AFL debutant and Ward to cover GWS void

Xavier O'Halloran will make his AFL debut this week when GWS face Essendon.
Xavier O'Halloran will make his AFL debut this week when GWS face Essendon.

Xavier O'Halloran was glued to his TV almost four years ago when the then teenager willed GWS to defeat in their epic AFL preliminary final against Western Bulldogs.

On Friday night, O'Halloran will make his AFL debut and seek to help the Giants scramble further up the ladder without hamstrung duo Toby Greene and Matt de Boer.

GWS have made three changes for their clash with Essendon at Metricon Stadium, calling up O'Halloran plus fit-again veterans Callan Ward and Shane Mumford in place of Greene, de Boer and rested ruckman Sam Jacobs.

The Bombers have replaced Tom Bellchambers (managed), Martin Gleeson, Brayden Ham and Ned Cahill with Matt Guelfi, Kyle Langford, Conor McKenna and Shaun McKernan.

O'Halloran's late grandfather is Ron McCarthy, who was part of Footscray's 1954 VFL premiership side.

A versatile midfielder, O'Halloran will run out with No.33 on his back - the same number as McCarthy - but his dreams of premiership glory are now orange, charcoal and white rather than red, white and blue.

"My brother did (go up to Sydney for the 2016 prelim) ... I obviously barracked for the Doggies growing up as a kid," O'Halloran said.

"I was very happy that we beat GWS in the 2016 finals. That was a good year.

"But now I'm a Giants man. The tables have turned and wholeheartedly Giants now.

"I was absolutely ecstatic to get a job anywhere in the AFL ... I feel extremely fortunate and grateful the Giants picked me up when they did, couldn't be happier to be here."

The 20-year-old's family in Melbourne won't be able to watch his debut in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, but O'Halloran was thrilled to provide some good news in a difficult time.

"They'd 100 per cent be there if they could," he said.

"Obviously it's unfortunate circumstances but everyone is going through it and making sacrifices.

"I know they'll be supporting me, wherever they are, loudly and wholeheartedly.

"I love my family ... hopefully I can make them proud."

O'Halloran's maturity belies his age and lack of AFL experience.

Recruiters had been spruiking the Victorian's leadership qualities long before he was selected with pick No.22 in the 2018 draft.

"I hope to bring a fair bit of energy, enthusiasm and voice," O'Halloran said.

"Encouragement of other players, when things are or aren't going well, is one of the things I focus on."

Australian Associated Press