GWS enjoy momentum after making giant strides
IT WAS a far different midfield group running around for the Giants the last time they contested a preliminary final.
Just two years ago, Cal Ward, Tom Scully, Stephen Coniglio, Dylan Shiel, Toby Greene and Lachie Whitfield were taking on Richmond for a berth in the premiership decider.
None of those will be on the ground tonight when GWS are hosted by Collingwood in the penultimate game at the MCG, with Greene (suspended) and Whitfield (appendix) surprise "outs" this week for very different reasons.
Instead, Josh Kelly will lead a young on-ball brigade, comprising Jacob Hopper, 22, Tim Taranto, 21, and Harry Perryman, 20, against the might of the Magpies, including skipper Scott Pendlebury and ex-Giants Taylor Adams and Adam Treloar.
It's an imposing challenge but one Perryman thinks the Giants are up for after their cutthroat wins over the Bulldogs and Brisbane Lions in the finals.
"Definitely," he said. "We've got a couple of good games under our belt now.
"We've got some good momentum building here."
The Magpies have their own injury concerns, with superstar forward Jordan de Goey a major omission, and the pre-finals bye means they have played just one game in the past three weeks - their qualifying final victory over Geelong.
"Anything can happen," Perryman said. "We're just riding that wave at the moment, hoping we can just keep going.
"Playing finals. That's what you're here for. It's unreal."
Despite the loss of divisive yet brilliant matchwinner Greene and his in-your-face attitude - after he failed on Thursday night to overturn a one-match ban on appeal - Perryman said the Giants would maintain the rage.
"We'll bring that hard edge, put the pressure on them," he said.
Hardness is something Perryman is quickly becoming renowned for after his attempt to continue playing during GWS's round one win over Essendon despite puncturing a lung.
During his half-time speech of that match, coach Leon Cameron highlighted Perryman's heroics.
Feeling sharp pain around the ribs, Perryman later said it was "pretty handy" when doctors provided "a bit of morphine".
Despite paramedics' orders, he later refused to be wheeled on a stretcher to the waiting ambulance.
"I didn't want to look like I was carrying on too much," the laid-back country lad said at the time.
Since recovering, Perryman has played the past 16 games, his best coming in a losing cause against flag favourite Richmond in round 17, when gathering 27 touches, 14 of them contested.
"It's always good to string a few games together, missed a bit of the first half of the year," he said.
"The more games you get under your belt, the more confident you become."
Perryman will be playing just his 35th senior game this afternoon, and fifth at the 'G. He doesn't expect the side to be overawed by the experience - not only contending with the Magpies' 22 but also their raucous fans.
"There'll be about 90,000 mad Collingwood fans there," he said. "We've had a fair bit of finals experience now. We know what it's going to be like.
"Should be good fun."
Perryman was himself once one of those "mad" Magpies supporters, along with his three brothers while growing up in the NSW Riverina, in the tiny town of Collingullie.
"That had to change pretty quickly," said Perryman, who was drafted as a GWS academy graduate in 2016.
"I think there's still a few lingering Collingwood supporters (in the family), but I think they will be barracking hard this week for the Giants.
"I was big fan of Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury. It'll be good to come up against him this week.
"Every chance I get, I get back home.
"The boys are in the reserve-grade grand final (today). Hopefully they can get up and then get back to the pub and watch us."