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"Chirpy" Stevie J to make Giants stand taller


He may have a dodgy knee but Steve Johnson will make Greater Western Sydney “walk taller” in Saturday’s AFL preliminary final against Richmond at the MCG, co-captain Phil Davis says.

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The Giants are officially still sweating on Johnson to overcome an ongoing knee drama ahead of their second straight grand final qualifier.

Despite that Davis all but guaranteed Johnson would run out for his 26th final after the Giants star completed training yesterday.

“Stevie goes about his business meticulously, he trained (on Wednesday) and did what he needed to do,” Davis told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.

“He seemed as chirpy as ever.

“As we know Stevie loves the big moments and big games.

“He seems primed for that on Saturday. It’s just how he pulls up from training but he should be fine.”

Johnson kicked six goals in the Giants’ thumping 67-point finals win over West Coast last week.

Four goals were in the third quarter alone.

However, Johnson has found it hard playing back-to-back games this season due to his knee.

If the Giants contest the grand final, it would mark the first time Johnson would be asked to play three straight games since round nine.

Still, Davis remains confident of seeing some vintage Johnson this weekend.

“Stevie’s ability to compete, scrap and fight to the end for us to win makes us walk taller,” he said.

“I know our forwards love playing alongside him and to see him get on that roll (against Eagles) was vintage Stevie.

“A few of those snaps, a few contested marks – it was great to watch.”

While Johnson’s career nears its final curtain, it’s a very different proposition for first-year Giant Tim Taranto.

But the prospect of playing his first game at the MCG in front of close to 90,000 yellow-and-black-clad Richmond fans is a thrilling, rather than chilling, prospect for the GWS young gun.

A Melbourne supporter growing up, Taranto has attended many AFL matches at the MCG, but is yet to play on the hallowed turf for the Giants.

“It’s going to be huge, I think they are expecting 80,000 maybe even more Richmond supporters screaming at us,” 19-year-old half forward Taranto said.

“It’s going to be interesting, but I can’t wait for the challenge.

“A lot of the senior boys have said you’ve got to embrace it, you’ve got to enjoy it and feed off their energy.

“It will be a challenge with all the Richmond supporters, but I think it’s something us boys can handle and will help us play even better footy.”

Injuries to more experienced colleagues provided quick opportunities for last year’s No.2 draft pick and enabled him to swiftly exceed his pre-season aspirations of playing “at least a couple” of senior games.

He was rested for the round five clash with Sydney but otherwise played all of the Giants first 13 games.

An ankle injury that saw him miss the Giants only other MCG game of the year, against Richmond, threatened to ruin his season, but he returned for last weekend’s semi-final after missing ten senior games.

“When I did my ankle I was real nervous, I didn’t know if I’d be back for the best part of the year, but all the physios helped me get back in time,” Taranto said.

Tim Taranto gets a handle on Eagles captain Shannon Hurn during last week’s semi-final. Photo: David Moir / AAP

His speedy exposure to the AFL has also accelerated the Australian rules education of his Texas-based American father, who has attended some matches, including last week’s semi-final.

“He’s talking to me pretty much every day about it, asking me how I’m going,” Taranto said.

“He wakes up at 4am and watches all the games.

“He’s even started to watch some other teams I think, so he’s loving AFL.”


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