High-flying Swans amped for Giant midfield battle

Shayne Hope |

The Swans and the Giants will do battle in Sydney’s AFL derby at the SCG on Saturday.
The Swans and the Giants will do battle in Sydney’s AFL derby at the SCG on Saturday.

In-form midfielder Chad Warner says Sydney will relish a battle between two of the AFL’s best-performing engine rooms in what shapes as a spicy derby clash with Greater Western Sydney.

Both sides take a 6-1 record into Saturday’s meeting at the SCG, with Brownlow Medal favourite Isaac Heeney and Giants gun Tom Green headlining the opposing star-studded on-ball divisions.

“They’d be one of the best midfield units in the competition and we’ve got to put a lot of work into Tom Green,” Warner told AAP.

“But they’re the same as us, with boys who can do damage on the outside too.

“Derbies are always fun against them and they’ll give it a red-hot crack, which is exactly what we want.”

Heeney has been a revelation for the Swans this season, outstanding in a more prominent midfield role as cover for injured teammates Luke Parker and Callum Mills.

Sydney Swans player Isaac Heeney.
Midfielder Isaac Heeney has been a revelation for the Swans this season. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Averaging 27 disposals, 6.1 clearances and 1.7 goals a game, the 27-year-old has rocketed to the top of the AFL Coaches Association player of the year voting and Brownlow betting markets.

“Isaac’s form speaks for itself at the moment, and it’s his ability to do damage up forward as well that makes him so hard to stop,” Warner said.

“His one-on-one stoppage craft is just out of this world. He’s just so strong.

“And the amount of numbers we have going through the midfield now is really good for us too.”

Former captain Parker broke an arm during pre-season and returned to action in a rare VFL outing on Sunday, pressing his case for senior selection with a game-high 34 disposals in a losing side.

“He might have to have another few weeks in the twos,” Warner laughed.

“They’ll fit him in somewhere, but it will be good to roll another one through there and give the team another different look.

“The thing that’s best about our midfield at the moment is the balance we have.

“Heeney can read the ball better than anyone, then we’ve got (James) Rowbottom’s pressure and Errol (Gulden) who can do the damage on the outside.

“That’s what is holding us in good stead.”

GWS Giants AFL player Tom Green.
Tom Green looms as a threat for Greater Western Sydney. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

Stephen Coniglio (knee) could return to bolster the Giants’ midfield, while captain Toby Greene (suspension) and All-Australian defender Sam Taylor (concussion) will be back.

Sydney Derby XXVII is one of three local rivalries being played in non-Victorian markets in round eight, along with the Adelaide-Port Adelaide and Brisbane Lions-Gold Coast contests.

The Swans lead the head-to-head record 16-10 in a match-up that has built a strong tradition over 13 years since the Giants entered the AFL.

“You always want to play in those games that have got a bit of rivalry about them,” Warner said.

“It’s starting to trend that way a lot more and it’s great for NSW footy with both our teams playing well.”

AAP