June 25, 2024

Xavier O’Halloran received a clear vote of confidence from Greater Western Sydney (GWS) as soon as the 2023 season concluded. Following a campaign that ended with a devastating loss in the preliminary final, O’Halloran was informed that his performances as a dynamic half-forward had earned him a permanent transition into the Giants’ midfield.

“It was pretty much as soon as the season ended, in the exit interview, it was the view that Adam (Kingsley) had which was pleasing,” the 23-year-old explained to AFL.com.au.

“I grew up playing in the midfield all the way through so it’s good to be able to get back to that. I trained the whole pre-season in the midfield, be it on the wing or inside.

“I’m enjoying the new role. That’s the beauty of our team. We’ve got a lot of players who can play in different positions.”

Despite the plethora of stars in the Giants’ midfield, O’Halloran stands out as one of the most unique.

In 53 games, he has surpassed the 20-disposal mark only once, but whenever he touches the ball, O’Halloran tends to create something productive.

While he may not accumulate possessions like other midfielders, O’Halloran’s impact is undeniable – whether it’s through quick distribution, penetrating runs, long kicks forward, evading tackles, or setting up teammates with precise taps.

When Adam Kingsley assumed leadership of the Giants after coaching in Richmond’s multi-premiership system, it was anticipated that he would integrate elements of the Tigers’ game plan into Greater Western Sydney’s approach. This integration has indeed occurred in the forward half of the ground, blending with the renowned ‘Orange Tsunami’ defensive structure from the Giants’ successful campaigns in previous years.

And it’s O’Halloran, with his attacking efficiency reminiscent of many from the Richmond premiership teams, who embodies that perhaps more than anyone else at the Giants.

“It’s an interesting situation. Naturally, you want to be heavily involved in the game. It would be fantastic to finish every week with 30 disposals, but I’m content knowing that when I do get the ball, it can make a difference,” O’Halloran remarked.

“That’s my objective. I’m not bothered by the fact that I don’t accumulate as many possessions as some other midfielders or half-backs, but each time I have possession, I aim for a positive outcome.”

As a late first-round selection in the 2018 draft, O’Halloran’s potential was always recognized by those at the Giants. However, it took some time for it to fully emerge. That changed last season when he made a breakthrough under Kingsley, securing a place in a team that was just one point away from a Grand Final appearance, despite dealing with a late-season hand injury.

He impressed the coach enough to earn a move into the midfield, a transition that has continued into 2024.

“I’m pleased with his performances. We distribute the workload quite evenly across our midfield, so sometimes you may see higher possession numbers, and sometimes not,” Kingsley commented on O’Halloran.

“We don’t solely measure performance by possessions or goals. We value our players beyond mere statistics. He’s fulfilling an important role in our midfield. With his versatility to play on the wing, inside, and half-forward, he’s evolving into a crucial player for us.”

In the absence of midfield standout Stephen Coniglio, O’Halloran’s influence on the game will carry even greater significance in Saturday’s match against Carlton at Marvel Stadium.

This importance is underscored by Sam Walsh’s remarkable comeback from injury last week, where he amassed 34 disposals.

“We’re fully aware of his capabilities, and we’ve given him the respect he deserves throughout the week, just as we’ve done with their entire team,” O’Halloran remarked.

“After facing the Saints in the finals and now going up against another formidable team in Carlton, we’re eager for the challenge. Despite missing a few key players from the previous game, it’s all about the next person stepping up. It’ll be another tough test for us, and hopefully, we come out on top.”

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