HE spent nearly six years waiting for his chance, and Matt Flynn won't get a better chance to finally nail down the number one ruck role for Greater Western Sydney this season.
The Narrandera product spent nearly 2000 days in the Giants system before finally making his AFL debut in round one against St Kilda.
Serious injuries prevented him from making his mark sooner, and a dislocated shoulder suffered in the round 18 loss to Sydney ended his season.
The 24-year-old still managed 12 games, averaging 12 disposals and 18 hitouts per game and has an opportunity to get a headstart in the race for ruck spots in Saturday's season opener against the Swans.
Fellow Giants ruck Brayden Preuss has endured similar horrendous luck with injury, with a serious shoulder injury and torn pectoral muscle ruling him out for all of last year, his first season at the club.
He was suspended for one game for rough contact on Collingwood's Brodie Grundy in a practice match, while young ruck Kieren Briggs is also banging down the door after playing five games last year.
The retirement (again) of stalwart big man Shane Mumford has paved the way for one of the understudies to make the role their own.
"Everyone's pretty excited, it's been a long summer and the competitive juices are going now," Flynn said.
"I played 12 game for the year (2021), did my shoulder around July and missed the back half of the year. But that's all good now and I played the last couple of practice matches and it feels pretty strong, I should be good to go.
"I had surgery around July and it was about a four month rehab, which got me to pretty much the start of pre season.
"Last year was a big learning curve for me. I've worked pretty hard on trying to lock down that number one ruckman role and have been battling with Preuss and Briggsy to try and get it."
Flynn believes the Giants are capable of playing two ruckmen at times this year.
He and Preuss are both adept at spending time up forward, with Flynn kicking five goals across a three-game period at one point last year.
"It's disappointing for Preussy, you never want to see teammates get suspended," Flynn said.
"I think we can work well together. We showed that against Collingwood (practice game) with one of us moving forward at times.
"I've spent a lot of time on nailing down the ruck role, but also been working on some forward craft which can give me another dimension."
The Giants were ravaged by key injuries last year, but still managed to make the finals and beat the Swans in a thriller by one point in an elimination final.
Their run ended with a 35-point semi final loss to Geelong, but Flynn said the resilience borne from that run will hold them in good stead.
"I definitely think we can (be a premiership threat)," he said.
"Last year we had a few injuries but dug deep in the back end that showed a lot of resolve.
"Some of the second and third year players look really good at training and are ready to take the next step up."
Flynn simply hopes his luckless run is over, and his second game against the crosstown rivals ends on a better note.
"I'm really excited. The game will be massive and I'm definitely not taking it for granted," he said.
Meanwhile, Narrandera product Harry Grintell has been named as one of the Giants' 'top-up' players as part of the AFL's Covid Contingency plan for this season.
The key forward is one of 19 players on the list, who can be called up should a number of players become unavailable.
Former Leeton junior Jacob Townsend is another contingency player. The ex Richmond premiership player and Tigers cult figure who retired last year has been included on Gold Coast Suns' list.
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