It's backs to the wall for depleted Giants

Toby Greene will be sorely missed by GWS as they win only win 47 per cent of games without him.
Toby Greene will be sorely missed by GWS as they win only win 47 per cent of games without him.

To say Saturday's AFL preliminary final is a backs-against-the-wall occasion for GWS would be an understatement.

The Giants will have to overcome a personnel deficit, the Magpie army and a Collingwood side that has somehow flown under the radar this week.

Having lost in the penultimate week in 2016 and 2017, the Giants are acutely aware of their ongoing grand-final absence.

"We've been in cut-throat finals we couldn't afford to lose and we can't afford to lose on the weekend," coach Leon Cameron told Fox Footy's AFL 360.

"Because it's a grand final missed ... we're not rocking up just to be a part of it, we're rocking up to win and we want to progress through to our maiden grand-final appearance."

The Giants have been without co-captain Callan Ward since Round 4, while Stephen Coniglio has been sidelined since Round 17.

Throw in Lachie Whitfield's ill-timed appendicitis, Brett Deledio's troublesome calves and Toby Greene's high-profile suspension and the Giants are up against it as they look to avoid preliminary final heartbreak for the third time in four seasons.

Greene's absence is arguably the most influential. Across 2018 and 2019, the Giants won 70 per cent of their games with Greene in the team. Without him, that winning record drops to 47 per cent.

"Our players have been really adaptable over the last two or three years with injuries that we've faced and some of the challenges that we've had - and we've found a way," Cameron said.

"Sometimes we haven't but a lot of times we have and we've got everything to lose, just like Collingwood have."

The Giants can draw on Round 18 when, without Josh Kelly, Phil Davis and Matt de Boer, they blew the Magpies off the park to win by 47 points.

That said, winning at Giants Stadium is one thing. Taking on a Collingwood team backed by the majority of a packed MCG - scenes reminiscent of Richmond's 2017 preliminary final crowd - is something totally different.

"We were ambushed that night. There's no doubt that we were beaten in tight," Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said.

"They were harder and cleaner around the football and I think the stuff that you saw in our backline and their forward line was a reflection of how poor we were around the ball. We're under no illusions about what the Giants are capable of.

"And I think even that week - no Kelly, no Coniglio, no Ward through the midfield - they were able to find a way to put together a team that really went to school on us and defeated us quite convincingly.

"The lessons in that are probably more on the mental side than on the tactical side. But we understand that we didn't present ourselves at our best that day and if we do that again, the result will be the same."

Australian Associated Press