AFL: GWS will enjoy their bye next week and they’ll do so sitting in the top four. Having missed a week with a foot complaint Steve Johnson was chomping at the bit in the first term.
GWS rising star Jacob Hopper has broken down with a stress fracture in his back, headlining a worrying list of injury concerns for GWS.
The potentially serious back problem found more commonly in Australia’s Test fast bowlers than among the AFL youth has caught the Giants somewhat by surprise, and Hopper will now be kept on ice for at least six weeks to help safeguard the 19-year-old’s long-term future.
The orange army are finals bound for the first time this season, but further fitness setbacks for vice-captain Phil Davis (ankle) and Matt Buntine (hamstring) last weekend against Carlton has perpetuated the club’s ongoing issue with keeping key defenders on the park.
Davis and Buntine could both miss three weeks each, although that bad news is mitigated somewhat by the fact fellow defensive players Caleb Marchbank and Tim Mohr could be back from long stints on the sidelines after this round’s bye.
However, the biggest concern is for dynamic midfielder Hopper, who had put his name up in lights as an outstanding candidate for this year’s AFL Rising Star award after taking the competition by storm since his debut earlier in the season.
“Jacob had some discomfort in his back and due to the nature of the issue and his history, he underwent scans that revealed an incomplete stress injury,” said David Joyce, head of athletic performance at the Giants.
“This is disappointing news as Jacob has made a great start to his AFL career this season but due to his age and the stage of his career, we’ll be taking an aggressively cautious approach.
“We’re pleased that we caught the issue early and we are confident that with conservative management and rehabilitation, he’ll be back playing football later in the season.”
Hopper has had a history of lower back complaints in his junior days and after this unexpected flare up, the Giants will be keeping the closest of tabs on the academy star.
The teenager who racked up a record number of possessions on his AFL debut against the Gold Coast earlier in the season, was left out of the side that took on Carlton with coach Leon Cameron sensing his young buck needed a break after six consecutive matches.
The back had nothing to do with his absence, after complaining of soreness Hopper was sent for a scan which revealed something sinister.
Davis’ ankle injury is the latest in a long list of frustrating setbacks for the 25-year-old leader, who had only just shook off a toe problem the previous week.
Buntine has also been in the wars of late but with the bye this week – it’s possible the duo could miss as little as two matches each.
The Giants are flourishing up forward and in the middle of the field, but injuries continue to strike in their defensive line.
Coach Cameron does have options though, with Adam Kennedy and Devon Smith both returning successfully in the NEAFL last week and Marchbank, Will Hoskin-Elliott and Mohr pressing for returns.