never-ending supply of high draft picks.

But much of the success that has the Giants one win away from contesting a first grand final is owed to the mature-age recruits that have fallen in their lap.

Co-captains Cal Ward and Phil Davis, as well as Tom Scully, were targeted from the get-go, but others such as Ryan Griffen, Shane Mumford, Joel Patfull, Steve Johnson and Heath Shaw had very different roads to Sydney's west.

Griffen was a disgruntled skipper at the Bulldogs, Mumford was pushed out of Sydney by the million-dollar contract of Lance Franklin, Patfull simply had a desire to live in Sydney itself, Johnson had been sent packing by Geelong, while Shaw began to run out of friends at Collingwood, namely coach Nathan Buckley.

All five are now in their 30s - and ensured GWS fielded its most experienced ever team when it thumped cross-town rival Sydney in the qualifying final.

All five have been outstanding in the orange but none more so than Shaw, who has won his second All-Australian jumper since heading north, becoming the game's undisputed No.1 rebounding defender.

The 236-gamer has led the league for total kicks and rebounds from the defensive 50m for the second straight season, his best game coming against the Giants' opponent in Saturday night's preliminary final, the Bulldogs, when they last met in round nine. He had 36 kicks, 14 marks and 14 rebounds.

His form in recent seasons has prompted opposition teams to require giving him close attention to stifle his ability to turn defence into attack.

"I expect that most weeks - if someone comes to me, they do, and I just play my game,” he said.

"It means they're thinking about me rather than the rest of the team, so I'll take that.

"It's annoying at the start when someone is following you around and bumping you all day, but it's all about a full-team focus.

"You can't go into your shell, you can't let it worry you; you just play footy and do what's best for the team.

"At the end of the day, one person isn't going to win the game, it's everyone together.”

The Bulldogs may look to assign Zaine Cordy, Clay Smith or Toby McLean to stay close to Shaw on Saturday as defensive forwards.

"I'm sure they'll look at trying to limit that to some degree, but they probably don't want to go away from what works best for them,” Shaw said.

"Their forward line is pretty dangerous, so all of our backs have got to be on their toes, including me, and try and nullify their set-up.”

Shaw, a father-son recruit who played in Collingwood's premiership team of 2010, was happily let go by the Magpies at the end of 2013, despite him having a year to run on his contract, after a series of incidents both on and off the field.

In need of experience after suffering a season that yielded one win, the Giants opened their cheque book.

Becoming a mature influence, the one-time bad boy Shaw has repaid them in spades, winning the best and fairest in 2015.

"I knew there was obviously the talent, but they were 19-20 when I first got here ... so my expectations were pretty low going into my first year here,” Shaw said.

TRADING PLACES

Heath Shaw (2013)

Swapped for Taylor Adams

Shane Mumford (2013)

Swapped for pick 35

(used on Toby Nankervis)

Joel Patfull (2014)

Swapped for pick 21

(on-traded for Hugh Goddard)

Ryan Griffin (2014)

Swapped for Tom Boyd

Steve Johnson (2015)

Swapped for pick 63

(on-traded for Rupert Wills)

Topics:  afl finals, gws giants, heath shaw


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