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No.three pick Callaghan seeks hot AFL start

Witnessing the immediate impact close mates Nick Daicos and Josh Rachele have had on the AFL gives GWS young gun Finn Callaghan confidence he can make a similarly seamless transition.

The 18-year-old faces a hot introduction when he makes his debut for the Giants against reigning premiers Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday night.

He admits he’ll battle nerves but sees positives in shaping up against flag-winning midfielders Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver and Jack Viney, as well as gut-busting winger Ed Langdon.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Callaghan said.

“It’s great first up to play against the best and see what the benchmark is and the level that I’ve got to get to to match those players.

“Leading up to the game I will be pretty nervous, just because I want to play well and see the team do well.

“But I think once the ball gets bounced you just play footy and your instincts will take over.”

Callaghan was drafted with pick three last year and has kept a close eye on fellow high-end selections Daicos (four) and Rachele (six), as well as No.1 pick Jason Horne-Francis.

Those draft classmates have all made impressive starts to their AFL careers over the opening month of the season, despite being robbed of valuable development games at underage level during the pandemic.

“It’s great to see other boys in your draft year doing really well and that will give me confidence that I’ll be able to play just as good as they are,” Callaghan said.

“They’ve been dominating, which is brilliant, and it gives you confidence that it’s not too much of a step up.

“Obviously it’s going to be a really tough game, but if these boys are doing it then why can’t I? That’s my attitude going into it.”

Likened to Josh Kelly during his draft year, Callaghan has shadowed his Giants co-captain since arriving at the club.

He has tried to replicate the midfield gun’s work rate and has taken his advice to eat more salmon, which contains anti-inflammatory nutrients that helped Callaghan overcome a pre-season foot injury.

The Sandringham Dragons product has settled quickly in Sydney, where he lives with GWS teammates Cooper Hamilton and Leek Aleer.

He expects to play a mixture of wing, midfield and high half-forward early in his Giants career.

“I’ll bring lots of good running, speed and endurance, run out the game well, play on my instincts and take the game on,” Callaghan said.

“When I get the ball I’ll try to use my kicking to hit up the forwards.

“I’ll probably have a big defensive role as well to get back and help the defence.”

Callaghan’s father Brett – a former Commonwealth Games runner – was a Melbourne fan but has swapped his red-and-blue scarf for an orange version ahead of his son’s debut.

“He’s fully on the Giants bandwagon now and he’s definitely converted from the Dees, which is great,” Callaghan said.

“Mum and Dad are both very excited.”

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