GWS in Canberra will unveil their latest AFL debutant, an indigenous 18-year-old who was mentored in part by Sydney Swans icon Paul Kelly.
Some 17 years after throwing Scott Lucas into the deep end on Anzac Day, Kevin Sheedy will do the same to an indigenous 18-year-old from the NSW Riverina in Greater Western Sydney’s biggest AFL game of the year.
Rookie-listed Zac Williams will debut in Canberra on Saturday
and Sheedy hinted he might even spend some time on Gold Coast superstar Gary Ablett in the battle of the league’s expansion sides.
“I don’t like hiding players,” GWS coach Sheedy said.
“Really good talented kids coming through should always spend at least 10 or 15 minutes on the best players in the AFL when they get their chance.
“They’ll teach you a lot.”
Williams, the first AFL graduate of GWS’s academy program and a code convert who played rugby league up until age 10, has already learned a lot in a short time.
Two years ago, the half-back flanker was training only twice a week with the Narrandera Eagles when former GWS academy coach Paul Kelly helped strengthen his AFL ambitions.
“I liked him,” Williams said of the ex-Sydney captain and 1995 Brownlow Medallist.
“He took the training run in Wagga … and he’d fix up your kicking technique and stuff like that.”
Williams developed to the point where he was NSW’s only representative at last year’s AFL draft combine.
He was ignored in the 2012 national draft, but the Giants pounced with pick No.54 in the rookie draft.
Irrepressible form in the seconds then made him the logical promotion when star forward Jonathon Patton was placed on the long-term injury list this week.
It meant a lot to Williams, but arguably even more to his mother Joy.
“Dad passed away in 2000 … it’s been mum raising me and my sister all these years,” said Williams.
Williams’ family will be on hand at Manuka Oval, where his housemate and former Carlton utility Bret Thornton will also make his GWS debut.
In the corresponding fixture last year, the Giants recorded their maiden AFL win.
Sheedy said his side would again be up for “another final”.
“They’re probably one year ahead of us in matches (played), but I think there’s only three or four points difference in the scores we’ve kicked this year,” the four-time premiership coach said.
“… We deserve to get a win, because we’ve played pretty well except for a couple of poor last quarters.”