AFL 2021: GWS coach Leon Cameron opens up on future of veteran ruckman Shane Mumford
Greater Western Sydney’s season was ended by Geelong at Optus Stadium on Friday night.
Between the final siren of the semi-final loss to the Cats and the start of the 2022 season, expect Toby Greene, who did apologise to the playing group during the week, to get a talking to, ruckman Shane Mumford to hang up his boots, again, and Jacob Hopper to commit to a new contract with the Giants.
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Leon Cameron said the group was shattered after the 35-point loss, flat and upset. While they looked forward to being back in Sydney with family and friends, the Giants are first coming to terms with the empty feeling of Friday night’s defeat.
Cameron expects that the club will opt to go hard at the draft in the pre-season, in a bid to return to the finals for what will be the sixth time in seven seasons.
“You always look to add value to your list,” Cameron said after the loss.
“We have done a good job bringing experienced players in the past – (Matt) de Boer and (Lachlan) Keefe. I am bullish about going to the draft again.
“We have some good picks and no doubt we’ll probably go there.”
The ruck is one area the Giants will need to look at after it appears Mumford’s career, that started at Geelong in 2008, has finally come to an end, after 216 games.
Mumford played 14 games this season, his seventh for the Giants, eighth if you include the season (2018) he had off to box.
But Cameron said that the imposing big man was emotional after the game, and that while no decision was made, it was probably his last.
“It’s probably highly unlikely (he’ll play on),” Cameron said. “He’s retired a couple of times, Mummy.
“It was an emotional time after the game. You could clearly see he was shattered.
“For a player who was probably only going to play four or five games and coach the young fellas in the ruck, it turned out to play a bit more than we first thought.
“He’s 35, banged up and can hardly move. But it’s probably more unlikely than likely but we’ll search our way through that in the next couple of months.”
One player that Cameron expects to see running around next season is Hopper.
The 24-year-old finished his sixth season on Friday night with his 107th game. The highly-rated midfielder would attract attention from several clubs if he remained unsigned.
But Cameron doesn’t expect that to remain the case for too long.
“I am confident Jacob will put pen to paper,” Cameron said.
“He has settled in Sydney, owns his house. All indicators are he’ll be at our footy club. Over the upcoming (trade) period, it would be good to be a quiet one for us.”
Over the next few months, Cameron also expects to sit down with Greene and discuss the forward’s controversial “ump bump” that rubbed him out of Friday night’s semi-final.
Greene has a growing reputation for being a hothead and Cameron admits it’s something that needs work. But he doesn’t believe Greene’s absence was the sole reason why the Giants lost to the Cats.
“I understand (Toby’s) a huge talking point and he’s a wonderful player for us,” Cameron said.
“We know things didn’t go to plan last week. He needs to put his hand up. When the dust settles in the next couple of months, we have to make sure he is out there more times than not. He’s not only great for our footy club, he’s great for the game.
“We have some challenges; and we’re not going to hide or shy away from that. we’ll work through them over the pre-season.
“(It’s) a bit harsh in saying that (we lost because he wasn’t on the ground). We had a number of players out; it’s not just one player who cost the team.
“In terms of his apology, absolutely. He was in front of the group and clearly remorseful throughout the week.
“It was an emotional 10-15 minutes in front of our entire group”
Cats purr into prelim
Geelong needs to overcome some demons if it is to win through to its second consecutive grand final.
In Round 23, the Cats gave up a 45-point lead at half-time in their clash with Melbourne to lose by four points.
The devastating loss cost the Cats the minor premiership.
On Friday, Geelong plays the Demons again in the preliminary final, at Optus Stadium, with a spot in the premiership play-off up grabs.
While coach Chris Scott says conversations around how the Cats did in previous finals campaigns have no baring in the current year, a game only a few weeks ago is a different story.
“The last time we played a team is always relevant,” he said.
“It’s an interesting game to have a look at. We got (45) points up, so we clearly played some pretty good footy against them, and they were dominant in the second half.
“So it depends whether you’re glass half full or not.
“In terms of system, style, what to expect, there probably won’t be a whole lot of surprises from either side.”
Scott thinks that his side needs to concentrate on doing what it does well.
He thinks the Cats showed they are capable of that after overcoming another disappointing loss, to Port Adelaide in the qualifying final, to beat Greater Western Sydney in Perth in Friday night’s semi-final.
“We had a bad one - it happens, even to good teams,” he said.
“I thought that we let ourselves down a little bit with the way that we defended last week. It wasn’t even when the opposition had the ball necessary, it happened a little bit before that.
“Our contest work was better which allowed us to defend better. I thought our players ahead of the ball looked much more dangerous and challenged the opposition a lot more.
“I say it quite regularly, without going into detail, we strongly believe that the three phases of the game have to fit together and if one’s off, it affects the others.
“We just had two really bad parts of our game big picture last week that we needed to address - we were beaten in the contest too much which put us on the back foot defending.”
With wins at Optus Stadium, over Fremantle, by 69 points in Round 18 and now the Giants, by 35 points, Scott thinks the ground suits his side.
The Cats restricted the Dockers to just three goals and the Giants 10, reaching 100 points themselves in both contests.
After beating GWS, he said his side had gotten closer to again playing its best football.
“The ground, for some reason, suits our eye. We have defended it well - the numbers suggest that,” he said.
“It was pretty clear to us from late in the season that we were going to play our finals in Perth so the equation is still the same for us - win three games in Perth.
“We’re excited for the opportunity.”
While Brandan Parfitt looks done for the season after injuring his hamstring early in Friday night’s win, Scott reported that the bye between the preliminary final and grand final left Tom Stewart a chance of playing in the final game of the season, if the Cats get past the Demons next week.
The defender had surgery on his foot after injuring it at training ahead of the Round 22 game against St Kilda.
“We think he is (a chance to play in the grand final). That’s the feedback we’re getting,” Scott said.
“He’s ahead of schedule, which I find humorous when a guy is walking up stairs and that’s ahead of schedule.
“We were strong, and I don’t get involved in the miniature of medical decision-making, but we need to be really clear as a club that we weren’t going to put his long-term future at risk by rushing him back for a final.
“If he makes really good progress and the medical staff are clear that the risk is very, very low, then we’re open to the possibility.
“But he’s not going to play this week.”
Originally published as AFL 2021: GWS coach Leon Cameron opens up on future of veteran ruckman Shane Mumford
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