Giants defence putting squeeze on rivals

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AFL:Change in the water at GWS

Phil Davis takes the ball ahead of Matthew Leuenberger.

THE GWS Giants’ once-maligned defence is now one of their greatest assets and captain Phil Davis has warned rivals it would continue to improve the longer the season goes.

Davis was on Thursday night named to take on a much-improved Carlton at Spotless Stadium on Saturday after overcoming an ankle injury.

With the Giants’ backline now ranked among the best in the AFL after conceding just 80 points per game this season, it’s no surprise the captain is pushing for a return against the Blues.

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Davis and fellow stoppers Matt Buntine, Nick Haynes and Joel Patfull are locking down their opponents while Heath Shaw, Nathan Wilson and Zac Williams are providing the run and carry.

“We’ve got a great balance now,” Davis told The Daily Telegraph.

“I also think we’ve got huge improvement in us. It’s a balancing act between defending and attacking and one I think we’ve got right, our defence looking pretty good. We’re always trying to improve and if we’re going to be successful we’ll need to improve.”

Heath Shaw outmarks Orazio Fantasia last weekend. Picture: Colleen Petch

Heath Shaw outmarks Orazio Fantasia last weekend. Picture: Colleen PetchSource:News Corp Australia

Adding to Davis’s confidence is the Giant’s ability to cover the injury losses of Adam Kennedy, Aidan Corr, Caleb Marchbank and Tim Mohr.

“The Swans are a good example of how a stable back six or seven is vital,” Davis said.

“In the 2012 premiership year they had Marty Mattner, Nick Malceski, Rhyce Shaw, Heath Grundy, Ted Richards and Nick Smith all playing together virtually every week. We’ve never had that in five years and the stability of the back six is really important. You learn to cover for each other and that comes with playing with each other.”

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It’s a long way from Davis’s first season in Western Sydney where he was the only player to line up in all 22 matches. It’s a wonder he didn’t get neck damage watching the ball going over his head and sail through the goals as frequently as it did, four years on and the stats that matter are looking increasingly good for GWS.

Of the past 17 premiers, 16 teams — the 2005 Swans being the exception — have fitted Champion Data’s profile of scoring more than 100 points per game and conceding less than 86.

That number could look even better in a month or two when the Giants key forwards start kicking goals again and the backline racks up more games together.

“We don’t know what our best back six or seven looks like yet,” Davis said.

“As well as the injured blokes, Harry Himmelberg is a real talent in our reserves and he will have a big say in how we play going forward. There’s about 10 players who can play in defence.”

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