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Giant throwback: Shaw sees future for player-coaches in new AFL order

Heath Shaw, the oldest player on the GWS list, is expecting to shoulder some new responsibilities this year as clubs reduce their off-field headcount to abide by both the AFL’s reduction of the ‘soft cap’ on football department spending, as well as the new limit of 25 staffers who can stay in physical contact with players.

“Cutting back on staff is something all clubs have had to do, and it means other people have to pick up the slack,” Shaw said on Monday after the Giants’ first group training session.

A group of eight Giants players stretch their legs at Olympic Park on Monday.

A group of eight Giants players stretch their legs at Olympic Park on Monday.Credit:Getty

“I know as an older statesman and one of the more experienced players … we’re probably going to have to help a little bit more in terms of that leadership and it might even be coaching as well.

“We’re willing to do anything to get us into a position to win a premiership and if that means putting in a bit of extra time and doing some extra stuff, we’re going to have to do it.”


Shaw envisages that more experienced players might be asked to help in a developmental role, or assist with the running of reserves teams, if and when they return.

“A lot of clubs will look at that going forward … if guys can play dual roles at clubs, it helps out the club and [could] even help out the development of that person if they want to go down a coaching path after their playing career,” he said.

Shaw, 34, intended to retire at the end of this season but admitted COVID-19 could force him to change his thinking, with the shorter 17-game season and shorter quarters likely to benefit veterans like himself more than any other players.

“The plan was play this year, win a premiership and then I can just retire. Pretty simple, in my mind. But the way the year’s panned out, it has changed. I’ll worry about that at the end of the year,” he said.

Indeed, a second career premiership remains his strong focus after GWS were trounced in last year’s grand final against Richmond. It’s a prize that will sit front of mind for Shaw – a self-styled class clown who lives alone in Sydney – as he comes to terms with what he can and can’t do under the AFL’s COVID-19 protocols for players.

“I live by myself, so I’m not allowed to go and see anyone outside of my own house. I’ll be looking forward to going to training a lot more now,” he said.

“It’s pretty simple – we do the right thing and we get to play footy. We understand that and everyone’s on board and knows the sacrifices we have to make to get football up and going. We’re willing to do that.”

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