GREATER Western Sydney, for many on their list, represent a chance to create a career in AFL. For Jonathan Giles, they represent a second chance.
The giant ruckman, who played 20 games for the Giants last season, is one of the older players at the second-year club, at just 25. After four years at Port Adelaide without once being called up to the top squad, he is embracing his opportunity at GWS with gratitude and determination.
''It was disappointing to spend four years at Port without playing a single senior game because you work pretty hard and dedicate everything to footy,'' said Giles, who will line up on Sunday in the NAB Cup round one games against the Swans and Carlton at Blacktown International Sportspark.
''You make a lot of sacrifices along the way and I didn't get the result that I wanted. But getting a second chance at GWS means all those years at Port were worthwhile. I wouldn't be the person I am today without it. It's all part of the journey. I'm really happy here now and I wouldn't have it any other way.''
Giles, who was drafted in 2005 from the South Australian National Football League at No.70, said he never considered giving away the game but admitted that when Port let him go, he re-evaluated everything.
''When you get de-listed you try to get yourself back on your feet and you do doubt yourself and what you've done,'' he said. ''You wonder if you're good enough to make it back into the system. But I had a lot of support from my family and friends and I always had that inner belief. My opportunity was still there in front of me and I was fortunate enough that the Giants saw it that way and gave me a second chance. I'm doing everything I can to repay them.''
Giles has had former Port colleague Dean Brogan in his corner, and the pair now work closely together at GWS, where Giles describes the experienced ruckman as both a coach and mentor.
''There's always reasons why one season's more important than the last,'' Giles said. ''For me, last year I really wanted to impress. This year I've got a base and now I want to make that next step and improve.
''My body's going well. I'm injury-free, so I'm looking forward to taking that next step. The Swans are the premiers from last year and you want to play against the best. We've got Carlton as well and every game's an opportunity to have a crack at some pretty good opponents. Against the Swans I'll have [Mike] Pyke and Carlton will have [Shaun] Hampson and Robbie Warnock, so they're some pretty good opposition. You always look forward to the first NAB Cup game when you get to finally break out of pre-season and into the games. I'm really excited for it.''
Draft picks Lachie Whitfield, Lachie Plowman and Aidan Corr will play on Sunday, as will former Hawk, Stephen Gilham. Setanta O'hAilpin, back from a knee reconstruction, has been selected, though co-captain Callan Ward, Chad Cornes and Dom Tyson are each sidelined with knee problems.
"The players are fresh and I think it's about time they say 'We want everyone to know that we learnt a lot last year and we must play well in our first matches of 2013 in Blacktown'," coach Kevin Sheedy said.