Giants coach Adam Kingsley joked he had “just finished rubbing Sam Taylor‘s hamstring” as he arrived for his pre-finals press conference, with the star full-back’s capacity to play on St Kilda star Max King set to be a defining factor in Saturday’s elimination final.
Taylor only needs to wake up pain free on Friday morning to take his place in the team after suffering his injury in round 23 and Kingsley knows how important the 2022 All-Australian is and will be.
Finn Callahan, who last played in round 21 and has been battling a calf issue, is also set to come in should he too wake up pain free having been put through his paces at training on Thursday.
Kingsley said Taylor was “looking good” and Callahan a “good chance” in a big boost for the first-year coach ahead of a showdown with finals expert Ross Lyon.
“He’s looking good but he has to wake up without any issues whatsoever and if that’s the case then it’s more likely we will play him than not,” Kingsley said of star defender Taylor.
“If he gets through training we will definitely name him. If he’s fit and ready to go and the doctor’s advice is there’s little risk or minimal risk, then he will play.”
Saints spearhead King kicked four goals in his opening game of 2023 when the two teams last met in round 10 and his match-up with Taylor looms as key.
Kingsley labelled Taylor, who missed back-to-back All Australian awards only because he didn’t play enough games to qualify, as “extremely influential” in every game GWS plays.
He said Callahan’s injury had lingered longer than hoped but a solid block of training should have him ready for the MCG clash.
“He’s done a two-week block of training without any issues around that calf/achilles region which was niggling him,” Kingsley said.
“It’s one of those ones you expect to tidy up quickly and it just kept lingering. That was a little unexpected. Like Sam, it’s more likely he’ll pay than not.”
The Giants have stormed into the finals on the back of nine wins in their final 11 games, including seven in a row and a final-round smashing of fellow finalists Carlton, powered by the “orange tsunami” of handballs.
Kingsley said there would be no deviation from what had worked when they take on the Saints, knowing Lyon would have done a “detailed” plan to stop them.
“It’s served us well across the season and most notable in the back-half,” Kingsley said.
“That’s the way we play and we will continue to back in our players and our system.”
GWS has also posted victories at a club-record 11 different venues in 2023, and Kingsley said the MCG, and potentially 70,000 St Kilda fans, held no fears.
“I don’t think the ground and the 70,000 that’s projected to be there will have a negative impact on us,” he said,
“In fact, I think it will have a positive impact.”
But the absence of small forward Toby Bedford could have a big impact should he lose his appeal against a rough conduct suspension on Thursday night, with Xavier O‘Halloran his likely replacement.
“(Bedford) is unbelievably important for us,” Kingsley said.
“He‘s right at the top for forward-half pressure and tackles. That’s incredibly important to the way that we play.
“I‘d prefer for Toby to be playing and then we’d have both.”
Originally published as AFL finals: Giants stars Sam Taylor and Finn Callahan set to return